Grant Pro Tips for Discussing Budget Planning by Kari Cronbaugh-Auld, MSW, GPC 

Grant Pro Tips for Discussing Budget Planning by Kari Cronbaugh-Auld, MSW, GPC 

There are many ways to think about budgeting in relation to grants. Essential to a well-run grants program is planning what discerns program or project creation needs from budget relieving needs.

Program/project creation – funds to help create a new program or project that aligns with the organization’s mission.

Budget relieving – funds that help ‘plug’ holes and relieve existing expenses.

The process of helping an organization plug budget holes relies on asking the right questions. With grant, development, program, and finance staff present, here are some discussion suggestions and questions to ask.

  1. Are you planning new programs or projects for the upcoming year? If so:
    1. Have you identified how you will fund them?
    2. When do you plan to implement them?
    3. What will you need for implementation? (I am often surprised how often there is no specific list of what will be needed and what it will cost!) Consider the following:
      • Staff and/or partners
      • Equipment or supplies
      • Physical space
      • Certifications/accreditations
      • Evidence based training or curriculum
      • Marketing
  1. What current budget line items are not funded or are funded by unrestricted funds? (Where are the budget holes?)
    1. If funded by unrestricted funds, which kind? (e.g., donations, reserves, or unrestricted grant funds)
    2. If there is no funding plan or the plan involves donations or reserves, are these line items candidates for potential grant funds that can provide ‘budget relief’?
    3. What will budget relieving funds for these line items help the organization do that you couldn’t do before? (e.g., use unrestricted dollars in a more efficient way, improve infrastructure to more efficiently serve clients, or improve funding diversity)
  1. What opportunities exist for grant staff and development staff to work together to secure needed funds and coordinate their efforts?

All this information helps inform which funders are a best fit just as much as the services an organization provides. Some funders are all about new programs that provide innovative services, and some get a kick out of supporting infrastructure.

In a best-case scenario, there will be no surprises during your meeting, and you will walk away with a solid approach to find funding opportunities. However, I have been in meetings in which program staff announce a plan to implement a new program that finance has never heard about before the meeting. Or, finance staff state they received a check last month to cover program expense that development thought they were raising funds for through an event. It happens in the best of organizations. This is why they need you, the grant professional. This discussion may lead to further conversations about the importance of formalizing the organization’s grant planning process!

GPC Competency #2: Knowledge of organizational development as it pertains to grant seeking

Skill #8 – Identify best practices in grant seeking that match organization’s needs with potential funding opportunities.