Can You Pay Yourself With Grant Money? Everything You Need To Know

Getting grant money can be a huge help in funding your business, non-profit, or personal endeavors. But a common question that arises is: can you use grant money to pay yourself a salary or other personal expenses? The short answer is sometimes yes, but often with strict limitations.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of what you can and can’t pay yourself with grant funds.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: you typically can pay yourself a reasonable salary from grant funds if your role and compensation was budgeted in the original grant proposal.

However, there are often restrictions on the percentage of the grant that can be used for personnel costs. Be sure to carefully review the grant agreement to understand allowable expenses.

Rules and Regulations on Grant Compensation

When it comes to grant funding, it’s important to understand the rules and regulations surrounding compensation. While grant money can be a valuable resource for supporting your work, it’s essential to ensure that you are using it in compliance with the grant terms and conditions.

This article will provide you with an overview of the rules and regulations on grant compensation, focusing on the differences between grantees and grantors and exploring the guidelines set by the federal government and foundations/nonprofit organizations.

Grantee vs. Grantor Restrictions

Grantees and grantors have different restrictions when it comes to compensation. Grantees, the organizations or individuals receiving the grant, typically have more flexibility in determining how they use the grant funds for compensation.

However, they still need to ensure that the compensation is reasonable and directly related to the project or activity funded by the grant.

On the other hand, grantors, the entities providing the grant, may have specific guidelines on how grant funds can be used for compensation. They may specify certain salary caps, limitations on fringe benefits, or restrictions on using grant funds for personal expenses.

It’s important for grantees to carefully review the grant agreement and any accompanying documentation to ensure compliance with the grantor’s regulations.

Federal Government Grants

When it comes to federal government grants, compensation regulations can vary depending on the specific grant program and agency. Generally, grant funds can be used for reasonable compensation for personnel working on the grant-funded project.

The compensation should be consistent with the individual’s qualifications, experience, and the level of effort devoted to the project.

It’s worth noting that federal agencies often have salary caps for individuals working on grant-funded projects. These caps are typically based on the agency’s salary scale or the average salary for similar positions in the geographic area.

Grantees should be aware of these caps and ensure that any compensation paid using grant funds falls within the allowable limits.

Foundation/Nonprofit Grants

Foundation and nonprofit grants also have their own set of rules and regulations when it comes to compensation. These organizations may have specific guidelines on the percentage of the grant that can be used for compensation, as well as limitations on executive salaries and administrative costs.

Before applying for a foundation or nonprofit grant, it’s important to thoroughly review their guidelines and criteria. Some organizations may prioritize funding programmatic expenses over compensation, while others may have more flexibility in this area.

Understanding these guidelines will help you determine whether grant funds can be used for compensation and to what extent.

Budgeting Salary Costs in a Grant Proposal

When preparing a grant proposal, it is important to consider how you will cover your salary costs. This section will provide you with essential information on budgeting salary costs in a grant proposal, ensuring that you understand the rules and guidelines for utilizing grant money to pay yourself.

Understanding Allowable Costs

Before diving into the specifics of budgeting your salary, it is crucial to understand what costs are allowable under the grant. Different grants have different rules and regulations regarding budgeting, so it is important to review the grant guidelines or consult with the funding agency to determine what expenses can be covered.

Typically, grant funds can be used to cover reasonable and necessary expenses directly related to the project. This may include salaries, benefits, and other personnel costs. However, it is important to note that grant funds should not be used for personal expenses unrelated to the project.

Determining Reasonable Compensation

When budgeting your salary costs in a grant proposal, it is essential to determine what constitutes reasonable compensation. This can be done by researching comparable salaries in your field or industry.

You can refer to websites such as or to gather relevant salary data.

It is important to strike a balance between requesting a reasonable salary and ensuring that your compensation aligns with the project’s goals and objectives. A well-justified salary will enhance the credibility of your proposal and demonstrate that you are allocating grant funds responsibly.

Disclosing Compensation in the Budget

When budgeting salary costs in a grant proposal, it is essential to provide full transparency and disclose your compensation in the budget. Clearly outline the amount of salary you are requesting and provide a detailed justification for this amount.

Additionally, it is important to consider any regulations or policies set forth by the funding agency regarding salary limits or caps. Some grants may have specific restrictions on the maximum amount of salary that can be requested, so it is crucial to familiarize yourself with these guidelines.

Receiving and Documenting Grant Salary Payments

Setting Up Proper Accounting

When it comes to paying yourself with grant money, it’s crucial to set up proper accounting procedures. This ensures transparency and accountability throughout the process. Start by creating a separate bank account specifically for the grant funds.

This will help you keep track of all financial transactions related to the grant and avoid any confusion with personal or other business expenses. Additionally, consult with a professional accountant who specializes in grant management to ensure compliance with all financial regulations and reporting requirements.

Tracking Time and Effort

One of the key aspects of paying yourself with grant money is accurately tracking your time and effort spent on grant-related activities. This requires meticulous record-keeping and time tracking systems.

Documenting the specific tasks you perform, the hours spent on each task, and the corresponding grant project is essential for justifying the salary payments. Consider using time-tracking software or apps to simplify this process and maintain accurate records.

Remember, it’s important to provide evidence of the value you bring to the grant project through your time and effort.

Retaining Documentation

Proper documentation is vital when it comes to paying yourself with grant money. Keep detailed records of all financial transactions, including salary payments, invoices, receipts, and any other relevant documentation.

These records will serve as evidence of the appropriate use of grant funds and help you comply with auditing requirements. Organize your documentation systematically, ensuring it is easily accessible and securely stored. Regularly review and update your records to maintain accuracy and completeness.

For more information and guidance on grant management and accounting, you can visit websites such as and Nonprofit Accounting Basics. These resources provide valuable insights and best practices for effectively managing grant funds and ensuring compliance with financial regulations.

Avoiding Misuse of Grant Funds

Sticking to the Budget

When it comes to using grant money, one of the most important things to keep in mind is sticking to the budget. Grant funds are typically allocated for specific purposes outlined in the grant proposal, and deviating from the budget without proper justification can lead to serious consequences.

It is essential to carefully plan and track expenses to ensure that the grant money is used for its intended purpose.

Seeking Prior Approval for Changes

If there is a need to make changes to the budget or use the grant funds in a way that was not originally planned, it is crucial to seek prior approval from the grantor. This can be done by submitting a written request explaining the reasons for the changes and how they align with the overall goals of the grant.

Seeking prior approval not only ensures compliance but also helps maintain transparency and accountability in the use of grant funds.

Understanding Grantor Audit Rights

Grantors typically have the right to audit the use of grant funds to ensure that they are being used appropriately. This means that organizations receiving grants should be prepared for potential audits and have accurate and detailed records of how the funds were spent.

It is important to keep all receipts, invoices, and other relevant documentation to demonstrate that the grant money was used as intended.

According to the National Council of Nonprofits, misusing grant funds can result in legal penalties, loss of future funding opportunities, and damage to an organization’s reputation.

For more information on grant management and compliance, you can visit the website. They provide resources and guidance to help organizations navigate the complexities of grant funding.


While you often can pay yourself from a grant, it’s essential to fully understand the grantor’s rules and restrictions first. Developing a detailed budget, tracking all grant expenditures properly, retaining documentation, and only using funds for allowable expenses will help avoid issues down the road.

With careful planning and by following all regulations, grant funds can be used successfully to compensate yourself and advance your important work.

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