Grant Budget Basics

Grant Budget Basics

What goes in a grant budget?

There is no one size fits all grant budget template. Each application will have rules and restrictions on what the grant is allowed to cover. Some government grants allow a small stipend for grant writing, but be prepared to pay your grant writer out of organizational funds for the preparation of the application.

It is best to have an estimate of project expenses before you even start researching or writing a grant. Without a projected cost estimate, it is difficult to know how much money the proposal should request. Unrealistic and unclear budget proposals will result in a failed application.

Salary requests are allowed in many federal applications. Cost of living increases or wage cap instructions will be found in the guidelines of the Notice of Funding Opportunity AND on the website for each government or state agency. Be sure to follow both sets of instructions otherwise your proposal will be rejected.

Before you apply, brainstorm and make a list of expected or current operational costs. This list should include things like:

Costs per participant

Rental or Usage Fees



Software costs


Salary/Wages/Consulting fees

Are there food or book costs associated with the implementation of the project? Do you have to provide transportation, insurance, or standby medical support? Does your organization need to pay for office supplies or print services for the program in need?

Does the grant require an independent audit review of your financial reporting?

The cost of implementing a grant can surprise you with hidden expenses if you are not careful.

A good budget practice is to have an annual and monthly operational statement available to answer some of these questions for your organization. New project costs can be estimated using typical industry standards.

Is it a reimbursement grant where you have to pay for things first, then submit an invoice for repayment?

Is there a cost match of funds you have to come up with?

Does your organization have the funds and capabilities to implement the project if awarded under these restrictions?

If the answer is no, you can possibly find a partner organization to be a fiscal sponsor.

The last thing to know about grant budgets:

They want to see funds coming in outside of grants. A good rule of thumb is that grant awards should make up 30% of your funding sources. If you are not able to convince people to donate to your project/cause/program, it will be difficult to convince a funder to give you money.

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