Important Grant Related Terms
Understanding and using terms correctly is critical to success in winning grants. Here are some common grant-related terms and their definitions. We have broken them into four sections, each on its own page:
- Grant Makers (this page)
The first category is included on this page. Simply click the next three categories to go to specialized pages for each of them.
Grant Makers: This term is used to define the different groups, agencies and organizations who create and give grants. The most common are defined below. They include different types of Foundations as well as individuals, corporations, and other non-profit organizations. Sometimes multiple entities join together in team efforts. Note: These definitions are specific to the United States.
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Abstract: This is a term you will see if you are applying for state or federal grants and possibly in some private grants with long applications as well. It's very helpful to grantmakers because it is basically a summary of your project. Sometimes it will be up to you to decide what to include and how to write it, sometimes they will provide specific directions as to what should be included in your summary. You should take care not to include proprietary information or information that might be considered sensitive, because sometimes this section - in part or in whole - may be published publicly.
Block Grants are grants that are given by the federal government to state and local government agencies. They are generally quite large and are given for a specific problem or issue that is important to the local area. They are different from other grants in that they allow the receiving agency considerable latitude in terms of how they use the money. Other grants carry very specific stipulations and requirements. This way the local agencies who are closest to the needs of the community can make the best decisions based on their knowledge of the community. For example, Trump has proposed a $20 billion total block grant that would be used locally to allow families to choose what schools their children go to — regular public school, charter schools, or even private schools. Learn more about Block Grants.
Blue Ocean Strategy
This phrase is not necessarily common parlance among grant makers. It is however becoming more common in business and could come up as a question or topic in grant applications. It refers to the title of a book by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne: Blue ocean Strategy: Create Uncontested market Space and Make the competition Irrelevant. The book provides intriguing examples and practices that could impact nonprofit fundraising success — and could also impress grantmakers with the degree to which you have considered strategic possibilities for your organization. Some people in the nonprofit area seem to look down on using the procedures of for-profit businesses. However, much can be learned by studying practices that aim to create more results with less effort.
Boilerplate: This term is used in grant writing as well as in other areas. It refers to whole sections or smaller portions of a grant application that is basically copy/pasted from applications to other grantmakers. It is a major faux-pas and a good way to get your proposal tossed in the garbage before it is even considered.
Bricks and Mortar: When used when talking about a business “brick and mortar” refers to the business as being one with a physical presence — a building of some sort, a retail location or a physical branch office of some sort. When used with regard to grants and grant making, the term refers to funding for projects that involve buildings or projects that involve construction of some sort.
Corporate Foundations: Another term for Company Sponsored Foundations, defined below.
Company Sponsored Foundations: These are private foundations which get all or most of their funds from a for-profit business. Though they are closely related to that business they operate independently and must follow the same rules and regulations as other private foundations.
Cooperative Ventures: Sometimes more than one grant maker will team up to provide a grant or other types of support (such as information or technical assistance) to grant seekers. Such team efforts are referred to as Cooperative Ventures.
Discretionary Grants are typically awards that that the grant recipient may use for activities of their own choosing. However, in government-speak on grants.gov, they have a different meaning. Here Discretionary Grants are grants which the awarding government agency can give to any eligible agency, determine the amount to be funded, and award the grant based on any of several different aspects of the application.
Competitive Grants Do you keep hearing the term “competitive grants” and wonder what it means? Competitive grants are those that foundations or various government agencies announce and invite those who are eligible to submit applications. They then review the applicants’ submissions and decide how and to whom they want to award their funds. This type of grant differs from Block Grants awarded by the government to agencies which then can decide at their own discretion where they want the money to go. Discover more about block grants.
Donors: Also referred to as grantors, donors are those who make, or give, grants to applicants (known as recipients, or donees).
Family Foundations: These are private foundations which recieve their funds from members of one family (think Seinfeld, and the Foundation established to honor the memory of George's ill-fated fiancee…).
Grace Period: You are probably aware that in addition to eligibility rules and other (sometimes extensive) requirements for grant applications, grantmakers typically (like always) include a specific time by which applications must be submitted. Often there are also dates by which an inquiry letter must be sent prior to even bothering to apply. Sometimes there is also a “grace period” that the grant maker specifies when preparing an opportunity to publicize online. The grace period extends the number of days after the due date that an application will be accepted – but it's not visible to those applying for the grant. So if you miss a deadline by just a day or so you should apply anyway – you might be lucky and benefit from a grace period.
Independent Foundations: This is an umbrella term used for those organizations the IRS classifies as private foundations such as those defined above. Independent foundations are differentiated from foundations run by a particular family or corporation. They are not run by a single benefactor. Some may have started as a family or corporate foundation but later changed their structure. The IRS does not provide a specific definition of a private independent foundation.
Private Foundations: As noted above, these are independent foundations which are, by definition, non-governmental and non-profit. They operate to support charitable purposes serving the public good by making grants.
Program Amounts: This term refers to the amount of money spent by a foundation or private corporation giving program to support a particular program.
Program Officers Staff: These are the poeple within a foundation who review and process the many proposals and applications submitted to them. Not many foundations are large (and lucky) enough to have such a staff.
Qualifying Distributions: Private foundations operate under IRS requirements to pay out, or give via grants, a minimum percentage of their funds. Those payouts which meet IRS guidelines are considered “qualifying distributions” and go toward meeting that minimum payout requirement.
Reimbursable Grants Seems like a strange term, doesn’t it, since grants by definition never need to be paid back? But the “reimbursable” term here means that the money from this particular type of grant does get given until your expenses have already been incurred and you have paid them. You then go through a specific procedure to document your expenses and you have funded them with money you already have. Usually you will need something like providing receipts for items you purchased or credit card statements or other acceptable evidence. Some types of expenses will not be considered eligible for reimbursement, especially if you have a federal grant. Be sure in any case to know for sure up front what will and what will not be able to be paid back to you.
Set-Asides: One of the categories of Qualifying Distributions, defined above. These are monies specifically set aside by a private foundation to support a project or well-defined purpose. Per the IRS, these monies must be paid out within five years of the initial set-aside.
Special Purpose Foundations: As the name would imply, these are private foundations that are established and operated to support a single or very narrow area of interest.
Trustees: These are the decision makers — the board members or officers of a private foundation who get to decide how the foundation's funds are spent.