Basic Grant Terms

Grant makers use an array of grant terms to convey what they want grant seekers to address in their applications. Most dictionaries do not have these terms listed, and for some novice grant writers these terms can seem overwhelming. Courtesy of Research Associates, a grant writing company, here are some common terms found in grant applications and RFPs (see explanation below).

Absolute Priority: Conditions that must be met for a grant application to be considered for funding.

Abstract: A written summary of the grant program from one paragraph to one page in length, usually written by the applicant. The abstract, also known as the Executive Summary, is sometimes used by the funding source as a press release to describe the funded program.

Allowable Activities or Costs: Project activities and expenses described in the program guidelines that can be included in the proposed budget.

Application: The formal document submitted to a funding source describing the program and budget to be funded and often accompanied by supporting documentation. The application is generally the most complete presentation of the project and is often the basis for the Grant Agreement.

Assets: Individual, association, and organizational skills, talents, gifts, resources, and strengths that are shared with the community and listed in the grant application.

Award: The formal, written document from the funding source informing an applicant that it will receive grant funding. Also, agreements including grants, subgrants, cooperative agreements, and contracts.

Capacity: The potential for sharing assets, resources, gifts, and talents; in order to reach capacity, people and organizations recognize they are willing to share these assets for community building and grant implementation.

Challenge Grant: Grants used to stimulate additional fundraising by committing payment only if the grantee raises funds from other sources.

Company-sponsored Foundation: A private foundation funded by a for-profit business, but usually independent from the corporation with its own endowment, e.g., Andersen Foundation receives funding from Andersen Windows Company.

Competitive Grant: The program in which eligible applicants submit proposals. The proposals are then rated and ranked by the funding agency, and the highest ranked proposals receive funding. Commonly used method in awarding competitive government (state and federal) grants.

Concept Paper: An abbreviated form of the grant application, typically two to three pages, often used in seeking corporate or foundation funding. At the minimum, this paper should include a problem statement, program narrative, and budget.

Continuation Grant: Additional funding awarded for budget periods following the initial budget period of a multi-year discretionary grant.

Corporate Giving Program: A grant-making program endowed and administered by a for-profit business, e.g., Clarcorp (the parent company of Baldwin Filters), or Eaton.

Direct Costs: Costs directly associated with operating a grant program that are reimbursed by the funding agency. Direct costs typically include staff, consultants or contractual expenses, equipment, travel, and supplies.

Discretionary Grants: Grants awarded at the discretion or based on the judgment of the funding agency to recipients selected in a competitive process. Discretionary Grants usually involve a large number of competitive applications with limited available funding, e.g., federal grants.

Dissemination of Information: The practice of sharing program outcomes with other impacted audiences. Dissemination is viewed favorable by potential funders since it allows their funding dollars to affect larger populations than the original project's target audience.

Draw-Down: A draw-down is the method by which a grantee requests payment from the funding agency. Frequency of draw-downs, also known as draws, range from weekly electronic wire-transfers to a single, lump-sum payment at the end of the project; quarterly draw-downs are very common.

DUNS Number: The Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number required for every applicant to apply for a grant with the Federal Government. The DUNS number is a unique nine-character identification number provided (at no charge) by the commercial company, Dun & Bradstreet. The Kearney Public Schools and the Kearney Public Schools Foundation both have individual DUNS numbers.

Eligible Activities: Government grant programs are authorized by their legislative authority to us available fund for specific activities named in the legislation.

Empowerment: Recognizing and utilizing the power inherent in all people; usually means identifying this power and mobilizing this power for positive community change through a grant program.

Endowment Funds: Funds contributed to an endowment are intended to be invested in perpetuity to provide income for the continued support of nonprofit organizations. Endowment funds are generally held by foundations.

Family Foundation: An independent, private foundation whose source of funds are from members of one family. See PRIVATE FOUNDATION.

Federated Giving Program: A joint fundraising effort usually administered by a nonprofit "umbrella" organization that in turn distributes the contributed funds to several nonprofit agencies, e.g., the United Way.

Form 990-PF: The IRS Form required annually from all private foundations that provides for a public record of financial and grants information. Form 990 is the equivalent of a tax return—for foundations.

Funding Cycle: The schedule of events starting with the announcement of the availability of funds, followed by the deadline for submission of applications, review of applications, award of grants, issuance of contract documents, and release of funds. The cycle may repeat if funds are reappropriated or remain on hand after the first round of funding.

Funding Priorities or Preferences: Objective factors used to award extra rating points to grant applicants who meet the established criteria. Also refers to consideration in funding decision ensuring equitable geographic distribution of grant recipients. For example, some government grants will award extra point to novice applicants (those that have never received a federal grant or a grant from this particular program/agency).

General/Operating Support: A grant made to underwrite the general operating expenses or "good works" of an agency, rather than for a specific project, e.g., to pay rent and utilities.

Grantee: The agency receiving the grant funds and the responsibilities of administering the program and fiscally managing the grant. Also known as the Recipient.

Grantor: The agency, corporation, foundation, or governmental unit that awards grants. Also know as the Funder, Funding Agency, or Grant Maker.

In-Kind Contribution: A non-cash donation of labor, facilities, or equipment to carry out a project. Typically, skilled and professional labor can be viewed at the prevailing rate for the field. However, volunteer work performed by a professional or skilled laborer outside of their field is generally computed at some standard or minimum wage. See MATCHING FUNDS.

Indirect Cost Rate: A percentage established by a Federal (or state) department or agency for a grantee organization which the grantee uses in computing the collar amount it charges to the grant to reimburse itself for indirect costs incurred in doing the work of the grant project (e.g., the amount of time a bookkeeper funded by local funds spends providing payroll support to grant-paid staff).

Invitational Priority: Areas of special focus the funder would prefer the applicant to address in the proposal; e.g., emphasis on closing academic gaps between student subgroups. Typically, Invitational Priorities do not yield additional points for the applicant during review.

LEA: Local Education Agency—Kearney Public Schools is the LEA for Kearney.

Letter of Commitment: A letter expressing the willingness of a community partner to commit resources to the grant project. The letter should offer specifics regarding the exact resources being offered, the terms of commitment, and the value of the services.

Letter of Intent: To help in the application review process, some programs request a letter of intent from the applicants in advance of the application deadline. This helps the funding agency gauge the number of applications to be expected and it then can make administrative plans for reviewing, scoring, and awarding grant funds. These letter can be non-binding—meaning if the agency submitting the letter decides to not apply for a grant, it can do so without being required by the organization receiving the Letter of Intent.

Letter of Support: A letter of support expresses the endorsement and encouragement of a community partner for a proposed grant program.

Leveraging Ratio: The portion of grant funds to funds or non-cash donations from other sources. For example, a leveraging ratio of 1:1 means that or every grant dollar awarded to a project, the grantee will secure one dollar from another source. The term implies that grant dollars are used to "leverage" other dollars. See Matching Funds.

Matching Funds: The recipient share of the project costs and may be "in-kind" (the value of the donated services) or "cash" (actual cash spent). Many funding sources will provide grant funs for only a percentage of the actual cost of a project; the grantee is required to pay the difference with money or non-cash donations from other sources. The non-grant funds are knows as Matching Funds or the Match. See In-Kind and Leveraging Ratio.

Matching Grant: A grant awarded for the purpose of matching funds from another donor. See Challenge Grant. The Peter Kiewit Foundation favors issuing Matching Grants on a 1:1 Leveraging Ratio.

Memorandum of Agreement: (MOA) A document providing the details of an agreement or understanding between two or more entities, signed and dated by authorized representatives of each participating entity. Often used interchangeable with Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Needs Assessment: Determination of needs of individuals, organizations, and communities, typically including items such as poverty, adolescent pregnancy, drug abuse, depression, suicidal behavior, criminal statistics, etc. They are usually used to determine the need for new programs.

Operating Foundation: An organization whose primary purpose is to conduct research, social welfare, or other programs determined by its governing body. An operating foundation may make grants, but the sum is generally small compared to the foundation's own programs.

Outcome Evaluation: Project evaluation that describes the extent of the immediate effects of project components, including what changes occurred. For example, measuring a youth's knowledge of the dangers of drugs following their participation in an alcohol and drug curriculum.

Outcome Measures: Indicators that focus on the direct results of the proposed grant program on its target population.

Private Foundation: A nonprofit organization (usually funded from a single source) with directors or trustees that mange its programs. Private foundations typically award grants for programs that provide social, educational, religious, or other charitable activities.

Program Officer: An employee of a funder (government or private) who manages a specific program of grant funding and oversees grant competitions. Program Officers also supervise and provide technical assistance to a particular funded program. Once awarded funding, the Program Officer is often the liaison of the funding organization.

Project Director: The person who oversees the grant activity and is responsible for assuring the grant is conducted in accordance with all conditions and Federal regulations. Project Director typically describes a person directing a demonstration, training, or educational grant.

Proposal: A written application submitted to a funding source describing a program and requesting funding for its support. Government proposals are more formal and are written according to the terms described in the RFP. Corporate and Foundation proposals are less structured and may follow a preliminary letter of inquiry.

Request For Proposals (RFP): A formal solicitation by a grantor seeking applications from potential grantees. RFPs describe what groups are eligible to apply (e.g., nonprofits and states); the background of the program; resent research; what each applicant is required to include in its application; how much money the agency plans to award and to how many groups; the dollar amount in terms of the range of awards, etc.

Review Criteria: Readers evaluating grant proposals do so in reference to various issues, parameters, and topics specified in the RFP, awarding points based on the applicant's ability to effectively, clearly, and creatively address each topic.

Review Panel: A group of peers or experts selected by the funder to evaluate grant proposals in a grant competition and make recommendation to the funder on which should be funded. This is the audience the grant application is written to impress.

Seed Money: Informal term referring to one-time funds issued to start a new project, as either a grant or a contribution.

Supplanting: deliberately reducing state or local funds because of the existence of federal funds, this practice is generally unacceptable in Federally funded programs. For example, if an agency has an employee funded locally for performing a certain job, but then the agency receives a Federal grant and begins to pay that employee from Federal funds to perform the same job, this would be supplanting.

Sustainability: The ability of the program planners and managers to provide for funding for a program beyond the life of the current grant application. Funders often prefer to fund programs that exhibit this potential.

Target Population: The identified beneficiaries (persons, organizations, communities, or other groups) of the services of the grant project.