Absolute Priorities: Usually a term used in federal grant applications. Absolute priorities are activities or conditions that must be met in order for a grant proposal to be considered.
Abstract (or Executive Summary): Usually a one- to two-page summary of the project, including its goals and objectives. This is usually what grant reviewers read first, so it should be engaging; however, it is often the last document written by the grant writer because it summarizes the project.
Assurances (or Certifications): Various legal documents authorized representatives are required to sign, especially with federal proposals. Assurances may apply to lobbying, discriminatory policies, environmental policies, and assurances related to debt and financial position, among others. Different federal agencies may have different assurances requirements.
Attachments: Some grant funders require a number of attachments to the narrative. These may include: your organization's tax-exempt letter, list of board of directors members and affiliation, the most recent Form 990, recent audit and current year budget, and key staff resumes. Tip: Only give them what they ask for. If you give them more than what is asked for, it could jeopardize your proposal.
Audited Financial Statements: An organization's annual financial statements, which have been prepared and certified by a Certified Public Accountant. Some grant funders request these documents as an attachment to ensure that an organization is fiscally sound.
Authorized Representative: In federal grants, an authorized representative is a high-ranking person (president, vice president, chief financial officer, CEO) who has the power to submit a grant on behalf of an organization and holds ultimate fiscal responsibility. Private foundations may use the same or similar terms when requesting the signature of an executive director or board of trustees president.
Award Letter: A funded grant isn't a funded grant until the applicant receives a formal written award letter. Award letters may also be accompanied by other terms and conditions from the funder, as well as budget modifications.
Best Practices: A trendy grant term that often refers to the latest, most applicable, and most successful evidence-based research within literature reviews. Grantors often favor projects that do not "reinvent the wheel" but add to existing, successful, and promising best practices.
Block Grants: Formula-based funds that have more flexibility in distribution. They are not always tied to very specific categories.
Bricks and Mortar: Another term for a capital grant (see Capital Grants for more information).
Capacity Building: Refers to grants that help organizations with few resources increase their capacity to achieve their mission. This may include the funding of new staff positions; technology and equipment necessary to better serve constituents; and the costs of consulting to help the organization learn how to manage their boards, increase their fund-raising capacity, and expand services.
Capital Grants: The funding of building endowments, building renovations and similar activities, construction, or equipment. Capital grants may sometimes be contingent on funding from other sources.
CFDA/CFDA Number: This number is used by the federal government to define grant opportunities. The two-digit prefix identifies the federal agency, followed by a period and a three-digit number that is matched to each different authorized program. The CFDA number is one way to search for federal grants in grants.gov.
Challenge Grant: A grant that will only be awarded if the applicant organization raises funds through other sources, such as fund-raising campaigns.
Close-Out: This term refers to the final steps to end a completed grant. It typically consists of a final report on how the project met its objectives; a financial reporting to ensure that all funds have been spent or whether funds will need to be returned to the funder; and mutual agreement between the applicant and funder that all project requirements have been satisfactorily met.
Cognizant Officer (or Program Officer): Whether a grant is offered through a federal agency or private foundation, there are various terms for the main contact person for a grant or grant program. If you are funded, you will be assigned a program officer to guide you through the grant management process. If you are simply looking for information about a grant program, you may often call the person designated as the program officer.
Community-Based Organization (CBO): Community-based organizations refer to agencies that are nonprofit and nongovernmental, and focus their support on community-based needs.
Community Foundation: A grant funder that awards grants in a specific geographic area. Typically, community foundations have many different funds and endowments that receive funding from donors. The community foundation holds them in an endowment and uses the endowment income to award grants. Not all of these funds are competitive. Some grants are made at the donor's discretion.
Concept Paper: To screen for competitive applications, some funders request a two- to three-page concept paper to evaluate your project idea before inviting your organization to a full competition. A concept paper often includes a need statement, project narrative, and budget. Emphasize the innovation of the project and write this paper to make your project stand out from the pile.
Consortium: Some grant programs, especially federal grant proposals, like to see the pooling of resources to make as big of an impact as possible and to leverage the talents of multiple organizations with similar goals. A consortium consists of a lead applicant and consortium partners who all play a role in the project and usually receive a portion of the budget. Consortiums are becoming increasingly important in being successful at winning federal awards.
Cooperative Agreement: A funding mechanism that requires much more oversight and involvement from the grant-funding agency.
Corporate Giving Program: Corporate giving programs often have very specific causes they will fund (the arts, environmental education, youth, health). Some companies have their own charitable giving department, while others have a separate foundation. Corporate giving grants can be difficult to obtain. While the company is certainly laudable for their efforts to help communities, they are looking for very unique and innovative projects that stand to raise their public relations profile.
Deadline: The non-negotiable date that a grant is due. Make sure to check the time of day the grant is due, because it may be earlier than 5:00 p.m. If your grant has to be mailed, do not give your mailing service the benefit of the doubt; send it early. If you use the US Postal System, ask them to put a postmark stamp on the package to show that it was actually sent on time. If you are submitting electronically, do not wait until the day your application is due. Grants.gov can get very bogged down and slow on deadline days. Note that many federal grants are due on Eastern Time, and not one second after the stated deadline.
Demonstration Project: A grant intended to demonstrate new methods, services, and activities.
Direct Costs: Costs allowable by the funding organization, directly tied to the operation of the project.
Dissemination: The process of sharing what you have created or learned from your project with others in your field or research community. Potential funders like when you can show that the impact of your project can be shared with others and can even be used as a model. Dissemination methods can include project-dedicated websites, conference presentations, white papers, research publication, and sharing of curriculum.
DUNS Number: The Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number required for every federal grant application submission.
Earned Income: Some grants may generate revenue, depending on the activities. This income cannot be pocketed by the organization. It must be used to expand or enhance activities related to the grant. It is advisable to check with the grant funder on their policies regarding earned income.
Eligibility Criteria: This information is usually available on a grant funder's website. Before spending a lot of time and effort on a grant proposal, thoroughly read whether your organization or program is eligible for funding.
Evaluation: The process by which an organization assesses whether their project made a measurable difference. This piece is vital because evidence-based outcomes are more important to funders than ever.
Family Foundation: An independent, private foundation funded by members of one family.
Federal Register: The US Congress publishes the Federal Register daily. Public notice of grant opportunities approved by Congress are listed. The Federal Register document is considered the official document to use when developing a federal grant project.
Fiscal Sponsorship: A formal arrangement in which a 501(c)(3) charity sponsors a project that lacks tax-exempt status. Fiscal sponsorship is an alternative for for-profit organizations that do not have tax-exempt status or that do not wish to start their own nonprofit.
Fiscal Year: A period that a company or government uses for accounting and tax purposes. It's important to note that the federal fiscal year is October 1 through September 30.
Form 990/Form 990-PF: IRS forms that tax-exempt organizations, including public charities and private foundations, are required to file annually for public record of financial information. (The PF stands for private foundation.) Both forms provide detailed information about assets, receipts, expenditures, and compensation of officers, as well as the types of organizations receiving funding and the level of funding.
Formative Evaluation: How the project will be evaluated as it progresses, including methods in place for regular data collection and analysis.
Formula Grant: A grant distributed by certain federal departments in which the amount of the grant is determined by a formula based on established criteria that is written into the legislation and program regulations.
Full-Time Equivalent (FTE): This is a common accounting term that refers to the financial commitment of one full-time employee. Two half-time employees can be combined into one FTE. In grant budgets, requests for personnel often have to be presented in terms of FTE.
Funding Priorities: Most funders with websites will make their funding priorities clear to potential grant applicants. Some funders are a little less straightforward with information. Make sure your project responds to the funder's funding priorities. If you have any doubt, email or call program staff.
General or Operating Support (or "Unrestricted Grants"): Grants that will support general operating costs rather than specific projects.
Goals: Goals are expressed as the overall vision of what you want your project to accomplish. Be careful about having too many goals because this could be viewed as either being too ambitious or too unfocused.
Grants.gov: The federal government's portal for grant search and submission. It includes instructions on how an entity must apply to be eligible to submit a federal grant application.
Guidelines: This is the information from the funder on what is and is not eligible, and what they are looking for in a competitive project. Read the guidelines very carefully.
Independent Foundation: A private foundation. Also known as family foundations, general-purpose foundations, special-purpose foundations, or private nonoperating foundations.
Indirect Costs/Indirect Cost Rate (Sometimes referred to as "overhead" or "Facilities and Administrative Costs - F&A"): Costs that support and share the management systems of the organization, including public relations, accounting, payroll, marketing, registration and records, and counselor. Grant funders may or may not allow indirect costs.
In-Kind Contribution: A noncash donation to a project. It may come from the applicant or one or more of one of the applicant's partners. The value of the in-kind contribution typically must be calculated into a monetary figure. Examples of in-kind contributions include contributions of equipment, supplies, and space.
Institutionalization: When an organization absorbs the grant-funded program into its regular operations postgrant, and it becomes part of the organization's ongoing costs. Grant funders encourage this outcome.
LEA (Local Education Agency): A public board of education or other public authority which maintains administrative control of public elementary or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a state.
Lead Applicant: If a grant consortium decides to apply for a grant, there is typically one lead agency that will manage and take responsibility for coordinating and fiscally managing the project.
Letter of Commitment: Written assurance of participation from a third-party partner who is willing to commit tangible resources to the project and NOT just general support for the project idea.
Letter of Intent (LOI, also referred to as Letter of Interest or Letter of Inquiry): A document that provides a brief description of the project or program for which funding is being requested. An LOI is often required before an applicant is invited to submit a full proposal. Grant funders often have their own format for the elements of the letter. Sometimes LOIs are optional; sometimes they are mandatory.
Leveraging: Strategically designing your grant project with resources provided by partners to strengthen the overall potential impact. Not necessarily the same as matching funds, especially in federal applications.
Logic Model: A logic model includes a description of the target audience, the need to be addressed, the strategies by which the project will address the need, the activities and services that will implement those strategies, the resources and productivity needed to achieve the goals, the sources of information that will inform evaluation and the methodology evaluation will use, and a target for achievement. The term evaluation plan can be used interchangeably if it contains the same elements. (Definition procured from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)
Matching Funds: Cash or in-kind support contributed by the grantee to carry out a project. Some grant proposals require a match before funding a proposal, and the amount of match required will vary.
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): Usually a formal document required from grant consortium members outlining roles and responsibilities.
NOFA: Stands for Notice of Funds Available. May be used in lieu of Request for Proposal, funding announcement, and other titles used to announce and describe grant-funding opportunities.
Objectives: A statement of what specifically will change, improve, decrease, or increase because of your project activities. Many grant writers use the SMART model: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Objective must reflect change, not process. They should be measurable and quantitative.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB): The division of the executive office of the president that prepares and administers the federal budget and improves management in the executive branch.
Operating Foundation: Foundations involved primarily in research and social welfare. Grants made are typically small for projects outside of their focus area.
Outcome Evaluation: Evaluation should be focused on short-term, mid-term, and long-term results. It is key to measure actual change rather than the completion of activities. Grantees should be able to answer the question, "What impact and change did this project generate?"
Pass-through Funds: When a grantee receives grant funds and disperses those funds to a subrecipient involved in the project.
Performance Report: Funders have different requirements for reporting project outcomes. Have a solid plan for gathering data that can be used when you need to report your results.
Planning Grant: A special type of grant that enables an organization or consortium to gather the resources to develop a strong, full proposal.
Process Evaluation: Process evaluation tells the funder what activities you have accomplished. While important, it does not provide evaluation on the impact of those activities. Outcome evaluation should provide metrics on what the impact is.
Replicability: The likelihood that the proposed project can be replicated in other schools or districts, or on a broader regional or national scope. Grantors often favor replicable projects that can serve as models for others.
Request for Proposals (RFP, sometimes referred to as "RFA," Request for Applications): A type of solicitation notice in which an organization formally announces that grant funding is available, requests applications, and provides specifications required in the grant proposal/application.
Restricted Funds: Funds that must be spent for a specific purpose, as determined by the funder.
SEA (State Education Agency): A formal governmental label for the state-level government agencies within each US state responsible for providing information, resources, and technical assistance on educational matters to schools and residents.
Seed Money: Grant money to start innovative new ideas.
Soft Funds (or "Soft Money"): Commonly used term for grant-funded activities that is transient and not permanent.
Summative Evaluation: The summary evaluation of whether and to what extent the entire project reached its goals and objectives.
Supplanting: Using federal funds to more than one source to pay for the same personnel position or activity. Not allowable.
Sustainability: Grant funders typically like to see a strategy where the applicant will wean itself off of grant funds and develop a plan (possibly with partner assistance) to keep key elements of the project going postgrant. An applicant doesn't have to sustain everything, but should think about how it can sustain aspects of the project that have had a real impact.