A budget is often the last piece of the grant proposal that a foundation will ask for. It may be at the end of a long list titled Upload the Following Supporting Documents, or may be a form at the back of an RFP package. One might think this makes the budget one of the least important pieces of the proposal puzzle.

And really, after all of the narrative you have just poured your heart and soul into writing, how important could a few numbers be? Didn’t you just show in your narrative that the work of your non-profit is too important to put a price tag on?

So you estimate as best you can, and fill in the spreadsheet they’ve provided, and you rest your hopes for the proposal on the strength of the narrative. And your non-profit is declined for funding.

Why? Let’s focus on purpose of a grant proposal. It is a request for money, not an educational memo about your non-profit’s work. Each and every penny a foundation commits to a project is meant to achieve the goal you have proposed. Foundations expect that you have planned and budgeted your project, and that you have a full understanding of the resources needed to accomplish the work.

I begin every grant proposal by writing the budget. It is especially important to tie every line item of that budget to one of the achievable goals of the project, and the methodology for how that goal will be met. Creating the budget first allows for greater clarity when crafting the proposal narrative, and ensures that the money requested has a tangible purpose to the funder.

A clear, defined budget that relates directly to the specific steps of the proposed project and the projected outcomes gives your proposal the strong foundation needed to succeed.

Kelly is a Consultant for Sims & Steele with experience in foundation and donor research, grant writing and reporting, general fundraising, and project management.

Kelly is a Consultant for Sims & Steele with experience in foundation and donor research, grant writing and reporting, general fundraising, and project management.