While prepping the budget for this year’s Service Learning Project grant, I found a few tricks along the way that helped me to work with the figures to get the project adequately funded.
Here are five things I’ve discovered:
Ignore the Cheapest Price
My original search for a quote will always produce the least expensive, yet least realistic price. For some reason, every time I shopped for the original item, the price had gone up by the time I actually received funding! I just blame this on the time it took between writing the budget and spending the budget. So…
Plan for a 20% Higher Price Estimate
I set aside 20% more than I think each item will cost. That’s meant to cover tax, shipping and markups that would otherwise render my original quote inaccurate, saving me from paying out of pocket.
Quote the Average Price
I try to find more of an average price when preparing a quote, rather than the cheapest price. This goes with #1 and #2.
Use Categories and Subcategories
I make a list of categories in a spreadsheet. When determining the categories, I label them by item type or step of project, then break it down further into subcategories. An example: “Coloring Book” category can be broken down into subcategories of “Color Copies, Laminating, Binding, Paper, Art Supplies”. At that point, some can be broken down further: Sharpies, Crayons, Etc can be listed under the “Art Supplies” subcategory. This way, you are thinking through the exact materials necessary to accomplish what you set out to do, without coming out of pocket or having to fundraise again for the difference.
Round Up When Estimating Quantities
My budget always has a few costs that can be negotiated down when the funding organization requests revisions to the budget. In other words, if I think I need 20 of something, I ask for 25. It never fails that I get new students mid-year, and if I order exact quantities, I’m caught without enough.
Feel free to share your own experiences with writing budgets for grant proposals in the comments below- I’d love to hear about them!