Getting the budget right on a grant application is often one of the last steps in the application process. By the time people get to it, they’re often mentally exhausted and ready to be done.
However, the budget is an important part of the application. It’s one of the last application checks to ensure you’ve completed everything correctly and that your budget request aligns with the scope of the project you’re proposing. Finally, in addition to fitting the budget within the parameters of the grant, I encourage you to consider what funding amount would be the most appropriate to strive for. This requires a little research and a little finesse so I’ve provided steps to follow in this post.
Step 1: Review the Grant Opportunity You’re Considering
First, let’s make sure the amount you’re requesting is in-line with the award parameters. Take these steps:
- Verify what the minimum and maximum award amounts are. There can sometimes be multiple tiers offered dependent upon different criteria, so make sure you’re viewing the appropriate tier.
- View the award history and calculate an average award amount. Some granting agencies and foundations prefer to fund fewer requests because they prioritize funding the full amount. Others take the opposite approach. Whether intentional on the reviewer’s side or not, you can reveal a pattern of behavior from past award decisions and pinpoint what you award amount you should strive for. Sometimes, asking for “too much” or “too little” can make your request less attractive even if the amount fits within the award parameters.
- Observe which applicants receive the maximum award and take notes on what may have given their applications a competitive edge. Consider the following:
- What were the deliverables and outcomes?
- What collection types and subjects were involved?
- Were there partners, a special anniversary, and other “it” factor?
The information revealed during this process will give you specific examples to draw from and inform your own project so that you can frame it as competitively as possible.
Step 2: Create and Review Your Budget
If you haven’t already created your project budget, it’s time to do so. Create a budget that includes real numbers for equipment, software, supplies, specialists, contractors, etc. Perform cost research, inquire about pricing, request bids (where appropriate) and calculate your cost down to the dollar. Then, calculate the current budget total for your scope as-is.
Step 3: Right-Size Your Project
Once you’ve arrived at a total for your budget, consider the following prompts:
- If it’s too small an amount for the fund you’re interested in, expand the scope and then expand your budget.
- If the amount is too large for the fund you’re interested in, consider breaking the scope into phases or pursuing a matching fund.
- If there are options to leverage internal funding, donor funding, or complementary grant funding; then coordinate those pieces as you construct the current application.
As you can see, there’s flexibility in how we frame a project and how we budget it. This can be a very useful strategy to have as it means you can be more inclusive in the funding opportunities you pursue without necessarily compromising on the quality of the project.
Budgets can be boring, but budgets for grant applications are too critical to grant success to be ignored. Getting the budget right is the first thing to master. Next, I encourage you to play around with the strategies shared here to see how a well-crafted budget can raise your application to the top of the pack for consideration.
Additional Reading Available via Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog:
Rachael Cristine Woody
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, register here for Rachael’s upcoming webinar, “How to Fund Your Next Museum Digital Project” on April 27 2022. Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, digital museums, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, she is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and an always popular presenter. And remember to check out Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.
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