First, double check the funder guidelines. Do they ask for a program budget, an organization budget, or both? Do they ask you to specify what budget items the requested funds will cover? Remember from that first blog post—the number one way to jeopardize the success of a proposal is to ignore what the funders are asking for.
I don’t know how much money I’m going to have yet! How can I make a budget?
The budget is meant to provide reasonable cost projects for the project. It should be realistic, accurate, and flexible. A budget needs to include both expenses and revenue sources. Program expenses are usually broken down into categories such as “Staff Salaries and Benefits, Supplies, Equipment.” Organization budgets should also include ongoing operational expenses such as utilities, rent, and fundraising costs. For your revenue, include all anticipated revenue streams, including other grants, projected individual gifts, and earned income such as membership fees or sales.
If I hire a grant writer, can’t they just make up a budget for me?
No. It’s important that your budget, like the rest of your proposal, be realistic. You’re asking someone to trust you with their money, and you must handle that money with fidelity.
I asked Sue in Accounting for a budget, and she sent me this 20-page document with every expense on it. Can I just attach that?
No. Unless a funder is asking for a specific level of detail, a good rule of thumb is to limit your budget to one page. If they want to flip pages and pages of detailed expenses, they’ll tell you. If not, they’re looking for a snapshot of your expenses, to get a general sense of where you’re applying your financial resources. Don’t provide them with an overly detailed document that will confuse them.
Do I have to stick to this? Can I change it if I get more or less money?
Yes, you can alter your budget if you end up with more or less funds than you expect. It’s your responsibility to execute your budget with reasonable fidelity, but funders are people too and understand that sometimes things change. If you’ve received an award and you want to make changes to the project budget, contact the funder and ask what their policy is. Some allow budget changes up to a certain amount; others might want to meet with you to discuss.
This is the seventh in an eight-part series on grant writing from Aril Consulting.