6 Tips for Developing Effective Grant Budgets

budget planning

The grant budget can make our break your application. Here, you communicate to a potential funder how you will spend their dollars and that you understand and have planned for the intricacies of the project their grant will support. 

When I teach grant writing classes, I get lots of questions about grant budgets. They seem mysterious to many grant writers, maybe because we have a background in and love of words, not numbers.

Do you make your grant budgets compelling enough to communicate these things to your funder? These six tips will help assure that your budget adds to your compelling case rather than detract from it.

  1. Funders rarely want to provide the sole support for a project. Should their support wane, they want to assure the project can continue without them. Show them who else has provided funding for the project, who else you asked, and who else you planned to ask.

  2. Relatedly, funders want to support a winning project. Demonstrate that others support your project by putting it into the larger context. Let’s say, you want them to fund the salad bar that’s part of a larger kitchen renovation project. Instead of asking for $3,000 for the $3,000 salad bar, ask them for $3,000 of the $200,000 kitchen renovation project (or of the $3.8 million facility renovation project). That way, they see the benefit of their support as part of the big picture and join legions of other highly credible funders who support your organization.

  3. Funders want to see organizational commitment. To show this, think of your project budget in its totality. If you didn’t have the organization’s support, what would you need to make this project happen? Put all of these elements into your budget, demonstrating in the “funds raised” category what your organization is providing as an in-kind or monetary contribution.

  4. Funders want you to use their funds wisely. Check the costs of your budgeted items. If the average computer costs $1,000, why are you asking for a $3,000 model? You may have a legitimate reason why you need the extra computing power; rather than ask for less than you need or have the funder think you have extravagant taste, explain to them why you need the higher priced model to meet your needs.

  5. Most funders understand indirect costs. Not all of them will fund them, but most understand that your costs come from more than just purchasing the items you need; you also have administrative and overhead costs. If they will allow you to add administrative or overhead costs, do so as it will help your bottom line. Explain your rationale or justify the amount you request. If they will not allow you to add these indirect or administrative costs to the budget, you might want to rethink your project description and integrate them into your project costs.

  6. Funders want the numbers to add up. Check your math. Then check your math again. Then ask someone else to check your math. Even if you use Excel or a similar program to create your budget worksheet, make sure you have all of the formulas correct. Nothing will cause doubt in a funder’s mind faster than obvious budget errors.

When in doubt, ask the funder if something make sense or falls within their allowable expenses. They want to fund quality projects that help advance their mission. You don’t want a poorly constructed or ill-conceived budget to give them a reason to bypass you for someone else.