10 Tips for Understanding Grants

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Applying for a grant—be it federal, state or private—can be a difficult, time consuming process. NLC Grant Access will streamline the process. As an NLC member, you have an entire database dedicated to helping your municipality fund crucial initiatives. Find a grant that fits your city’s next venture, like: building a library, investing in public infrastructure or developing walking and hiking trails.

Grant categories range from Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement to Arts and Humanities and are available across the country. And once you’ve found the right grant, our partner, EfficientGov, powered by Praetorian Digital, has compiled a list of 10 helpful tips and resources for managing it. 

Grant budgets are a nightmare for many. Although I sometimes cringe inside at the thought of them, my husband says my eyes light up every time I am crunching numbers or working on a spreadsheet. The old saying is true, “Numbers don’t lie, people do.” That is why there is so much fraud, waste and abuse in the grant world. While I’m not an accountant, I feel safe with numbers and see beauty in a finished grant budget aligned correctly with the grant narrative.

Here are 10 steps to help you navigate the convoluted waters of grant budgets.

  1. Read some great articles about budgets from my peers on the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) website. Discover whether to write the grant narrative or prepare the budget first. Then do what works best for you and your organization during grant preparation.
  2. Find some reference books for your professional library that will help you understand grant budgets, such as: Grant Writing for Dummies by Dr. Beverly Browning, The Wise Guide to Winning Grants by Waddy Thompson, Accounting All-in-One for Dummies by Kenneth Boyd and Accounting Made Simple by Mike Piper.
  3. Work with accounting, finance, or business office staff on the grant budget early and throughout the grant preparation process. They don’t want surprises such as an incorrect salary amount or an unnecessary purchase any more than you or the funder does.
  4. Always call or email the program officer or funder with grant budget questions if it is not clear in the application instructions. It is their job to support applicants.
  5. Be prudent and understand the terms reasonable, allowable and allocable. Check out this Diane Leonard article on what’s reasonable and allowable. Allocable costs are those allowable costs that benefit the grant to which they are being charged.
  6. Be specific when describing budget line items. For example, when describing salaries, include the job title, Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) or number of hours worked, salary amount or hourly rate, number of employees for that line item and a summary of the job responsibilities related to grant project objectives. Depending on the type of grant, this may need to go in the grant budget narrative section.
  7. Learn more about federal grant budgets and how to manage them, see Myfedtrainer.com for in training camps, online trainings, templates and resources.
  8. Create or find a grant budget template, or Excel spreadsheet, to create draft budgets before the actual final grant application. Create this budget by analyzing each grant project objective/activity. A Budget Builder Worksheet from Waddy Thompson is available for download on GrantAdviser.com.
  9. Ask an experienced grant professional, who may be willing to mentor you, for help in learning the ins and outs of grant budgets.
  10. Participate in prerecorded or live GPA webinars about budgets and grant management.

In summary, when working with grant budgets, learn to love the numbers instead of fighting them, ask for help, work with the grant team and continue to educate yourself. Try this mindfulness tip before tackling that budget, called the STOP routine: S-Stop, T-Take a breath, O-Observe what’s happening, P-Proceed.

This article is cross-posted from our partners at EfficientGov. Find the original post here.

About the author:

Judy_Riffle.jpgDr. Judy Riffle owns Santa Cruz Grants & Consulting, LLC, and has raised 17 million dollars for various schools, school districts, and nonprofits. Funded grants include public school/charter school entitlement grants such as ESEA Consolidated, IDEA Basic, and Title III LEP. Funded competitive grants include: McKinney-Vento Supplemental Education for Homeless Children & Youth, State Tutoring, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, School Improvement (SIG), CA Community Colleges Basic Skills and Student Outcomes Transformation, New York Learning Technology, Arizona Pilot Program on School Emergency Readiness, Baptist Community Ministries, Safeway Foundation, Tucson Electric Power, Cox Charities, Del E. Webb Foundation, and Arizona Disabled Veteran Foundation. Dr. Riffle is a former K-12 teacher, education specialist, new teacher mentor, and administrator with degrees in special education, Deaf education, and educational leadership. Besides being a member of the Grant Professionals Foundation (GPF) Board of Directors, she also chairs the GPF Marketing Committee, and serves on the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Grant News Publications Subcommittee. Since December 2016, she has written monthly grant related articles for educationgrantshelp.com.