Developing the Budget from Your Narrative

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS You are well on your way to finishing your narrative for your grant application to XYZ Foundation. You've crafted a most persuasive argument, using data and demographics from reliable sources; your need has been thoroughly explained and documented. You've developed a tone and voice that is professional, but compelling.

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As you've moved on to the next item on the narrative section list, "Activities", you are confronted with the dreaded methodology. OK, we get it, you need your kids to improve their reading scores, an afterschool program is missing from your repertoire of solutions to the problem. It is a demonstrated and research-based method for solving your particular problem. You just don't have the stuff or the staff you need to pull it off.

In focus groups with stakeholders, you've determined that there are some really great supplementary materials, software and Internet resources that are available with your reading curriculum from ABC Reading Company. You need more books, some have become torn or have gotten lost, you want to add a couple of lower and higher level readers to what you have. There are workbooks available in e-book and paper formats that would help fill out what you already own. You want to add some supporting fiction to your library media center, online resources, videos and audio support perhaps. Your district only purchased the bare bones set for all the classrooms it serves. All of your teachers have been trained to use this curriculum so you don't necessarily want to throw out the baby with the bath water.

You've reached the point in your narrative that begins to justify your budget request. At this stage you really don't know how much you will be asking for. The dollar amount will emerge as you go along. Don't worry about whether or not the foundation will provide all the money you need. If necessary, your appeal can be spread among several funding resources. Right now, you just want to be sure you analyze your needs carefully and that you include every possible item needed in your budget.

Here is a "budget planning sheet" you may find useful. It has been my guide for years. It is a list of all the funding categories you might possibly need to be sure you include all required items for your project. It forces you to think of everything. It is an Excel spreadsheet and it automatically adds everything up so you can keep track of what your budget request will be when you finally submit your application.

This document differs from the budget document the foundation will want you to use when you submit. It is your internal guide. You can write all over it, add and take away lines, and print it out for others to review. Someone else in your group may think of something you've left out. There's nothing worse than finishing your application and having someone point out that you forgot the software that links the curriculum to smart board exercises for phonics (for instance).

If you started your grant-writing exercises with a firm dollar amount in mind, you will be surprised by how much it has changed now that you've really taken the program apart. Your activities section might be structured as a timeline, you have a twenty-week afterschool program planned, and you have lesson plans sketched out for how you want each of those twenty week sessions to build on the last. There are visits to the library, a field trip or two, and oh yes, don't forget stipends for your teachers. Unless you have a very unusual climate and culture in your district, these folks will expect to be paid. You may need an administrator on hand to be sure you stick to the script. You'll need office supplies, do you want to have a clerk available in the office to meet and greet parents at the end of each afterschool session? Do you need an assessment specialist to help you build out your measurement instruments for the program? Your grantor is going to want to know if your program meets their expectations (and yours) for success.

Don't forget to add one or two post-program sessions for staff to have everyone meet and decide how the program succeeded, failed, or should be repeated next year. So much to think about, but your budget planning sheet will help you with all of it.

I know, I know, you started reading this blog because you want to write a grant. You don't want to be a number cruncher or a technology nerd. And you're a teacher, not Ernest Hemingway. Welcome to the wonderful world of grant writing and grants management. At the end of the day, no one else will do it for you. It's definitely a "be careful what you wish for" proposition. However, I am alive and here to tell you, it's all worthwhile. You will be stretched and all the accumulated skills and talents of a lifetime will be called into play.

Please feel free to comment on this blog and provide ideas and suggestions. I learn from teachers each and every day.