Secrets of Grant-writing Revealed, Part III: Budget

Alright now friends, you’ve gathered your content experts (even if that means it was just a matter of gathering your own wits) and you’ve followed my trusty “recipe” in Part I to craft a solid narrative. Now what? Well, this is where the MATH comes in.

“What?” you gasp. You suddenly flash back to your freshman year in high school in Mr. Taylor’s geometry class, and next thing you know you are shaking and curled into a fetal position. Oh, wait, that’s me, not you. Well, Mr. Taylor is likely passed on now, as he was ancient 25 years ago. Hold on, more than that…I was a freshman in 1986-87, so how many years would that be?

So you see, math is not my strong suit, but even so, I can put together a mean budget for a grant–I even use Excel and sometimes multiply decimals. How do I manage? Because you really don’t need more than arithmetic and some knowledge of the program you want to implement in order to provide a coherent budget for a grantor.

A good place to start is with your management plan–remember what that was? (If not, re-read Part I.) There you’ll find the objectives and activities you are claiming you’ll be able to do with the grant money, so you darn well better ask for enough to cover it all. Nothing worse than coming to implementation time and realizing you told the grantor you’d get the world’s Communists and Libertarians to form a book club and discuss 50 Shades of Grey with only $100. You’ll spend all that in one prescription of Valium for the group and not have any left for coffee and cookies.

Generally these are the areas one might find in a budget for a grant: personnel (salary and benefits), travel, equipment (this, at least in government speak, is an item over $5000), materials and supplies, contracts (for outside experts), and other. If its a small, straightforward grant, you might only have a line or two, such as: “$100: Valium prescription. $200: 100 Mrs. Fields’ Macadamia White Chocolate cookies. $5000: police oversight of book club.” With more complex grants you might want to break out Excel because you’ll be figuring percentage of full time salary and the going rate for travel ($.565 btw).

If you’re stumped on budget, go back to your content experts (this might mean talking to yourself I realize), and ask them how much Valium they needed when they ran a Tea Party/ Green Party Tupperware fete the year before, what type and how many cookies they munched through, and if it required S.W.A.T. or just regular police to keep the peace–they should be able to give you some basis for starting the budget for your project because this is what they do regularly.

I thought I might say something about implementation in this post, but it has gotten too long already, and that really isn’t my area anyway. I prefer to just hit the “submit” button, and then giggle from the safety of my locked-door office when the department actually receives the grant and realizes they’ve got to start recruiting Communists.

By Osipov Georgiy Nokka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Osipov Georgiy Nokka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Related: Part I, Part II, Project Types, Fiction and Grants

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