Tips for Creating a Grant Program Budget That Gets Funded

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Any grant application will require you to submit a program budget. For many grant writers, this can be intimidating.

But a budget doesn’t have to be scary. It’s simply an outline of your program costs that ensures all aspects of the program will be covered with the grant funding.

To create a successful budget, consider everything that’s required to support your project, not just the items that require cash. Don’t’ forget to include things like:

  • Facilities
  • Utilities
  • Travel
  • Mileage
  • Training
  • Technology

Here are some additional tips to help you craft a grant budget that gets funded.

Create the budget first

Identify costs in the beginning before you start on the written narrative. Oftentimes, nonprofits create the budget on the back end once they’ve identified a funding source and written the narrative.

But it’s to your advantage to make the budget first. Start with a logic model for your project and determine the costs that will be required to meet your stated objectives. Then, you can seek out an appropriate funding source. There’s a better chance you’ll get funded if your project’s parameters mesh with a funder’s goals and funding capabilities. And, you won’t have to scale back your project to meet grant program’s funding constraints.

Know what to leave out

Don’t include funding for other programs in your grant budget. Everything should be directly related to the project for which you’re seeking funding. If you operate an afterschool tutoring program, you cannot include money for another program your nonprofit operates, even if it’s peripherally related. For example, if you apply for a grant to fund the operational costs of an afterschool tutoring program, you can’t include money to support your holiday meal program, even if the service recipients are the same.

Here’s the cardinal rule. If you include a line item in your grant budget, it must be directly tied to the specific program budget for which you’re seeking grant funding. You also need to pay close attention to the funder’s budget rules. Breaking their rules will result in a quick denial.

Get the right people involved


Your entire project team should help create the budget. Depending on the structure of your organization, you’ll need representation from:

  • Administration
  • Finance
  • Purchasing and procurement
  • HR and payroll

To develop an accurate budget, you need to know the realistic cost of items and personnel. The salary for a grant-funded position should be in line with your organization’s pay scale, so don’t guess. Ask your human resources representative to provide a paygrade.

Justify your numbers

Back the numbers you are requesting. If you include a line item for five computer workstations at $2,500 each, justify the expense. Include quotes from three vendors in the budget so the reviewers will know you did your homework.

Remember, your estimated costs for service delivery, purchasing technology, attending training sessions, buying supplies, travel and anything else related to the program should be grounded in reality. Don’t inflate numbers to get a bigger award. You’ll have to submit invoices that prove how you spent the money. If the expenses don’t match your award, you could have to repay money to the funder.

Know what to provide

The format you use to create a budget will vary by funder. Therefore, you can’t just create a program budget in a spreadsheet and expect it to work for every funder. However, many funders don’t provide much detail about what they want to see. They simply instruct you to submit a budget.

In these cases, look at a standard government budget form to guide you. The SF-424A Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs is a good guide.

Keep in mind many grant funders expect to see a breakdown of expenses in your budget, not just a lump sum. The more detailed you can include, the better. 

Check your math

Don’t lose out on a grant due to errors in arithmetic. The math must be right, because reviewers will check. If your budget includes 10 computers at $450 each, don’t ask for $5,500. Sloppy budget errors will quickly undermine your organization’s credibility and lead to a denial.

Reach out for help

If you’re stuck creating a budget for your grant application, let us know. We can customize our grant writing services to your specific needs. Reach out and let us customize a plan that works for your organization!

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  • Hey Ginger:

    Thanks again for your assistance in finding funding resources and your help in creating compelling grant submissions on behalf of our nonprofit effort, the Mendota Trail. Your course enabled us to achieve results that surpassed our best hopes.

    By next summer, over 90% of our trail will be completed!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    Treasurer, Mendota Trail Conservancy, Inc.

    Bob Mueller on

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