Showing The Numbers And Proving Them
Showing The Numbers And Proving Them

A budget justification is a written narrative that explains each line item. Here are some pointers for a budget narrative that will help reviewers understand the numbers. 

According to Barbara Floersch, grants expert and author of You Have a Hammer: Building Grant Proposals for Social Change, there are four major points of justification that a grants writer must hit:

Show calculations — Reviewers want to know how you came up with line-item amounts. For example, only providing a lump sum in the travel line item invites questions. But breaking out the expected costs for mileage, air fares, hotels, per diem, and other related expenses and explaining the purpose of the travel provides clarity. If you don’t include calculations in the line-item budget, be sure they show up in the justification. 

Explain each line item — Don’t just explain the line items you think could be confusing. What’s clear to you may not be to reviewers. Explain even mundane expenses such as office supplies. For example, three staff members x $75 per month in office supplies x 12 months = $2,700. And be sure to explain where that $75 figure comes from. Is it based on organizational experience? Is it standard in your type of work? What sort of supplies are included? 

Explain how line items relate to program implementation — Even the most diligent reviewers will have forgotten some program details by the time they dive into the budget. Briefly explain how each line item supports the program, why the expense is necessary, and why the amount is reasonable.   

Include in-kind resources — The value of in-kind resources is an important budget element. Without those resources the cash demands for program implementation would skyrocket. Include in-kind resources as line items and explain them in the justification. Where are they coming from? Are they committed? How is the value calculated? How will you document them?

Don’t assume reviewers remember every detail of the program plan, understand expenses in your geographic area, or know why specific spending levels are necessary. “A great budget doesn’t guarantee a grant award, but it does increase your chances,” said Floersch. “Don’t cut corners when justifying the numbers.”