A grant budget and its justification are the other side of the grant writing process. Grant consultants are not necessarily responsible for developing proposal budgets, but if that task falls to the consultant, here’s a lesson from the research lab:
Do the budget first!
Not everyone will agree with me, but I learned this lesson the hard way. As a young faculty member, I didn’t allow enough time to secure bids for goods and services before the grant submission deadline. On one proposal, I was still tweaking the budget numbers that same day before having to print out the required number of copies and make a mad dash to the post office with late hours to get the postmark. This was in the days before electronic submission in the federal sector, but allowing some down time before submission still applies today. Even if the responsibility falls to someone else, completing the budget early helps the grant writing process. Getting the budget done first, freed me to focus on the proposal’s story.
Grant proposals start with ideas. Those ideas become creative, compelling stories for resources that fill critical needs and promote change. Most of the grants I wrote then and even those I write now have a cap on the requested amount. Matching the funding ceiling with the proposed project outline is a first step. Having a proposed budget early in the writing process frames, if not sharpens the focus of the proposal narrative. In addition, a proposed budget that is ready early, allows for revisions with changes in direction or emphasis in the project. The budget tells the project’s financial story. A proposal’s project story must match its budget story. Matching the request for funds through these stories demonstrates that non-profit organizations can fill those gaps in need by promoting change for the greater good.