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How to prepare a departmental budget

how to prepare a departmental budget

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Preparing the Proposal Many of these items may not actually be sent to the Foundation as part of the final proposal. However, it is recommended that you have all of the information that these stages generate readily available in the event that the foundation requests additional information. There may not be enough time to gather the information at that point. Additional Resources Books to Buy Proposal Checklist Writing a Proposal Work Sheet
  • Define the project (establish a working title).
  • Identify the agency and obtain Guidelines and deadlines.
  • Write preliminary material (pre proposal).
  • Conduct literature search.
  • Write a draft of the full proposal. Consider the following parts:
    • Introduction
    • Problem Statement
    • Objectives
    • Methodology
    • Evaluation
    • Dissemination
    • Future funding (if required by project)
    • Budget
    • Appendices
    • Abstract or Project Summary
    • Curriculum vitae
Note all of these parts will not be required by every proposal. But most of them are. Individual agencies will have different forms or requirements. GRANT PROPOSAL ELEMENTS
  1. Cover Letter This is done last, after the proposal summary. It's signed by the Chairman of the Board, Executive Director, or whoever is liable for authorizing the project. The letter should:
    • Authorize submission of the proposal
    • Ask for money
    • Reinforce/Set up - Reinforce how important the project is and what it will accomplish. Set-up: prepare readers for what they are about to read; explain why you are approaching this particular grantor for this particular project
    • Next steps - Set up process for contacting the grantor in the next few weeks, answering questions they may have.
  2. Title Page - If requested by the grantor
  3. Summary/Abstract This is done next to last after you have all your information gathered and organized. It is included near the beginning of the proposal when it is submitted. Summarize the one, two or three most important things that you say for each of the following elements of the proposal:
    • Your organization's credibility
    • The problem being addressed
    • Project goals and objectives
    • Methods of implementation
    • The total cost of the project, including the amount you're requesting, potential, funding from other sources, your own contributions, volunteers, etc.
    This section can range in length from a paragraph to a page. It's possible to address each of the elements in one sentence each. The summary can also be used as a one to two page mini proposal or cover letter that a grantor would request and review before deciding whether to ask you to prepare a full proposal. This is the beginning of the proposal narrative - introducing your agency. It is a very important part of the proposal for the grantor because it's about your credibility. The grantor wants to know that you can pull off this project if it gives you the money. You should address, in no particular order, as much of the following as possible or feasible about your organization:
    • Mission
    • Population/Clients - Your target audience, if it's changed over time, how you're meeting the changing needs
    • Programs - Results - it's not about what you do, but about your outcomes; this could be a brief track record or success story
    • History - This is really credible if it shows growth; what you mention should be directly relevant to what you're proposing in this project
    • Size/Growth
    • Budget
    • Funding - Who is funding you? What percentage of your budget does each source fund?
    • Support - Very important; refer to letters of support in appendix
    • Collaboration - Your primary partners; it's hard to be unique anymore; it carries more weight when you show that you're tied in with partners who do pieces of what you do or complement your efforts
    • Management - Who's running your organization? Does your board and/or staff reflect the diversity in the communities you serve? Experience?
    • Accrediting/Licensing
    • Media/Awards - Recognition for outstanding service
    • Evaluation of programs - Either done inside or outside your organization
  4. Problem/Need Statement This is the most important part of the proposal because everything revolves around it. It describes the circumstances or conditions that you want to change. Your concern should be external to your organization, not focused on your internal needs. You must have a baseline, which identifies the scope of the problem and your starting point in addressing it. Document everything that you can. Be specific and precise. Elements include:
    • What is going on in your service area? Pick a manageable part of the problems or a piece that you may be able to solve.
    • Who's affected? Use local statistics; only use national statistics if you're comparing them to local ones. Bring in quotes from experts and people directly or indirectly affected.
    • Who has the problem? Who else is affected? Focus on a target population.
    • Why is this a problem? Focus on a cause for the problem based on what you do and your expertise, that you can actually do something about.
    Only address what the grantor thinks can be changed.

    Goals and objectives are results or outcomes, not what you want to do. They describe a change that will occur in the circumstances and conditions that you laid out in the problem statement. A goal is general and summarizes more specific objectives or an overall desired outcome for a project. It is bigger in impact than an objective and has no specific time frame.

    Objectives, not goals, are what you really measure to determine the direction and success of a project. Objectives must be measurable and quantifiable. Each objective needs to contain four pieces of information:

    • Who or what is going to change?
    • How will they change?
    • By how much will they change?
    • Time frame

    Don't confuse objectives with methods. Methods describe ways of obtaining objectives. Use verbs like "increase, decrease, maintain, reduce, eliminate … not "to train, to provide, etc. This section should be brief.

    This describes your program design or program activities. It must explain the rationale for the program (relate it to the problem) and explain how the program will work. Elements include:
    • What - Proposed activities to bring about the desired results
    • Who - The target group; also, who will be responsible for implementing methods
    • When - Timeline; charts are a good tool to use as a "snapshot" in highlighting when activities will take place and objectives will be achieved
    • Why - What other alternatives did you look at? Why did you pick this one? Was it the cheapest? The most innovative? Did it have the most impact? And so forth.
  5. Evaluation This determines whether your program worked. Did you meet your objectives? This is a Summative, or Product, Evaluation. A Process, or Method, Evaluation examines whether the methods were carried out but does not say anything about the effectiveness of the program. Most grantors want you to do both kinds of evaluation. Elements:
    • Information and Indicators - What will tell you that you're achieving your objectives; you need to track this information and continually collect it all through the project.
    • How and When - How will you collect information and when?
    • Who collects and analyzes information? Recently grantors have shown more preference for organizations that do their own evaluations rather than bringing in outsiders. They like to see someone who is involved in program planning and implementation doing the evaluation and someone who could change the objectives, if necessary, as the program goes on and certain developments emerge.
    • Will you publish the evaluation? Share it with other agencies?
    The evaluation will indicate whether you should continue the program, copy it, expand it, scale it back, drop it, or whatever. You can also determine what factors led to meeting or not meeting the objectives. It's helpful for the future to share this information with grantors, to show them what works and what doesn't work. Indicating to grantors what you will do to obtain better results is very powerful. A very effective way to keep in touch with actual and potential grantors is to share your project evaluations with them. Evaluations are also good to share with your board (to kill their bad ideas), staff (for morale) and clients (to help recruit others into your program). The point about doing evaluations is not about passing or failing, but about learning from them.

    This is the last part of the narrative. After the grant is spent, how do you keep the project going? Grantors want you to address this and have no obligation to fund you after the first time.

    This is a plan - how much you'll pay to accomplish your objectives. Anything in your methods section needs to be in your budget, and vice versa. You don't want to raise any questions with grantors. Match methods section items with budget items in your mind. You'll ask for money in three different places in the proposal: the cover letter, the abstract or summary, and here.

    This is the last piece of the proposal. If you want the grantor to see something in the appendix, refer to it either in a table of contents or in the proposal narrative. The appendix should at least include the following four items:
    • An IRS non-profit status (tax exempt) determination letter - 501 (c)(3)
    • An organizational budget
    • Audited financial statements - 99OPF Forms filed annually with the IRS
    • A list of your Board of Directors - include their day jobs; or possibly an organizational chart or hierarchy
    In addition, you could also include:
    • Resumes of key staff involved in the project
    • Commitment letters from partners
    • Letters of support from others
    • An agency annual report or brochure
    • Anything else that you think makes a strong case as a back-up document in your proposal; don't include items if you don't think they're necessary

An Example of a Cover Letter




Phone: ___-___-____

FAX: ___-___-___

Jane A. Doe



Dear Dr. Somebody

The School District of ___________ would like to request funding support for an important school district/community project titled the _________ and ______________ (See attached flier). As per your discussion with Someone, we are requesting a grant to be matched by the District and its community in the amount of $2,500.

Moneys raised will support the initiation of a school district based ________ interactive ________ designed to preserve the culture and history of the community as well as provide students with a sense of belonging and pride in their community. This Center will be housed at the ____________ Building located within the district. The cultural center represents a collaborative effort between the district and its community and provides a vehicle for educational activities that highlight the rich historical perspective of the __________ area.

A joint district/community task force spent last year developing plans, informing the community and soliciting support for this concept. The attached flier was distributed during the Memorial Day Parade and contains a logo specially designed by a ____________ student. This project is one of many initiatives underway designed to build a long lasting social contract between the district and its community.

An additional partner in this endeavor is ___________ University, a team of preserve educators, coordinated by Dr. ____________ is working at no cost to the District or its taxpayers to prepare exhibits, train youngsters K-12 in various skills (such as conducting oral histories), as well as raising funds, identifying additional sources of appropriate materials, and preparing the physical space.

As is evident from the content of this proposal, the aim of the District is to build a "community plan’” that highlights the accomplishments of its residents and encourages young people to look toward the past with an eye on their future. If we accomplish this goal there is no doubt that __________ will remain an active player in the health and vitality of the entire ______________ region.



Superintendent of Schools

cc: Dr. ___________

Title Page - Points to cover:
  1. Your project title
  2. Project duration
  3. Amount requested
  4. Your organization name, address and phone number
  5. The author's name, position and phone number
  6. Date of application
The Summary
  1. (Write this 1/2 to 1 page summary of your grant Application after you complete your proposal.) Summarize your request; include a one figure cost estimate.
  2. Summarize the need as you see it (two sentences).
  3. Summarize your objectives (two or three sentences).
  4. Summarize your proposed methods (two or three sentences).
  5. Summarize your evaluation design (how you plan to prove you've succeeded).
  6. Briefly describe how your project relates to the granting

    agency's policies and interests.

  7. Summarize the benefits of your project to the funding agency (fulfillment of an announced funding program, satisfaction of helping solve a pressing local problem, etc.). Stress outcomes and outputs .
The Introduction
  1. Describe who you are and what you do: how, why, and, when did you get started?.
  2. Outline your organization's goals (1 or 2 sentences). What have been your significant accomplishments to date?
  3. Describe the relationship between this project and your organization's long-term goals.
  4. Describe the academic and professional background of your staff: present the background and accomplishment of your project head.
  5. Present your credentials: cite short commendations, quotes of well known persons who have worked with you.
  6. List your present sources of support and income: demonstration that you have local support (money, facilities, donated services).
  7. Present other credibility builders: Are you resource to others in the field? Is there an increasing need for your service? Is your service becoming, more popular – is there a waiting list?
  8. Describe your credentials as they relate to this project: What is your track record in this area? What facilities and staff do you have uniquely suited to this project?
More About The Introduction 1. Introduce your institution with reference to:
  • Basic characteristics
  • Legal status
  • Physical geographical and demographic setting
2. Always assume that the review team is not familiar with your Institution - offer statements and/or endorsements to support credibility.

3. Identify key features of your organization.

4. Relate your institution's strengths to the proposed problem.

5. Provide continuity between the institutional goals and the achievement of the proposed program.

6. Develop an apparent relationship between organizational purpose and the problem identified.

7. The identification of the problem should evolve from the statement of your organization's purpose.

Problem/Need Statement

1. Describe the need for this kind of project nationally or regionally.

2. Outline the portion of this larger problem you plan to deal with.

3. Supply statistical documentation of this specific or local problem (fewer statistics convincingly presented are better than many explained weakly).

4. State the need in terms of a single person ("Today the average income of a handicapped veteran is $4,500").

5. Statements of community leaders.

6. Expert opinions (including quotes).

7. Government studies.

8. Survey results.

9. Show this granting agency why it is the best source of support for this project (relate problem/need to their interests).

More About The Problem Statement

1. Document the significance of the problem with Data.

2. Do not editorialize - state facts. Too often proposals are submitted on emotional and political rather than on rational terms.

3. The problem identified must be achievable and creates a need for some type of planned action.

4. Does the problem statement convince the reviewers of the importance of the proposal?

5. The problem statement establishes the theme for the proposal and it must state with clarity of purpose.

6. The problem statement determines the major focus of the proposed project and stresses why this particular program should be undertaken.

7. The problem statement must provide entree to the other subsections of the proposal.

The Objectives
  1. State your goals (general statements of what you hope to accomplish).
  2. Outline your objectives )what specifically do you want to accomplish? By when?)
  3. How they are measurable. (Can they be evaluated?)
  4. Show that these objectives are realistic (you have time, resources, and community support to attain them).
More About The Objectives

1. Objectives should be stated with action oriented verbs such as demonstrate, test, develop, etc.

2. An objective must succeed in communicating its intent.

3. In writing objectives, use concreteness, clarity and preciseness, not ambiguity.

4. Objectives are considered precise outcomes that can be measured in some manner to determine actual accomplishments.

5. The objectives are the basis for determining the procedural aspects of the program, and therefore must be carefully planned.

6. Most frequent error made in writing objectives is to make them vague generalities.

7. Objectives must be briefly and succinctly stated: A sentence or two at most.

8. The quality of written objectives will largely determine the effectiveness of the evaluation design.

9. Objectives must be easily noted and not be imbedded in the narrative of the proposal.

10. Prioritized objectives indicate good planning by the principal investigator.

11. Major objectives followed by a series of sub objectives more precisely identify the program plans.

The Methods

1. Describe the methods you plan to use to accomplish each of your objectives:

2. Describe how you will implement these methods. Mention who will be responsible for implement each objective (give name, title, and background).

The Procedures

1. Describe the plan of action.

2. Introductory paragraph to the procedures section should provide a complete indication of your program objectives.

3. Describe the activities and/or processes for carrying out your program objectives, and the reasons for selecting the particular approach.

4. Present a reasonable scope of activities that can be accomplished within the time allotted for the program activities and within the resources of the applicant.

5. Describe the staffing expertise to be involved to provide greater assurance of achievement.

6. Usually the most carefully read section of the whole proposal.

7. Develop a sequential procedure required for program implementation.

8. Sequentializing your procedures provides a structure for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of each objective.

9. Program procedures must be in terms of their application to the effectiveness of each objective.

NOTE: The procedure section answers the questions of what, how, who, and where.

The Evaluation

1. Describe your specific measurable criteria for success.

2. Describe how you plan to collect data and monitor progress.

3. Tell how you will keep records.

4. Describe the evaluators: Name and title


objectivity (Are they an impartial third party?) 5. Outline your reporting procedures (how often you will report progress; format and comment of evaluation reports) Give specific due dates.


1. Describe your proposed method of disseminating project information (papers, reports, conferences. etc.).

2. Describe groups who should get information on your project colleagues, general public, potential clients).

3. Explain why it is important to reach them (locate clients, raise money, help others start similar projects).

4. Identify person in charge of dissemination.

More About The Evaluation

1. A sound evaluation design will measure the extent to which your program was effective in achieving its objectives.

2. Evaluation design must be carefully aligned with the program objectives, and should include the following: Covers product and process.

Defines evaluation criteria.

Describes data gathering methods.

Describes the process of data analysis. 3. The following questions need to be included in designing the evaluation system: Did the program accomplish its objectives?

Did the program operate as it was designed to operate?

What variables need to be considered in monitoring the program structure? 4. Identifies who will be performing the evaluation and their expertise in the area being evaluated.

5. Evaluation design must provide for a continuous monitoring system.

6. An appropriate analysis and reporting system must be incorporated in the evaluation design.

7. Develop a sequential procedure required for program implementation. NOTE: Evaluation is any systematic process that is designed to reduce uncertainty about the effectiveness of a particular program or program component. Evaluation should also include considerations for various alternatives to be concluded from the analysis for continuing, expanding, or terminating the program. Future Funding

This is a plan for the future. Indicate other resources and sources of income that you will use for the project for the future. These include "soft money" (grants) and "hard money" (everything else).
  • Grants ("Soft money") - Include amounts that you will apply for and from whom. Make sure you have approached these other grantors. Private grantors receiving this proposal may share it with other grantors and even collaborate on funding your proposal. You can't depend on receiving grants, though, so you should rely more on other methods.
  • Planned giving, major donors, special events, direct mail solicitation, funds from individuals - Indicate what percentage of planned giving or special events that you plan to earmark for the project.
  • Contracts - For example, with government agencies
  • Fees for service - For example, admissions, this is becoming more widespread
  • Matching funds - Many companies provide matching gifts for amounts that their employees give
  • In-kind or donated services - To offset certain costs; these are provided by your organization; volunteers are examples
  • Subscriptions
  • Sales - Selling things associated with your organization; gift shops; or sales of services, such as consulting
  • Business ventures - Non-profit agencies creating a for-profit entity and filtering profits made back into their non-profit base.
The Budget The budget will have two parts: the detail - line items with the actual numbers; and the summary or justification - an explanation or calculation showing how you came up with those numbers. The budget detail should have at least three columns: funds requested, funds from other sources (including your own), and total project funds. Line items are divided into personnel items, non personnel items, and indirect costs. The usual personnel line items are:
  • Wages/Salaries - List everyone involved in the project by position. Estimate the percentage of time each person listed will be spending on the project and multiply it by his or her salary. You can obtain a salary schedule for a particular position in this part of the country for someone with a certain number of years of experience. Also take into account overtime, if relevant.
  • Fringe benefits - Usually a certain percentage of salaries.
  • Consultants/Contracted services - To determine whether a person is a regular employee or a consultant, obtain an IRS publication entitled "Business Reporting - Pub. #937". You can pro-rate some costs, such as maintenance or cleaning contracts, as direct expenses and write off a percentage of them as a part of doing this project.
  • Volunteers - Using them shows that your agency is credible. This is very powerful to grantors. Include volunteers under consultants/contracted services to avoid figuring benefits for them, but indicate what their monetary value would be using an hourly rate.
The usual non personnel line items are the following. You should break items down in each category either in the budget detail or in the summary/explanation:
  • Space costs - For rented or donated facilities that you use. One way to determine square footage for rent is to use a government figure for allotted square footage per person, multiplied by the number of people in your program. Another way to compute all non personnel items is to look at the value of this program relative to your overall agency budget and charge that percentage to each non personnel item. Space costs could also include utilities, maintenance services, other monthly costs (telephones), insurance, etc.
  • Rental, lease, or purchase of equipment - This is major equipment, often defined as costing more than $500 per unit and/or lasting greater than one year. It includes office equipment, desks, copy machines, word processors,
  • Supplies - Generally desk-top supplies
  • Travel - Transportation costs, meals, lodging,
  • Other costs - For items that don't fit into other non personnel line items
The third category of budget items is:
  • Indirect costs. These are costs not associated with a particular project or activity but necessary for the general operation of the agency. They are generally costs that can't be quantified, including certain administrative and accounting costs, operation and maintenance of buildings and equipment, depreciation, general telephone expenses, general travel and supplies expenses. The federal government has determined a percentage of project costs to use as an Indirect Cost Rate for different types of institutions and organizations.
The Appendix

1. Appendix A. including: Endorsement letters, certifications, and other organizational back-up.

2. Appendix B: List of board members and officers with titles.

3. Appendix C: Vitae of key personnel.
  • Include at least a one paragraph description of each person who will play a key role in the project.
  • Consider developing a special format that highlights experiences and professional training related to the project.
  • If specific individuals are not known, describe qualifications and the selection process to be followed.
  • Do not list and/or identify, personnel without prior approvals or the individual's consent.
  • Provide a complete list of all key personnel to be involved in the project with activities cited that directly relate to the project objectives. Credibility of staff is an important criteria that is considered in the project review process.
4. Appendix D: Tables, graphs, statistics supporting need, success, and past performances. Resources

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