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Two types of opportunities for obtaining a grant predominate among those available from State and Federal agencies. Every organization belongs to one of several common categories of grant applicants. Special projects are one of the major types of government grant support, but they are by no means the only one available.

Primary Types:

In general, two distinct types of grant programs vie for appropriations of scarce government funds: discretionary (or competitive) grants and formula (or entitlement) grants. Neither type is the same as a legislative earmark.

Both types of grants may require detailed applications. A competition precedes the award of a discretionary grant. A calculation precedes the award of a formula grant. Discretionary grants support special projects; both public and private funders award them. Formula grants reflect and respond to an entitlement established by legislation; public agencies award them. Acts of State or Federal legislation may convert government grant programs from one type to another.

Eligible Applicants:

Only an eligible applicant can receive a grant. The funders specify who is eligible to apply. Individuals comprise one distinct category of grant applicant. Applicant organizations of many distinct types also may be eligible to solicit and receive a grant. They may belong to such categories as: local educational agencies (LEAs), state educational agencies (SEAs), institutions of higher education (IHEs), community-based organizations (CBOs), faith-based organizations (FBOs), or non-profit organizations (NPOs). Private foundations often require official proof of an applicant’s non-profit status in determining its eligibility for funding. Such proof usually is a copy of a determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Special Projects:

Grants can serve diverse purposes and among them are those uses of funds allowed as special projects. A special project builds an applicant’s capacity to do something in a new and better way. It usually must be innovative, creative, and research-based. It also must contribute to improving some aspect or outcome of existing practices.

A special project supplements or adds to ongoing local efforts and resources. Generally, it must not supplant or replace an effort already supported with an applicant’s funds. Government agencies, in particular, often require applicants to certify that they will use funds to supplement, not supplant, existing funds.

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