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Beginner’s Tips for Drafting Grant Budgets


~ by Steve Yoder, Community Development Regional Educator, Purdue Extension 


If there’s a phrase from Purdue Extension’s Beginner’s Guide to Grant Writing workshop that solicits the most fear and trepidation from participants, it’s “the budget section.” Some of us are numbers folks, and the rest aren’t. 

For those of us that aren’t (me included), my biggest tip is to ask for help from someone who is a numbers person. They could be your organization’s accountant, bookkeeper, co-worker, or volunteer. Have them review your math and ensure the budget section makes sense and looks complete.   

Beyond the math, however, there are other items that proposal writers need to consider regarding the budget section. Here are a few extra tips to consider: 

  • Know what’s eligible and what isn’t. Do not include ineligible expenditures. This tip sounds simple enough, but beginning grant writers often overlook this part of the funder’s instructions. If the guidelines say not to include overhead, for example, then don’t include overhead in the request.
  • Align the budget with the project description. Essential items in the project description must also appear in the budget and vice versa. To make sure I do this, I’ll print a paper copy of the project description section and a copy of the budget section. I’ll lay them side-by-side on a table and use a highlighter to cross-check each eligible item in the project description with its corresponding line item on the budget. Doing this helps ensure that I haven’t overlooked anything.
  • Research the best deals and seek out quotes. Funders will appreciate that you are weighing costs against reliability or expertise. Suppose there are items in your budget (such as equipment, materials, or services) that are not the lowest price options but may have a qualitative advantage. In that case, you may want to include a brief explanation in the budget narrative section.
  • Consider all eligible fees and costs. Examples may include: 
    • Personnel:  benefits, yearly raises, taxes, supervisory and support staff
    • Other labor:  installation, tech support, evaluation
    • Overhead:  rent, utilities, telecom, cleaning, electricity, trash, snow removal
    • Equipment:  peripherals, maintenance, cords, storage containers
    • Transportation:  shipping, mileage, tolls, parking 

A detailed budget section will not only help a potential funder better understand your project—it will also help you better manage the project should you receive funding. For example, inflation, changing building material costs, and other factors can cause your expenses to fluctuate during the project’s lifetime. Funders understand this. Clearly communicating these changes to them is easier with a detailed budget and essential to keeping a strong relationship with the funder over time.

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