Writing a budget

Grant Writing for Beginners: How to Build a Budget

This blog is part of our new series, Grant Writing for Beginners. The series addresses all stages of preparing a grant proposal, from writing a Letter of Inquiry to submitting a complete proposal. This post continues the series by outlining the budgeting process.


Budget Basics
A budget is a line item list of every anticipated project expense. A funder may provide specific instructions or a form to fill out. Some foundations leave the budget section more open, allowing the applicant to come up with their own budget categories.

Reviewers want to see a budget that is realistic and justifiable. Show reviewers why each expense is necessary to the project’s success by linking each line item to a project activity or objective. If possible, add a concise note to each expense stating what project activity or objective the expense facilitates.


Budget Items
There are a few main categories that most budgets should include. These will vary depending on the project’s scope.

Personnel includes the salaries and benefits (e.g., health insurance, vacation, holidays, and pensions) of any personnel who are direct employees of the school. This category does not include the costs of contractors.

This section may include the costs of contractual services, professional development, printing/copying, travel, equipment, supplies, and other expenses.

Indirect Costs
Some funders do not allow for indirect costs. Other times, a funder may only offer a flat rate or percentage of the total budget for the indirect costs. Read the guidelines carefully to determine if indirect costs are allowed and how they are calculated. Indirect costs are general management costs for a school and can include building rent and utilities.

In-Kind Support
In-kind contributions are a noncash donation to a grant project from another organization. For example, an organization may donate meeting space, photocopies, transportation, volunteers, or clerical support to the project. You can ask the organization for the monetary value of these donations to include in your budget. If they provide you with a calculation for how they reached that monetary value, you can include that in your budget narrative.

Receiving in-kind support can make your grant more attractive to funders because it shows that other organizations are willing to invest in your project.


Budget Narrative
In addition to the line item list of anticipated project expenses, the budget section often includes a budget narrative or justification. The budget narrative briefly explains how each line item expense was calculated, which helps reviewers determine whether your costs are reasonable. Not all foundations require a budget narrative. If it’s not required, you should not provide one.


The budget section can make or break a proposal. If the budget is not sound or justifiable, then the project will not be funded. Take time to carefully calculate your expenses and provide proper justification. If you found this post helpful, check out the other posts in the Grant Writing for Beginners series.


Leave a Reply