6 tips for your next budget

Posted on October 25, 2011


Good writing can go a long way in getting the grant. So can good numbers.

Most grant writers prefer words over math. But a solid budget is a critical piece of a program grant proposal. If I were stranded on a desert island and had to pick just one page of a request to review, it would be the budget. (Sad, but true.)

What makes a budget so special? It does some important work in your proposal. A good program budget will:

  1. Reflect thoughtful planning. If you can explain when and how you will spend the grant, it gives the funder confidence in your ability to plan. It’s especially important for multi-year gifts.
  2. Show me the money. What are the income sources for this project? Some funders want to be the lead gift, others prefer a crowd. But all funders want to see enough financial support to make your program successful.
  3. Be realistic. Funders will question budgets that expect 1 million subscribers during a website’s first week. Stretch goals are good; Unrealistic goals hurt your credibility.
  4. Balance. A deficit is a red flag:  is your program sustainable? A surplus begs the question: do you really need this grant? If your income and expenses don’t line up, be prepared to answer those concerns.
  5. Add up. Make sure the numbers in the narrative are the same as the budget. Double-check those column totals, because the funder will, too. (I’d guess that 1 in 10 budgets I check has a simple math mistake.)
  6. Explain indirect costs. On this subject, definitions and opinions could fill a book. Be clear about how much of the grant is for indirect costs, and describe what’s included.

In a good proposal, the budget and narrative complement each other. The narrative is the heart of your request and answers the question “why?” The budget shows your logic and answers the question “how?”

Expectations vary when it comes to budgets. Just be honest and follow the guidelines, and you’re off to a great start.

What advice would you share about crafting a good budget?

If you liked this post, check out other topics on the Grantwriting Tips page.