The Money Zone:

Budget Basics

Beth Sutter | October 4, 2022

Created by our grant writing team, this series of articles provides guidance on the financial development and management processes of competitive funding.

When applying for a grant, the proposal narrative is typically the focus.

While it takes time to thoughtfully craft a thorough and responsive proposal, don’t let your budget become an afterthought! Having a budget is a great tool to help focus the project scope before you dive into the rest.


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1. Start Early!

Consider your costs while establishing objectives, designing the program, and determining staffing. This way, when the right funding opportunity comes along, you’re ready to apply. If it’s an annual or cyclical grant you’ve got your eye on, refer to the previous notice of funding as a guideline for requirements to get a head start. Speaking of which, it’s time to…


2. Understand the Grant

Each funding opportunity looks different, so read the notice carefully. Keep an eye out for some of these high-level components that will help you define your project budget and funding ask:

    • What are the minimum and maximum funding levels?
    • What is the cost share (AKA cost match)? Typically, this is a percentage of the total project budget that will be funded by you and/or your project partners. The remainder is your funding request amount.
    • What are eligible expenses? Not every cost for your project will be eligible for grant funding, including pre-award costs.
    • What is the period of performance? If the project is longer than one year, keep in mind how the costs will be spread across each project year.
    • What is the format? Understand how to present the budget information. Sometimes this is a form, a template to include in your narrative, or a combination of the two.


3. Determine the Costs

Know what’s realistic. Don’t over- or under -state your budget. Reviewers will be looking for a reasonable budget for what you’re trying to accomplish. Too low, and it won’t look like a fully developed project. Too high, and the project appears less feasible. If you can, get quotes from relevant vendors or contractors to better estimate costs.


4. Match to the Narrative

Make sure your budget and project narrative tell the same story. The budget must be consistent with all other aspects of your project and application. All activities you list as part of your project should be reflected in your budget. As you review your narrative before submission, have your budget in front of you to help with a side-by-side review to be sure everything aligns.


Incorporating these steps into your budgeting practices will help guide the overall application. 

Still need help with the budget basics? Our grant ready strategy will prepare you for all elements of the submission process.