Making Sure the Proposal Budget is Thorough

The budget is a high-stakes, make-it-or-break-it section of your grant proposal. A thorough, logical, and clear budget is certain to increase your likelihood of winning an award. And an incomplete, illogical, and murky budget is just as sure to sink your chances.

“We become so immersed in developing the program and writing the proposal that we’re sometimes too close to the information,” said Barbara Floersch, is chief of training and curriculum at The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “It can be hard for those developing the budget to step back and realize what’s been left out, or what assumptions have seeped in.” 

Here are a few tips for ensuring that the budget is complete and clear.

* Do a line-by-line check. Have a knowledgeable person who’s not involved in proposal development read the narrative and the budget at the same time, side-by-side. The task is to make sure every item in the narrative that will require resources of any kind is addressed in the budget.

Your helper won’t just be looking for obvious items such as the salary of a direct-service staff member. That person will need to think deeply asking whether necessities such as supervision, professional development, office space, equipment, and travel are also included to support that position.

* Check the timeline. Most grant proposals include a timeline listing major program activities and identifying who will be responsible for completing them. “Check who’s responsible for tasks and make sure that’s reflected in the budget as part of the requested grant, as cash match, or as in-kind resources,” said Floersch.

* Think specifically about indirect costs. Operating a grant-funded program consumes organizational resources and when reviewing a proposal budget, it’s all too easy to focus myopically on direct program resource needs. “Dedicate some time to assessing the myriad internal services and supports the program will require and assess whether those expenses are adequately reflected and justified.”

After years of experience, grant professionals develop a third-eye ability to catching all expenses, defining them in a tight line-item budget and explaining them in a well-reasoned, concise budget justification. “But even it you’ve done it hundreds of times, don’t let down your guard,” said Floersch. “There’s not a grants person out there who doesn’t benefit from having a careful, knowledgeable person double check the budget against the narrative. Don’t cut that corner.” © Copyright 2018 The Grantsmanship Center