Five Things You’ll Forget to Put in Your Budget (Grant writing pitfalls)

You’ve visited the School Funding Center Database, and finally, after much thought and hard work, you have written a narrative for a grant from a foundation you have identified. You really want to start a relationship with this organization, and you know you must WOW them with your first effort. Even if this attempt doesn’t light their fire, you want to make a great first impression.

You’ve worked with your stakeholders in school to identify a STEM project for after school enrichment to attack those pesky math scores you’ve been trying to raise. You have skillfully woven math instruction into a project based science experiment you know the students will love to pursue. They’ll learn in spite of themselves.

So, you’re ready to pull your budget together. I’ve given you a budget template to help you organize your thoughts as you prepare for the program. Nevertheless, there are five things you are liable to forget.

  • Stipends versus salaries
  • Support Salaries (stipends)
  • Basic school supplies, (computers, paper, toner, refreshments?)
  • Equipment
  • Indirect Costs

A few of them are self-explanatory but take a look anyway. Generally, you will not be paying teacher salaries unless this is a big federal or state grant that calls for that level of investment. You will though, need to pay your teachers to stay late. Be sure you know what the union has negotiated as their hourly rate.

Likewise the support staff, will you want to have a secretary to answer the phone and greet parents when they come to pick up their children? What is their hourly rate? Also, custodian unions often require districts to pay overtime. They expect to be paid if they are asked to do special duty cleaning up after an “extra” program. How about administrators? Will your principal be paid to be there?

Don’t forget basic supplies, make sure your computers are available and there is paper and toner for the printers. Will you need special science supplies? Be careful here, your grantor will want to see that you are using school supplies already in-house. They don’t want to be stocking your supply closet. Certainly, special things like science glassware might be allowed. What about refreshments? Absolutely, everyone will want to have cookies and juice. A good tip is to have parents supply these extras but be sure the foundation knows you’ve tapped this resource. In the case of food, students are a long way from lunch and you want everyone to take a moment to socialize. It’s half the fun of the after school program.

Equipment refers to special high-ticket (usually over $5,000 per unit) items that may depreciate. A foundation or corporation may be willing to purchase a science lab with specialized equipment. Work with your liaison to see what they will allow. You might be able to get a matching grant or in-kind donation to provide those items. Your foundation will want to know how you will sustain the program after their support runs out. They’ll be glad to know you are tapping other supporters for some of the project supplies.

This leaves my favorite to forget, indirect costs. Requests from a private source will probably not include indirect costs. Federal and state grants will usually provide indirect costs. Every grant project incurs costs from items that are ordinarily absorbed by the city or town in which you live. Electricity, water, heat will be used during the time you are using the school. Your city has negotiated a rate with the state for reimbursement of these costs in grant-funded programs. You can read more about this here. Keep an eye out for funding opportunities that allow you to charge indirect costs to the grant.

So, there you have it, the most forgotten elements. All the planning in the world won’t help if the students show up after school and you don’t have the software you need to do the calculations for the math. Try to think of everything. As you go along and gain more experience, it will all become second nature.

Let me know how you’re doing, tell me your grant stories, I’ll share them with my readers.


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About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

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