5 budget storytelling tips

If you’re not careful, the budget could be the most boring part of a grant proposal. You don’t want management’s eyes glazing over while reading it or they’ll never approve the budget.

Your budget can tell a story, of how your organization is run and how you plan to implement the project for which you’re seeking a grant. Grantwriter Michael Wells of Grants Northwest in Portland, Ore., shared some tips on using the budget to tell a story with attendees of the recent Grant Professionals Association national conference in Baltimore, Md.

  • The first step to budget creation is good program design: Design the project, then do the budget.
  • Make sure everything adds up: Check the math, then check it again. Make sure all the numbers agree. Make sure every major change in the budget is reflected in the narrative. Include your per unit cost.
  • The program narrative and the budget need to describe the same project: You should be able to look at the budget and know what the program is, and read the narrative and know what the budget items are. If you identify staff or other costs in the narrative, they should be listed in the budget, and vice versa. Include a budget narrative that explains major items.
  • Show other sources of revenue: Give details on which funders will be approached, for what amounts. Show if the grants have been submitted and won.
  • Understand the organization’s total finances and where your grant fits into them: Learn to read the financial statements so you don’t have to rely on your accounting team. Check your 990 and learn what story it tells, because the funder is probably going to check it too.