Budget Advice from NSF
It must also be consistent with the requirements of the particular program. It should request sufficient resources needed to carry out the project, but it should not be excessively high.
Budget information should be complete and unambiguous. Carefully review your budget to ensure that ineligible items do not appear in the budget and that adequate attention has been given to cost sharing. Consult the Program Announcement for eligible and ineligible items. Most reviewers and all Program Directors look carefully at the proposed budgets to find evidence of careful reflection and realistic project planning.
Institutional and other leveraged commitments toward the budget is one way to demonstrate institutional support of the project. Institutional and other contributions in terms of matching funds or released time are usually looked upon by reviewers as a positive sign of institutional commitment.
Some programs require specific cost-sharing. For example, for proposals in the Adaptation and Implementation track of DUE's Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program, cost-sharing from non-Federal sources equal to or greater than the requested NSF funds is required for the entire budget. In addition, a specific 1:1 or greater match is required on equipment requests. Cost-sharing information must be included on line M of the budget form, and if the proposal is awarded becomes a condition of the award.
Remember that cost-sharing is subject to audit. (For more information, see the Grant Proposal Guide and the DUE Program Announcement.)
Make sure that your budget narrative reflects both your official NSF budget pages and the needs of the project. Cost of the project must be realistic. Many budget requests are out-of-line with others submitted to the program. Look at the Program Announcement for average size of awards and the award range.
Budgets are often negotiated as a proposal is being considered; but a clear, realistic budget request strengthens a proposal.