Avoiding the last-minute budget

Throwing together the budget section of a grant proposal at the last minute causes problems and, unfortunately, happens all too often. Some grantseekers agonize over the narrative, but treat the budget as “just another attachment” that won’t get much scrutiny. Others shy away from numbers, avoiding the dreaded budget section until the deadline is upon them.

“Whatever the reason,” said Holly Thompson, contributing editor for The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif., “a last-minute budget is a liability. The proposal budget is just as important as the narrative, if not more important.”

Funders are interested in programs that have a good chance of succeeding. They want to invest their funds wisely and pay for expenses that are realistic, reasonable, and justified. “Many foundation and corporate grantmakers have financial backgrounds and are well-versed in analyzing budgets,” according to Thompson. “And a federal proposal with a confusing or inadequate budget justification is asking for rejection. Presenting a thorough, accurate budget is a must. It’s an essential piece of a successful grant proposal.”

The best way to avoid a slapdash budget is simple: start early. Map out program expenses when sketching out the narrative. If you’re afraid of numbers, find someone to help think through the expenses. Give yourself time to check the math — a budget that doesn’t add up can disqualify the proposal. Be sure that the budget lines up with the narrative; for example, if the program includes the distribution of flyers, be sure to include for a line item for printing.

A budget should complement and explain the proposal narrative. It should tell the story of your program in dollars and cents, highlight program priorities, and show how the grant will fit in and make a difference.

Don’t kill your chances of winning the grant by giving the budget short shrift.