GRANT BUDGET BLUES | Installment #2 of 5: Don’t Leave Money on the Table

We certainly wouldn’t downplay or undervalue what it takes to make our programs possible in the narrative of a grant – we want to play it up and emphasize how it is only through our agency’s recipe of hard work and determination, talented staff, clever use of resources, and herculean effort that our program will be successful in accomplishing its mission (and the funder’s objectives too!).

In the same way, we want our program budget to reflect all the costs – ALL THE COSTS – that our wonderfully effective program idea will incur.

You should develop your program budget SIDE BY SIDE with your grant narrative – NOT leave it for last! With a new program, I may even start my budget at the program design stage, making a list of all the costs (time, talent and treasure, all the in-kind donations, staff time — from outsourced consultants to upper management to the “guy who sweeps the floors”) to make sure I don’t miss ANY of the program’s needs. Those could be:

  • space (will you need to rent or purchase? If you don’t need to add on, what portion of your current space will be used?)
  • utilities (water, electric, gas, extra trash pickups per week, etc.)
  • marketing (will you need a website, or a new page added to your current site, that needs design, and maintenance?)
  • travel (will you need to reimburse for local airport pick-ups or client visits by the mile? Or out-of-town travel, with hotel, airport transfers, meals, tips?)
  • technology (will the clients you will serve need laptops, WiFi, hotspots, monthly internet? Will your office need to add laptops, user licenses, etc.?)
  • and so on and so on. Think of EVERYthing that will cost your agency!

The question of salaries needs to be considered. Often it’s not just the direct program personnel that “work” on your program. Will your Executive Director, or Marketing team, or HR, or Finance, etc., spend a portion of their time on the project? Then you need to determine what percentage of their time and salary (and benefits) can be allotted to the program’s costs. Will you need to hire out extra janitorial hours to clean up (or sanitize) after your after-school program? Have bus drivers (or other hourly workers) go into overtime? Will you need security personnel you didn’t need before?

If you “just know” that you can count on good ol’ Mrs. Dupchik to loan you her barn to rehearse your play in, that should be included in your budget! We will dive deeper into in-kind donations in a later installment of this series, but suffice to say that the VALUE of Mrs. Dupchik’s space rental (check your local going rate for that square footage) needs to be included in your program’s costs.

When we apply for grants for one of our agencies’ programs, we want the grant to cover the program’s costs – all of those costs. We don’t want a $100,000 program to actually cost us $125,000!

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