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Glossary of Commonly Used Grant Terms

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The section of the tax code that defines nonprofit, charitable, tax-exempt organizations; 501(c)3 organizations are further defined as public charities, private operating foundations, and private non-operating foundations. See also operating foundation; private foundation; public charity.
The public record information return that all private foundations are required by law to submit annually to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).


Extra pages that you include with your grant, such as letters of support. These must be labeled (e.g., Addendum II) and referenced with the narrative of the grant.
Administrative Costs
see Indirect Costs
Department or branch of a federal, state, or local government. May also refer to a public charity, which is also sometimes called an organization.
Amended proposal
A proposal modified after it has been submitted but prior to the time the award is made; may be initiated by either the submitting organization or the funding source.
Annual report
A voluntary report issued by a foundation or corporation that provides financial data and descriptions of its grantmaking activities. Annual reports vary in format from simple typewritten documents listing the year's grants to detailed publications that provide substantial information about the grantmaker's grantmaking programs.
The amount of capital or principal — money, stocks, bonds, real estate, or other resources — controlled by a foundation or corporate giving program. Generally, assets are invested and the resulting income is used to make grants.
At Risk
There is serious debate over exactly what the term "at-risk" means. The National At-Risk Education Network defines the term "at-risk" in two ways: (1) At-risk of dropping out of school; and/or, (2) at-risk of not succeeding in life due to being raised in unfavorable circumstances.
Authorized signature
The signature of the person who is legally responsible for your organization.


Broad Agency Announcement
In philanthropic terms, the donee or grantee receiving funds from a foundation or corporate giving program is the beneficiary, although society may benefit as well.
Block Grant
A grant that the state or federal government allocates to a fund a specific need (for example, the federal government will allocate $2 million in a block grant to schools that provide after-school care for children).
Sections of a proposal applicable to a variety of requests; e.g., organizational descriptions, professional resumes, etc.; often maintained by organizations submitting numerous proposals in order to reduce preparation time.
The financial plan for your grant, itemized to show beakdown of both income and expenses. Graphical representation can be helpful in presenting this information clearly.


Capital support
Funds provided for endowment purposes, buildings, construction, or equipment.
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, now known as the System of Award Management (SAM)
Challenge grant
A grant that is paid only if the donee organization is able to raise additional funds from other sources. Challenge grants are often used to stimulate giving from other donors. See also matching grant.
Community foundation
A 501(c)3 organization that makes grants for charitable purposes in a specific community or region. The funds available to a community foundation are usually derived from many donors and held in an endowment that is independently administered; income earned by the endowment is then used to make grants. Although a community foundation may be classified by the IRS as a private foundation, most are public charities and are thus eligible for maximum tax-deductible contributions from the general public. See also 501(c)3; public charity.
Community fund
An organized community program which makes annual appeals to the general public for funds that are usually not retained in an endowment but are instead used for the ongoing operational support of local agencies. See also federated giving program.
A cooperative arrangement entered into by like-minded organizations intent on pursuing a common goal. Many grant programs favor consortiums due to the likelihood that resource-sharing will lead to a broader impact and better "bang for the buck." Even if the grant is to be awarded to the consortium, one organization within the group must serve as the lead agency and assume responsibility for administrative oversight of the grant.
Independent entities engaged under a grant to provide a specific service or product (product purchase or fee-for-service). They are not employees of the grantee and no employer-employee relationship exists between the consultant and the grantee.
Cooperative venture
A joint effort between or among two or more grantmakers. Cooperative venture partners may share in funding responsibilities or contribute information and technical resources.
Corporate foundation
A private foundation whose assets are derived primarily from the contributions of a for-profit business. While a company-sponsored foundation may maintain close ties with its parent company, it is an independent organization with its own endowment and as such is subject to the same rules and regulations as other private foundations. Also referred to as a company-sponosred foundation.
Corporate giving program
A grantmaking program established and administered within a for-profit corporation. Because corporate giving programs do not have separate endowments, their annual grant totals generally are directly related to company profits. Corporate giving programs are not subject to the same reporting requirements as corporate foundations.
Cost sharing
A method of "matching money" in which the grantee agrees to invest a certain sum or percentage of "in-kind" dollars into the project.


Date after which a proposal will not be accepted for review; often stated as a receipt date or a post mark date.
Declining grant
A multi-year grant that becomes smaller each year, in the expectation that the recipient organization will increase its fundraising from other sources.
Demonstration grant
A grant made to establish an innovative project or program that, if successful, will serve as a model and may be duplicated by others.
Direct costs
The total dollar amount necessary to fund your project. Includes cash money only, not indirect costs.
Disallowed costs
Any charges to the approved grant that the sponsor or grantmaker has determined to be beyond the scope of the purpose of a grant, excessive or otherwise unallowable.
Discretionary grant
An award made in accordance with legislation allowing the funding source to exercise reasonable freedom in selection the project and the grantee and determining the amount of the reward. Applicants usually compete for these funds.
How you will communicate information on your project to those who can use the information.
Distribution committee
The committee responsible for making grant decisions. For community foundations, the distribution committee is intended to be broadly representative of the community served by the foundation.
The recipient of a grant. (Also known as the grantee or the beneficiary.)
An individual or organization that makes a grant or contribution to a donee. (Also known as the grantor.)
DUNS Number
The Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System number, or "DUNS," is a nine-digit figure given by Dun and Bradstreet to applicant organizations and serves as a means of identifying those organizations and businesses. DUN's numbers are frequently required on federal grant forms.


The criteria an applicant must meet in order to apply for the program. Eligibility is generally determined by organization type (e.g. healthcare organization, K-12 schools, law enforcement agency). Regional location, population or previous awards may also affect one's eligibility.
Employee matching grant
A contribution to a charitable organization by an employee that is matched by a similar contribution from his or her employer. Many corporations have employee matching-gift programs in higher education that encourage their employees to give to the college or university of their choice.
Money contributed to provide a continuing income for support or maintenance. The endowment may be general or specified for a particular project.
Entitlement grant
A grant in which funds are provided to specific grantees on the basis of a formula, prescribed in legislation or regulation, rather than on the basis of an individual project. The formula is usually based on such factors as population, enrollment, per-capita income, or a specific need. Applicants do not compete for these funds.
Definition varies; usually considered as any item having an approximate unit value in excess of $500 and an estimated usefulness of more than two years; e.g., file cabinets and microscopes.
A quantitative assessment of what was, or was not, accomplished by a project; a comparison of project objectives and actual project outcomes; an increasingly important part of proposal writing and project management.


Family foundation
An independent private foundation whose funds are derived from members of a single family. Family members often serve as officers or board members of family foundations and have a significant role in their grantmaking decisions.
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. United Way and community chests or funds, the United Jewish Appeal and other religious appeals, the United Negro College Fund, and joint arts councils are examples of federated giving programs. See also community fund.
An award made directly to an individual in support of specific educational pursuits; recipients may be subject to service and/or payback requirements after the fellowship terminates.
Fiscal agent
An organization, acting on behalf of an individual artist or organization lacking legal status to be an applicant. The Fiscal Agent acts as its legal applicant and agrees to submit and sign a grant application on the applicant's behalf and to pass on such grant. Please note that in such cases the Fiscal Agent remains legally responsible for the use of grant funds. Auditors generally will not provide an "unqualified" financial audit statement for a fiscal agent for an applicant unless the applicant's financial records and related activities are also audited.
Fiscal agent fee
A charge for administrative services by the organization acting as the fiscal agent. Fiscal agent fees are intended to offset the cost of personnel, time, and supplies used in the administration of the applicant's grant only.
Formula grants
Grants awarded to eligible entities through allocation based on the program's authorizing legislation; block grants or categorical.
Fringe benefits
Payments in addition to base salary for such things as social security, hospitalization, retirement, etc.


General/operating support
A grant made to further the general purpose or work of an organization, rather than for a specific purpose or project; also called an unrestricted grant or basic support.
General purpose foundation
An independent private foundation that awards grants in many different fields of interest. See also special purpose foundation.
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
A technical term in accounting that encompasses the conventions, rules and procedures necessary to define accepted accounting practice at a particular time. The standard of "generally accepted accounting principles" includes not only broad guidelines of general application, but also detailed rules and procedures.
Any legal entity that receives an award and assumes responsibility for fiscal accountability for managing awarded funds, supervision of grant-supported activities, and submission of final reports.
Grant Seeker or Grantseeker
Person, school, district, etc. who is applying for the grant.
Grantee financial report
A report detailing how grant funds were used by an organization. Many corporate grantmakers require this kind of report from grantees. A financial report generally includes a listing of all expenditures from grant funds as well as an overall organizational financial report covering revenue and expenses, assets and liabilities. Some funders may require an audited financial report.
Grantor or Grant Maker
Agency, organization, etc. who is providing the grant
The art of obtaining grants.
Procedures set forth by a funder that grantseekers should follow when approaching a grantmaker.


According to the 1965 National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities Act, "The term 'humanities' includes, but is not limited to, the study of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sicences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life."


Independent foundation
A grantmaking organization usually classified by the IRS as a private foundation. Independent foundations may also be known as family foundations, general purpose foundations, special purpose foundations, or private non-operating foundations. See also private foundation.
In-kind contribution
Refers to a contribution of services or items that an organziation donates instead of a monetary sum, in order to help fund the project (e.g., contributing a staff member's time).
Indirect costs
Overhead or administrative charges related to a project but not easily and separately identifiable; e.g., utilities, clerical, office space, accounting, library, and custodial services necessary for proper implementation of the project; usually assessed against the project as a predetermined rate established according to standard accounting procedures.
Inputs (resources)
Items you will need to carry out the objectives or activities (surveys, money, staff time, volunteer time, etc.).
Institutional Review Board - A review body established to project the welfare of human subjects recruited to participate in biomedical or behavioral research. Protects the rights of individuals by guarding privacy, reducing risk, etc.
Information technology (IT) is a term that encompasses all forms of technology used to create, store, exchange and utilize information in its various forms including business data, conversations, still images, motion pictures and multimedia presentations.


Letter of inquiry / Letter of intent (LOI)
A brief letter outlining an organization's activities and its request for funding that is sent to a prospective donor in order to determine whether it would be appropriate to submit a full grant proposal. Many grantmakers prefer to be contacted in this way before receiving a full proposal.
Letter of support
A simple letter attached as an addendum to your proposal. This letter should be from an "expert" or supporter of your project who tells why he/she believes that your project should be funded.


Matching funds/grant
Refers to a dollar amount that the grantee or other outside party agrees to contribute to the project. See also challenge grant; employee matching gift.
Multi-year budget
Budget representing the cost of a project of more than one year's duration; a separate budget is prepared for each year, with a budget summary presented preferably at the beginning of the budget pages; See also Multi-Year Funding.


The written portion of your grant proposal. The story of who, what, wehre, when, why and how. Every grant has at least 2 parts: a narrative and a budget. Often the grant guidelines will specify that your narrative may not exceed a certain page length. Always adhere to these instructions.
Need statement
The part of the grant in which you explain, using both qualitative and quantitative data, why you shoud be funded. Remember to outline your problems and give data to verify the problem areas. (Also called justification)
Notice of Funding Availability


Specific, measurable aims for the project, with matching outcomes to measure them.
Operating foundation
A 501(c)3 organization classified by the IRS as a private foundation whose primary purpose is to conduct research, social welfare, or other programs determined by its governing body or establishment charter. An operating foundation may make grants, but the amount of grants awarded generally is small relative to the funds used for the foundation's own programs. See also 501(c)3.
Operating support grant
A grant to cover the regular personnel, administrative, and miscellaneous expenses of an existing program or project. See also general/operating support.
Organization budget
All funds budgeted for an organization's operations, activities, programs, and services during a fiscal year. Operating funds do not include capital funds, endowment funds, reserve funds or any other funds not allocated to the annual operating cycle of the organization.
Expected results of the project which can be used to measure its success.


Pass-through grants
Grants awarded to a grantee, such as a state administrative agency, with the requirement that the majority, if not all, the funds then be distributed to other, generally smaller organizations or agencies.
Payout requirement
The minimum amount that private foundations are required to expend for charitable purposes (including grants and, within certain limits, the administrative cost of making grants). In general, a private foundation must meet or exceed an annual payout requirement of five percent of the average market value of its total assets.
Peer Review
Process of evaluating proposals for funding; usually involves experts representing the same general fields or disciplines as the proposal topics.
Principal Investigator
Private foundation
A nongovernmental, nonprofit organization with funds (usually from a single source, such as an individual, family, or corporation) and program managed by its own trustees or directors. Private foundations are established to maintain or aid social, educational, religious, or other charitable activities serving the common welfare, primarily through the making of grants. See also 501(c)3; public charity.
Professional development
The training required for maintaining a career path or any professional continuing education.
Program income
The gross income earned by the grantee that is generated directly by a grant-supported activity or earned as a result of the grant. It includes, but is not limited to: income from fees for services performed, the use or rental of real or personal property acquired under the grant, the sale of commodities or items developed or fabricated under the grant.
Program officer
A staff member of a foundation who reviews grant proposals and processes applications for the board of trustees. Only a small percentage of foundations have program officers.
Program-related investment (PRI)
A loan or other investment (as distinguished from a grant) made by a foundation to another organization for a project related to the foundation's philanthropic purposes and interests.
Project/Program grant
Funding for a specific initiative or new endeavor, not general purpose.
Project Director
Individual respnsible for activities involved in the grant, including the evaluation and follow-up (also called "Coordinator").
A written application, often accompanied by supporting documents, submitted to a foundation or corporate giving program in requesting a grant. Most foundations and corporations do not use printed application forms but instead require written proposals; others prefer preliminary letters of inquiry prior to a formal proposal. Consult published guidelines.
Public charity
A nonprofit organization that qualifies for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. Public charities are the recipients of most foundation and corporate grants. Some public charities also make grants.


Qualifying distributions
Expenditures of a private foundation made to satisfy its annual payout requirement. These can include grants, reasonable administrative expenses, set-asides, loans and program-related investments, and amounts paid to acquire assets used directly in carrying out tax-exempt purposes.


see Request for a Proposal.
An acronym for Request for Proposal. When the government issues a new contract or grant program, it sends out RFPs to agencies that might be qualified to participate. The RFP lists project specifications and application procedures. While an increasing number of foundations use RFPs in specific fields, most still prefer to consider proposals that are initiated by applicants.
How your project will be used or duplicated by others.
A way of presenting evaluation criteria that helps the judge score your grant proposal.


School-age population
The population of children, ages 5 to 17, as determined by the Secretary of Education on the basis of the most recent satisfactory data available from the Department of Commerce.
Schoolwide program
A program in which Title I funds are used to upgrade the entire educational program of a high-poverty school and in which Title I funds may be combined with funds from other federal, state, and local resources.
Seed money
A grant or contribution used to start a new project or organization. Seed grants may cover salaries and other operating expenses of a new project.
Senior project staff
Usually includes project director, associate director, and any full-time professional project personnel having major responsibility for administering and/or implementing project activities.
Funds set aside by a foundation for a specific purpose or project that are counted as qualifying distributions toward the foundation's annual payout requirement. Amounts for the project must be paid within five years of the first set-aside.
Site visit
A final step in the review of some proposals; involves a team of evaluators designated by the funding source who examine the project facilities and other resources on location; includes review of project plan and objectives with key personnel; an encouraging sign to the project director; occasionally conducted during the life of a project.
Solicited proposal
A proposal responding to a project concept originated by the funding source; usually the funding source invites all eligible organizations to submit such a proposal.
Special populations
Minorities, children, elderly, disabled, or economically deprived persons, or those in rural and isolated areas.
Special purpose foundation
A private foundation that focuses its grantmaking activites in one or a few areas of interest. See also general purpose foundation.
Funds to be used for organizations to expand ongoing operations.
Periodic payment, similar to an allowance, made to an individual; normally intended for living expenses associated with participation in some phase of a funded project such as a fellowship or training grant; usually related to academic studies.
A legal agreement to transfer of a grant or contract from the awarded institution to another organization. Terms and conditions of the original contract/grant also apply to the subcontract.
Formula or competitive grants made from a larger grant.
Portion of the narrative in which you describe who, what, where, when, why and how very briefly. Tells what the proposal is about.
How the project will continue when the grant funding ends.
System of Award Management (SAM)
An official registration website of the U.S. government required by my state and federal grant agencies. Replaces the Catalog of Federal Assistance (CFDA) and a number of other government websites: " The General Services Administration (GSA) manages federal acquisition and awards processes in 10 online websites which are now being merged into one. This site will become the official U.S. government website for people who make, receive, and manage federal awards."


Target group
Somewhat worn out term used in referring to the primary beneficiaries of a project.
Refers to organizations that do not have to pay taxes such as federal or state corporate tax or state sales tax. Individuals who make donations to such organizations may be able to deduct these contributions from their income tax.
Technical assistance
Operational or management assistance given to nonprofit organizations. This type of help can include fundraising assistance, budgeting and financial planning, program planning, legal advice, marketing, and other aids to management. Assistance may be offered directly by the staff of a foundation or corporation, or it may be provided in the form of a grant to pay for the services of an outside consultant. See also in-kind contributions.
Three-Column budget
Kind of budget in which you show three sourcces for funding: the grantmaker (agency or foundation, outside funding (matching funds from a supporter), and your own in-kind support.
A schedule that includes every activity you must undertake to establish, implement and evaluate the program.
A foundation board member or officer who helps make decisions about how grant monies are spent. Depending on whether the foundation has paid staff, trustees may take a more or less active role in running its affairs.


Under served population
People who genuinely lack access to arts programs, services, or resources for geographic, economic, cultural, social, physical, or other demonstrable reasons. The term "population" can refer to a group of people with common heritage, regardless of whether they live in the same area.
Unsolicited proposal
Proposal for which the initiative for defining the project concept and submitting the proposal rests solely with the applicant organization.