Outline Project Costs Before Writing Grant Proposal

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A grant budget doesn’t have to be a mysterious or scary thing. It’s all about outlining program costs early in the planning period, having the right people on board, and knowing for what you can request funding. “A successful budget is aligned with every activity within the project to ensure that all of this ‘stuff’ that needs doing is paid for,” said Ginger Keller-Ferguson, owner and founder of Keller-Ferguson & Associates. “It needs to take into consideration everything that goes into supporting a project, not just the things that take cash. Oftentimes, we forget about things like facilities, utilities, volunteer hours, etc.” The process of looking at what you are going to fund through the grant versus which things are an in-kind contribution from your organization can help reveal the things that you really should be asking money for, said Keller-Ferguson. Keller-Ferguson provides some tips to help you create a successful budget:

  • Create the budget first. At minimum, grant costs need to be identified way upfront in the beginning, she said. Ideally, the budget should come together before anything else, said Keller-Ferguson. Oftentimes it is done on the back end, but it really should be done on the front end. “We lay down a logic model for the grant-funded project before we even begin looking for the funding for it,” she said.
  • Know what to leave out. Don’t ever include anything in the budget that isn’t included in the project, said Keller-Ferguson. For example, if you are running an afterschool program, you cannot include money for Meals on Wheels. The cardinal rule is that if you are including it in the budget, it has to be directly tied to the budget, she said. You also need to pay close attention to the funder’s rules around budgets because breaking any of these rules will absolutely get your project declined.
  • Get the right people involved. The project team is involved in creating the budget, said Keller-Ferguson. Some of the key roles on this team include finance and administration, purchasing and procurement, and HR and payroll. You need to know how much things and positions cost, especially personnel, she said. You don’t want to write a personnel position into a grant that has a salary budget that isn’t aligned with the pay scale for the organization.
  • Back up numbers. You need to back the numbers that you are requesting, said KellerFerguson. “For example, if I am including in a budget 10 computer work stations at $2,500 a piece, I need to justify that $2,500,” she said. “To do that, I may say that I have surveyed the prices of three leading vendors and list those prices and vendors.” How detailed you make your budget is going to vary by funder, but one trend that KellerFerguson has seen becoming increasingly common is that funders want a price per unit versus a lump sum. “What I have seen is that grantors are looking for more detail, not less,” she said.
  • Know what to provide. The format that you use to create your budget will also vary by funder, but if a funder doesn’t give a whole lot of detail about what they expect to see, you can look at a standard government budget form to guide you, such as the SF-424A (www.grants. gov/web/grants/form-instructions/sf-424ainstructions.html), said Keller-Ferguson.
  • Double-check math. “It seems like a no-brainer, but having been a federal peer reviewer, I’ve seen this happen. The math has to be right,” she said. “You can’t be sloppy in your budget.” If you say you are asking for 10 computers at $250 each, don’t ask for $3,500. Sloppy budget errors are the biggest thing to undermine the credibility of your organization in terms of your proposal, said Keller-Ferguson. To contact Keller-Ferguson, email ginger@kellerferguson.com, or visit www.kfanonprofit .com.


Reprinted with permission from: Education Grants Alert. © 2017 LRP Publications, 360 Hiatt Drive, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. All rights reserved. Along with expert grant writing tips, each issue of Education Grants Alert briefs you on millions of dollars in federal, private and local funding specifically for K-12 programs – from special education and technology upgrades to afterschool projects – so you can zero in on your best opportunities for winning funds. For more information on this or other products published by LRP Publications, please call 1-800-341-7874 or visit www.shoplrp.com.

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