Have you ever asked for what you thought you wanted but then when you got it you found out it wasn’t what you needed after all? How can that be avoided when developing the budget in grant proposals? It’s all about being realistic, detailed and forward thinking. None of us has a crystal ball, so of course we cannot know exactly what will be necessary to make a program run successfully. We can, however, take the time to develop a budget that is sound and reasonable so that when a funder looks at it, it makes sense.
What do we mean by making sense? Here are some important ways to make your budget work in your proposal:
1. Tie costs to activities—when you are planning the program activities that support your goals and objectives, attach costs to each activity. For example, you might need to print flyers to market a community event. Estimate how many you will print and research the cost per page at your local printer. This will give you a realistic figure to tie to that activity and use in your budget.
2. Estimate the personnel time—how many hours per week with each staff member spend on the program you are proposing? Will the funder support these personnel costs? If so, estimate what percentage of a staff member’s salary can be supported by the grant funding, if any.
3. Include Fringe, benefits, taxes—don’t forget that these are part of the cost of doing business and having employees. Employers have to pay taxes, and what is sometimes referred to as ‘fringe’ or ‘benefits.’
4. Consultants or Contractors—if you will be using an expert to provide a portion of your programming, this cost is included in the operational expenses section of the budget, not in personnel costs. A contractor is responsible to pay his/her own taxes and is not considered an employee of your agency.
5. Indirect or Administrative costs—if the funder will pay for indirect or administrative costs, by all means include it. This is usually an amount between 5% and 15% of the total funding amount. It gives your agency a portion of the grant funds to use for items such as payroll fees, insurance costs, and administrative support.
6. Use the funder’s budget template—the funder usually includes a template to use in the proposal—don’t change it. It may be much less detailed than what you have already developed. But if you have taken the time to create a realistic and detailed budget for the program you designed, you can combine the figures so that they fit into the funder’s format.
Good budget development takes time. Don’t rush to get it done at the last minute or you may forget to include an essential line item. Develop the budget as you are planning your program and you’ll find that you’ll be able to fill in the budget template in your grant application with confidence and ease.