Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Should you always apply for the maximum grant amount?



Author: Andrew Thompson


I was recently asked a question along these lines …

“If the maximum grant amount I can apply for is $10,000, and we would like to run a program that will cost around $7,000 should I apply for $10,000 or for what we estimate the program will cost?”

Great question! The answer is pretty straight forward but requires you to do a bit of leg work.

Firstly, it is important you ask the funder for what your program will actually cost not simply the maximum available or even a round number estimate.

This mean you will need to do a program budget that contains real figures and not estimates.

In the ‘real world’ nothing ever really comes out costing round figures. If, in your project plan and budget you have worked out the amount the program or activity is going to cost you is $7,200, then that’s what you should ask for. You always need to be able to show your potential funder a budget that makes sense – tacking on an extra $2800 just because it brings your ask up to the grant maximum won’t make sense unless you can justify that extra cost.

It is also best to avoid vague costs like ‘administration’. If possible, break those costs down into tangible items like printing costs, volunteer hours, purchase of software etc. That way the funder gets a picture of the tangible costs to your organisation of delivering the project, and they know where their money is going to be spent.

So, have a budget that makes sense, show your workings, and always get ‘real world’ quotes where appropriate– it’s best practice and it’s expected.

Think of it from the grant-maker’s perspective. If you were looking for the most accountable organisation and best social return on each of the dollars you are investing, would you feel more confident about the organisation who can show you in detail where the $7,200 is going to be spent, or the organisation which has miraculously fitted their project budget to the exact maximum of the available funds?

Of course – if your project plan gives you a budgeted amount close to the maximum amount, by all means, ask for that amount! See our previous post on not trying to fit projects to funding, but working out your project first based on need, planning well and then starting to look for funding.