How to Tackle the Grant Budget

The budget is a make-it-or-break-it component of a grant proposal and while a solid budget won’t win a grant award, sloppiness and inaccuracy in this arena will certainly lose it. “Some people love building budgets, and others find the work intimidating,” said Barbara Floersch, chief of training and curriculum for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “But love it or hate it, if you’re charged with bringing in grant dollars you’ve got to do it well to develop winning proposals.” When it comes to budgets, here are six golden rules:

Be sure the budget syncs with the Methods and Evaluation sections of the proposal. If an item or activity discussed in these sections will require the dedication of resources (cash or in-kind), there must be a corresponding line-item in the budget. And, if a line item is in the budget, it had better be reflected in the proposal narrative.

The budget must be reasonable for implementing the program. Don’t pad the budget to guard against an award short fall, and don’t short-change the budget in an effort to appear frugal.

Include line-item amounts that are based on solid estimates and spell out how the amounts were calculated. Do your research and keep notes. You’ll need them to produce the Budget Justification and to discuss the figures with the grantmaker.

If the budget includes resources (cash or in-kind) from other sources, show how those resources will be allocated and explain where the resources are coming from and whether they are committed.

A thorough, detailed budget justification anticipates a reader’s questions and nips them in the bud. Include a justification to explain why line items are needed and appropriate. If not shown in the line-item budget, use the justification to explain how amounts were calculated.
Be sure the numbers add up, and down, and across. Inaccurate budgets are confusing and blow credibility.

Grant development is not a one-person job and building strong budgets requires expertise from a variety of staff members. Because grant budgets intersect directly with an organization’s fiscal policies, financial staff must be involved. Because grant programs often create new staff positions, Human Resources staff must be involved. Staff members familiar with program implementation will have valuable input about the line items and funding levels that support high-quality work. © Copyright 2018 The Grantsmanship Center.