A budget is important in all aspects of everyday life. People need a budget to pay for groceries, rent, and most other expenses. Everything you buy depends on how much money you have available, so why wouldn’t this same idea apply to your organization? For any project within your organization, a budget acts as an outline; a general idea or layout that can guide the decision-making process. When it comes to grant applications, creating a budget before starting the grant-writing process is essential to creating a well-rounded, competitive and accurate application. Below, we outline the important aspects of creating a budget for a grant application.
First, before creating a budget, it is important to understand what should be included. A budget is critical to help reviewers determine whether a project is feasible, therefore, the budget should include all costs encompassed in the project, including employee salaries, supplies and any activities the project requires. The budget must also be reasonable within the parameters of the grant. To determine what is reasonable, it is important to think about your burn rate, or how quickly you would need to spend money to achieve your goals. For example, if applying for an SBIR grant, it’s important to consider what is a feasible budget and what is realistic for the 6-month timeframe the grant allows.
Keeping all of these aspects of the budget in mind, because the budget should act as a project blueprint, it is also critical that the budget is the first step in the grant writing process. You would not go grocery shopping only to come home and create a budget afterward. If this were the case, you might find that you had unintentionally exceeded your allotted budget. This thinking process should be the same for grant applications. If the pieces of your project proposal do not align with the funds, then changes to the proposal will have to be made. However, if the budget is created last, then there may not be enough time to make these changes. Having to make significant budget adjustments a week before a grant application is due can result in having to make large changes to the proposal, such as going back on a research strategy, pulling a whole target out or removing a person from the project, ultimately altering your proposal in a way you may not have anticipated.
In summary, how you propose spending your budget is just as important as how you actually spend it. Your entire plan depends on the funds you have available; therefore, it is critical to understand how your dollars map out. By thinking carefully about what your budget should include, what you have available and how you will use those available funds, you will create a budget that will help guide you through the application process, ensuring that there are no surprise changes, and your proposal will turn out how you want it to be.
This post was written by our intern, Lindsay Robbins. She is currently an undergraduate senior at Towson University majoring in International Studies and Economics. At Towson University she has held several leadership positions including working with Model United Nations and as a Writing Tutor. She has also spent time studying and working in youth development organizations in Honduras and Peru. See more about Lindsay here.
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