GRANT BUDGET BLUES: | Installment #5 of 5: Budgets and Your CFO

If you’ve ever clashed with your organization’s finance team over a grant budget – or if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying to work with them to get you the figures you need for your application’s (usually program) budget – then this article is for you. Three bits of advice:

  1. Understand that their pressures, cadence, deadlines, are sometimes entirely different from yours. Audits, tax reporting deadlines, payroll, board meeting reports, quarterly reports will all take precedence in their world.
  2. Understand that because they’re great at finance, numbers, math, etc., they are VERY exacting, and they think differently than we “words” people. A turn of phrase or using a word differently than they expect might throw them off and lead to misunderstandings.
  3. Understand that when they hear the word “budget,” a certain concept pops up in their head, and that concept does not necessarily jive with your needs for your grant application.

So what do we do to better work with the finance team?

  1. Give your finance team plenty of notice that you will need the ABC program budget for the XYZ Foundation’s application, the due date, and YOUR due date, to allow time for questions, and for marrying the budget with your narrative.
  2. Be specific in what you ask them for, share the budget templates and budget narrative forms XYZ has provided, share the proposed ask amount, and let them know if you don’t need income, just expenses (perhaps development is providing that with pending and confirmed asks).
  3. Be upfront about the budget categories you’ll need well in advance, since the ABC program budget they have already devised is most likely categorized differently, doesn’t break out individual staff positions, and budget “narrative” is in their heads and not on paper. Let them know you need to include indirect costs, percentages of exec and admin time, rent and utilities, or anything else your program will cost your organization that finance has perhaps not included in their ABC program budget.

These are some basic guidelines to a respectful and mutually satisfying relationship with your finance team. Money makes the world go round!

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