10 Common & Avoidable Grant Budget Errors

You can avoid common grant budget errors and earn more grant income. The following include common grant budget challenges and suggestions on how nonprofit can overcome them to improve their nonprofit funding.

1. Doing the grant budget in a hurry.

At a minimum, it will take three or four hours, over several days, to develop the project budget unless the grant is for one item.

2.Waiting until the last minute.

Since the project budget follows the narrative in the grant packet, it’s easy to put it off until the end. Begin working on your budget well before writing your final grant narrative draft.

3. Making major changes within 24 hours of submittal.

Budget changes often impact everything else. Most people use numbers and ideas from these numbers throughout their grants. Ban any significant changes, except corrections on the day of submittal.

4. Your numbers in your grant narrative and grant budget don’t agree.

During one of your final grant reviews, check and compare only the numbers.

5. You make basic math mistakes.

If you show them that you’re challenged by basic addition, how will they believe you can take care of their money? Prepare all of your grant budgets in a spreadsheet program. Then check your formulas before transferring numbers to the donor’s forms.

6. Failing to recognize that some of your reviewers will only look at your grant budget.

For them, your grant project budget is the proposal. They view the narrative as the details and not the other way around. Examine your project budget as a stand-alone document. Does it tell the story you want?

7. The numbers in your annual operating budget bear no resemblance to the numbers in your grant budget.

For example, the grant project budget supply line item for five people costs three times your annual supply budget for your 50-person agency. This may be true, even it it looks odd. If true, explain why in a footnote of the grant project budget. Or, if necessary adjust your nonprofits annual projected budget.

8. The grant reviewer can purchase the items you list, at similar quality, for less money.

You list a $500 printer. It’s similar to the one a reviewer bought last week for her office for $250. Don’t ballpark prices. Confirm them on Amazon or other sites.

9. You fail to account for vacancies…

… and calling people multiple times for appointments, meeting cancellations due to weather, and other realities. Include time estimates for events that do not lead to your grant project outcomes. You’ll thank me later for this one.

10. You fail to put a time frame on your grant budget or similar details

For instance, you add cents on a $50,000 budget. You forget to label the columns and other format challenges. Compare your budget to the one prepared by your auditor. Adopt their format in your grant budget.

For other sources of nonprofit income to augment your grant opportunities, read this article, Can Your Organization Obtain More Income?


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