Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Do Your Budget First, Not at the Very Last Second

When Tricia and I got married at Treasure Island hotel, we were on a very tight budget. Planning ahead allowed us to make our dreams come true.

In a similar manner, one of my favorite secrets for winning grants is to encourage the client to develop the budget first. Otherwise, it is difficult for me - serving as the grant writer - to visualize the scale of their project, the number of people to be hired or involved, and to create a program design that lines up with the budget details.

A quick and early draft of the overall budget may be more critical than most of us think. This is because some grant readers may not pay much attention to what you write in the narrative of the grant at all. In an effort to save their own time, they may scan this material and then flip to your budget page and evaluate your entire proposal using the quality of the budget.

Also, if there is limited consensus within your institution concerning the necessity of the project itself, early attention to the budget will quickly surface these wrinkles and allow your staff to iron them out prior to drafting the grant proposal.

Best of all, if you have a sharp looking budget from another grant proposal, you can save time and money by recycling it. Depending on how you structure the new grant project...a lot of the material may be the same.

Why do agencies sometimes complete the budget at the last minute? In my experience, it is often because they are shy about letting the grant writer know how much everyone at the agency actually earns. At other times, there is a political struggle going on behind the scenes for control of the project. Often the problem is that the grant writer is intimidated about generating a budget and delegates this task to the accounting department. Since the grant is not a major priority for the accounting department, the whole process of drafting the budget can screech to a halt...until the pressure of the deadline wakes everyone up.

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