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Foundations and other budgets

Need assistance with foundation budgets or other budgets?

Budget and justification requirements for proposals to foundations and other funders can vary widely, based on the specific requests of the funder and the call for proposals. In many cases, little guidance is provided. Regardless of funder, an accurate assessment of the financial needs of the proposed work is a critical factor in developing a budget. This means that the project idea, with details about implementation, should be mostly fleshed out before determining the budget. 

Important items when building budgets for foundation grants:

  • Early communication with the departmental grants and contracts staff, as well as the Office of Foundation Relations (Campus Schools or Provost Area) or the Office of Foundation Relations and Strategic Partnerships at Duke Health (Schools of Medicine or Nursing)
  • Engagement with the staff or personnel that will carry out the work to make sure details are not overlooked
  • Consideration of line items needed to carry out the proposed work. For example:
    • Personnel and fringe benefits
    • Travel
    • Conference or events
    • Equipment and supplies 
    • Any in-kind contribution or matching funds
    • Indirect/F&A* rates
  • Consideration of covered/not covered costs. For example some foundations will not fund tuition remission, capital improvements such as renovations, gift cards, and computers.
  • *Understanding the F&A rate. Some sponsors, like foundations, restrict or eliminate the F&A rate ordinarily included in a budget. Duke will only accept a different rate when the sponsor has a written policy and the appropriate guidelines are adhered to. The sponsor’s written policy must be provided to ORS or ORA when submitting the proposal for review. (See additional information about F&A rates for sponsored research on the Financial Services website).
  • Keeping in mind that foundations often require eventual financial reporting to align with the original budget. Many limit over/underspending without permission to 5% of each line.  If the budget is complex, it is best to plan for a complex report.

The "Related Resources" on this page highlight other important tools and resources for developing the budget and associated justification.

Lump Sum budgets

The phrase “lump sum budget” refers to very general, non-specific approach to budgeting which leaves a great deal of discretion to the owner of the grant. As opposed to a more specific line item budget where the salaries and fringe benefits are broken out by individual, a lump sum budget might group them together into one round figure: $35,000.

Though the lump sum budget might have categories of spending, those might be very generally defined. For instance, there might be $50,000 in a Research Project category. This broad category could include salary, travel and equipment depending on the specific project that is eventually funded.

Typically lump sum budgets are supported by foundations where the financial reporting may not be as rigorous and the use of funds may be much more flexible than would be required on a federal grant.