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Budget Justification Tips and Hints

Budget Justification Tips


Include a description of what each person will be doing. This should be a descriptive summary, about two sentences per person. Employees should be grouped together if multiple workers of the same type (i.e. grad students) will be assigned the same tasks.

Fringe Benefits

For most employees this includes social security, unemployment, worker's compensation, health insurance, retirement benefits, disability insurance and life insurance.

  • Faculty - 30%
  • Temporary hourly workers (does not include students) - 10%
  • Grad Students - 3%
  • Undergrad Students - 10%

Please see Sponsored Programs website for full time staff salaries, Postdoc, Visiting Scientist, and Research Technicians estimated fringe benefit rate.


Items need to be in excess of $5,000 individually in order to be classified as equipment. This must include a description of what the equipment will be used for.

Separate category for Equipment Lease and Equipment Purchase.


Travel should be classified into one of four basic categories:

  • Travel to research plots
  • Travel to regional meetings
  • Travel to national meetings
  • International travel

Travel needs to include the cost assumptions that you used to arrive at the total amount for travel. See examples in budget justification example.

Be sure to include:

  • Reason for travel
  • Length of stay
  • Destination for travel (if known)
  • The name or title of any conferences or meetings being attended while traveling

Materials and Supplies

Categorize these items into sections. The majority of items will be classified as either Field Supplies or Lab Supplies. Additional categories may be added as necessary.


List the type, number and average cost of publications which will be on this proposal.


It should be stated who will be providing what service for fees. If it is unknown exactly who, provide whether this will be internal to NDSU, another government agency, or a private company. Also provide the assumptions used to create the budget, i.e. "20 samples to be analyzed at a cost of $15 each for a total cost of $300."

Fees may not be charged to yourself. If this is the case, you should be requesting money for the supplies and materials used to conduct the service and not a fee per unit.

Common Mistakes

  • Facilities and Administrative costs (indirect costs) may vary from one proposal to the next depending on the sponsor and the items requested in the budget. The RFP should always be referenced for direction on this. This is a complex area, so please do not hesitate to ask questions on this.
  • Participant Support Costs on proposals should rarely be used. Please consult the departmental Grant Coordinator before including these costs.
  • Computers are not to be purchased on grants unless they will be used by somebody that will have 100% effort towards the grant and the computer will be used exclusively for that specific grant. Both of these exclusivity items must be mentioned in the budget justification.
  • Do not mention items that you are not requesting money for. For example, do not say "We will use our own tractor to pull the planter which we are requesting money for" or "if costs for this item exceed the requested amount I will use local funds." This implies a cost match which you are likely not intending to do.
  • The budget justification should always be in the same order as your budget.
  • The budget justification should always use the same format as the budget. Expenses should be under the same headings on the budget justification as they are on the budget. If the budget form uses different terms (i.e. Technical Support vs. Research Technicians) the two need to match.
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