Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: July 2016

The vocabulary of proposal development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. Revised and expanded in mid-2016, this set of entries covers words and phrases from P to Z. Its context is the United States of America.


PROJECT: The specific proposed program or plan of action for which grant funds are being requested. A project has a definite start date and a definite end date, and it has an explicitly defined and time-bound set of desired outcomes.


PROJECT COORDINATOR: The person who manages and implements a project under the auspices or supervision of a project director or a similar administrator; coordination is often a desirable role for personnel when a project or initiative targets multiple sites or features multiple components or involves many partners. Also see: Project Director and Principal Investigator.


PROJECT DIRECTOR: The person who leads or directs a grant-funded project and ensures that the project complies with all conditions and regulations, particularly in training, educational, and model demonstration projects. Also may be called a Project Manager. Also see: Principal investigator and Project Coordinator.


REPLICABILITY: A project’s ability or promise of being able to be transplanted to other settings and to yield similar or comparable impacts or outcomes or results in them.


RESEARCH: An organized effort to add to the existing knowledge base of an established or emerging discipline in the area of theory or application or both. Alternatively, the search for epistemologically valid and reliable evidence that implementing one or more of an applicant’s proposed activities or strategies is likely to yield the desired outcomes and impacts.


RESULT: A measurable consequence of implementing a project or initiative, but not necessarily the intended and anticipated focus of an objective or a goal. Examples: Improved school climate in an arts enrichment project; reduced arrests for certain property crimes in a graffiti abatement project.


STAFF: The person or persons who carry out a project using grant funds, and those who support it using other funds; also may be called Personnel. Also see: Personnel.


STAFFING PLAN: The scheme, method, or approach for deploying persons having appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities (or required qualifications and experience) to do the work of a project or initiative.


SUMMATIVE EVALUATION: The measurement of the extent or degree of success of a project or initiative; it offers conclusions about what worked (and what did not) and it makes recommendations about what to keep, what to change, and what to discontinue; it occurs at the end of each project year and after the grant-funded project ends. Also called Outcome Evaluation or Product Evaluation. Also see: Formative Evaluation.


TARGET POPULATION: The persons, groups, subgroups, or entities intended to participate in a project or initiative and/or to benefit from it. Applicants should exercise discretion and sensitivity in adopting the phrase in certain contexts (e.g., violence prevention). Also see: Beneficiary and Participant.


TEAM: A group of persons who work as a unit towards a common or shared purpose related to a project or initiative. A team may include persons paid with non-grant funds and persons affiliated with organizations other than the applicant or grant recipient. Also see: Partner.


TIMELINE: The detailed overall sequence, schedule, or timetable anticipated for implementing a project or initiative. It may present both discrete events and continuous processes. It also may include an illustrative chart or a table. Also see: Milestone.


VISION: A clear and concise statement of an applicant’s purpose, values, and aspirations for its mid-term or long-term future, presented as its inspiration or motivation for what it does in the present. In a proposal, an applicant commonly links its organizational vision to its Work Plan and to the grant maker’s purposes for making grants. Also see: Mission.


This post concludes a five-part series on Proposal Development.





The vocabulary of proposal development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. Revised and expanded in mid-2016, this set of entries covers words and phrases from O to P. Its context is the United States of America.


OUTCOME: The desired and intended quantitative or qualitative end result or consequence of a set of activities undertaken to achieve one or more objectives. It is often used as a measurement of effect rather than of effort. Examples: 50% reduction in long-term suspensions; 10% reduction in dropout rate; 25% increase in library holdings; 20% loss of body fat; 5% reduction in residential burglaries.


OUTPUT: A tangible or quantifiable product of an activity. It is often used as a measurement of effort rather than of effect. Examples: Four new geography units; ten parental education workshops; six program newsletters; 30 home visits; a new science kit.


PARTICIPANT: Someone directly and actively involved in a project or initiative as one who is served by it or who otherwise benefits from it. Examples: Science teachers; juvenile delinquents; English language learners; third graders; parents of newborns; elderly residents.


PARTNER: An individual or organization that contributes resources to a grant-funded project or initiative, often by a formal and legally enforceable agreement delineating responsibilities and commitments between or among the entities involved in it.


PARTNERSHIP: Two or more individuals or organizations, working with each other under an often formal and legally enforceable agreement to accomplish the objectives and attain the goals of a grant-funded project or initiative, and often contributing cash or in-kind resources or both towards its budget.


PERSONNEL: The persons who provide the human labor to implement or support activities designed to achieve the objectives of a project or initiative. Some or many of the personnel, but seldom all, may be paid for out of grant funds. Also see: Staff.


PLAN OF ACTION: The specific series of activities or steps to be undertaken during a project or initiative, as well as its goals, objectives, timeline, personnel, and resources. It is also called a Program Design or a Work Plan.


PRELIMINARY PROPOSAL: A partial proposal, having some but not all elements of a complete proposal such as a plan of action and a budget, submitted to a grant maker for a review to determine whether it merits subsequent submission as a complete proposal. Also called a Pre-

Proposal. Also see: Full Proposal.


PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: The person who leads or directs a grant-funded research project, particularly in federally funded scientific or medical research grants; also known as a PI. Also see: Project Director.


PROBLEM: The specific reason for proposing a grant-funded project or initiative, which offers a promising solution to the problem. Example: A dropout rate higher than the state average. Applicants must avoid circular reasoning in defining problems. Example: A lack, an absence, a shortage, or a scarcity, in and of itself, is not a problem; however, one or more of its consequences or effects may represent one. Also see: Need.


PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: A method of continuously improving the knowledge, skills, and/or abilities of a defined group of participants; or a method of enhancing or increasing the formal qualifications or credentials of a defined group of participants. Participants in it often may include a project’s key personnel. It also may be called Training or Staff Training or Staff Development.


PROGRAM DESIGN: A time-bounded plan for implementing a project including goals, objectives, activities, timeline, and strategies. It is also called a Plan of Action or a Work Plan.


A later post will cover Glossary entries starting with letters P to Z.




The vocabulary of proposal development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. Revised and expanded in mid-2016, this set of entries covers words and phrases from J to O. Its context is the United States of America.


JUSTIFICATION: A brief rationale or explanation of aspects of a project or initiative – particularly of some elements, or occasionally all elements, in its itemized budget – that may raise questions or objections in the minds of proposal reviewers or grant makers or that may benefit in some other way from a more detailed elaboration.


LOGIC MODEL: A schematic or graphical representation, often presented as a flow chart or as a table, which shows how inputs and activities interact and lead to outputs, outcomes, and impacts. Example: A table that presents goals, objectives, key activities, key personnel, evaluation measures, a timeline, and costs – all in one synoptic document.


KEY PERSONNEL: The persons or positions critical to the success of a project or initiative. Examples: Project Directors or Principal Investigators. Key personnel may include those paid with non-grant funds as well as those paid with grant funds. Examples: Classroom Teachers or Clinicians.


MANAGEMENT PLAN: An applicant’s proposed scheme, method, or program for deploying its key personnel and for ensuring that it uses its fiscal and programmatic resources in ways consistent with its funded proposal; the plan often includes an illustrative organizational chart. Also see: Organizational Chart.


MILESTONE: A discrete event or specific accomplishment used to measure the progress or momentum of a project or initiative towards implementing its activities, achieving its objectives, and attaining its goals. Also see: Benchmark.


MISSION: A succinct statement of why, for whom, and what an applicant does in order to lead to a desired mid-term or long-term future state of affairs. In a proposal, an applicant commonly links its organizational mission to its Work Plan. Also see: Vision.


NARRATIVE: The body of an application or a proposal describing what is to be done, how it is to be done, why it is to be done, who is to do it and where, when and how often it is to be done, at what cost it is to be done, who will ensure that it gets done, who will measure its success, and how that success will be measured and reported.


NEED: A definable and often quantifiable situation or trend, usually perceived as negative or undesirable, that an applicant proposes to address in its project or initiative. Applicants’ descriptions of need must avoid circular reasoning (e.g., the mere absence of a resource does not prove the presence of a need) and must avoid presenting needs beyond the capacity of a single grant to improve or eliminate. Also see: Problem.


NEEDS ASSESSMENT: A narrative review of a condition or state of affairs that an applicant seeks to change with the assistance of the resources afforded by a grant award. It is often presented with abundant descriptive ad comparative data. Also see: Problem Statement.


OBJECTIVE: A time-bound statement, framed in specific and measurable terms, of what an applicant is going to accomplish during a project or initiative; it advances the project or initiative towards attaining its goal or goals. Objectives are indispensable and critical elements in a Work Plan or a Plan of Action or a Program Design. Example: Each project year, 90% or more of project participants will demonstrate statistically significant gains (p < .05) in English literacy, as measured by state-mandated assessments. Also see: Activity.


ORGANIZATION: A generic and non-technical term for a legally established entity that is eligible to seek, manage, and expend a grant award, either alone or in a partnership with one or more other organizations or individuals or both.


ORGANIZATIONAL CHART: A graphic device depicting the staff positions involved in a project or initiative, the flow of communication between and among them, and their connections to other key staff in an organization or a partnership. Many of the positions may be paid using funds other than those of the grant being sought. Also see: Management Plan.


ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY: A brief chronological summation or narrative account of the primary milestones, accomplishments, and unique attributes of an organization.


A later post will cover Glossary entries starting with letters O to P.








The vocabulary of proposal development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. Revised and expanded in mid-2016, this set of entries covers words and phrases from C to I. Its context is the United States of America.


CONCEPT: A description of the overall vision and rationale underlying a project or initiative, or one of the detailed plans for making it happen within a defined timeframe; organizations often submit a concept to a potential private funder in a Concept Paper.


CONSTITUENT: A beneficiary, a client, or a participant in a project or initiative. Examples: a college student; an infant; a refugee; a family living in poverty; a first grader.


CONTINUATION: A plan to sustain some or all aspects of a project or initiative after initial grant funding ends. Alternatively, a grant award made for any defined period after a project’s initial funding period. Also see: Sustainability.


CRITERIA: The guidelines, standards, or elements of a scoring rubric or proposal review form that reviewers or other decision makers use to rate and rank a proposal submitted to a grant maker; also may be called Selection Criteria or Review Criteria.


DISSEMINATION: The intentional process of sharing a project’s strategies and results with its target audiences. It expands the original project’s impact, informs stakeholders of its significance and accomplishments, and builds awareness and support for its continuation by other means after initial grant funding ends.


EVALUATION: The analysis of the degree to which an applicant, as a grant recipient, implements its activities, achieves its objectives, and attains its goals, and an analysis of obstacles to progress and strategies used for overcoming them. Evaluation may be formative or summative. It may use qualitative or quantitative measures or both. It often describes both processes and outcomes. It states what will be done, who will do it with what and where, when and how often it will be done, and (often) why it will be done.


EVALUATION PLAN: An applicant’s proposed scheme, method, or program for collecting, measuring, analyzing, and reporting data about the progress and outcomes of a project or initiative, and for ascertaining, describing, and confirming the degree to which it has achieved its objectives and attained its goals.


FORMATIVE EVALUATION: Monitoring that occurs at set intervals during a project or initiative; it yields feedback that often leads to adjustments and corrective action during the course of that project or initiative. Also may be called Process Evaluation. Also see: Summative Evaluation.


FULL PROPOSAL: A complete proposal submitted to a grant maker for a review of its merits for subsequent grant funding. Also see: Preliminary Proposal.


GOAL: A desired long-term accomplishment or a general and desired direction of change, often stated in abstract or global terms. The goal normally reflects the mission of the applicant and/or the funding purposes of a specific grant maker. Also see: Objective.


GRANT SEEKER: An actual or potential applicant for a grant award.


IMPACT: A tangible or quantifiable long-term outcome of a grant-funded project or initiative, often framed in broad terms as a desirable or ideal condition or state of affairs and as a consequence or effect attributable to attaining one or more of its objectives.


IMPLEMENTATION: The process of doing the activities specifically described in a proposal and any others (e.g., fiscal management and performance monitoring) that are explicitly required by a funder or are deemed necessary, often implicitly as a matter of course, to the success of a project or initiative.


INDICATOR: A measure of the need for some aspect of a project or initiative. Alternatively, a measure of the direct outcomes and results of a project or initiative for its participants and for its intended beneficiaries; in this latter sense, it also may be called a Performance Measure or a Performance Indicator. Also see: Need.


INPUT: A tangible or quantifiable resource invested in the pursuit of the specific outcomes and impacts sought in a grant-funded project or initiative. Examples: Time, expertise, funding, personnel, supplies, facilities, and technologies.


A later post will cover entries in this Glossary with the initial letters J to O.




The vocabulary of proposal development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. Revised and expanded in mid-2016, this set of entries covers words and phrases from A to C. Its context is the United States of America.


ACTIVITY: A step or action taken to achieve one or more project objectives. Often many steps or actions are necessary to achieve each objective in a project or initiative. An activity can occur just once or any number of times; it can be singular or it can be part of a series or sequence of related activities. Also see: Objective.


ADMINISTRATOR: The person or office responsible for (1) leading or guiding the implementation of a grant-funded project or initiative, (2) monitoring the overall progress and performance of a grant-funded project or initiative, and/or (3) taking corrective actions whenever necessary to keep a grant-funded project or initiative on track and on budget.


APPLICANT: The individual or organization seeking a grant and proposing to manage, expend, and account for expenditures and results of grant funds if they are awarded.


ASSESSMENT: A formal or informal measurement of the status of one or more issues of interest to an individual or organization, or the means or instrument used to measure the status of one or more such issues. Often an assessment is repeated at a regular interval, e.g., each year.


BENCHMARK: An external frame of reference or a state of affairs used as a source or basis of comparison and as a target towards which a grant-funded project or an initiative aspires. Example: Becoming a nationally validated model program. Alternatively, an internal periodic target towards which a grant-funded project or initiative aspires. Example: Yearly increments of 10% improvement over the baseline performance on some measure in a multiyear project.


BENEFICIARY: A person, or class of persons, intended to experience improvements or to benefit, either directly or indirectly, from a grant-funded project or initiative. Also see: Participant and Target Population.


BENEFIT: A measurable change in a person or class of persons observed as a direct or indirect consequence of a project or initiative. Examples: Lower dropout rates or longer life expectancy.


CAPABILITY: The ability of an organization or individual to bring to bear specific resources, to do specific tasks, or to obtain desired results – often within a defined time-span – such as those resources or tasks or results described in the Work Plan or elsewhere in a grant proposal.


CAPACITY: The ability or competence of an applicant and its partners, if any, to implement its activities, to achieve its objectives, to accomplish its goals, and to advance its Vision or Mission. Alternatively, an ability or competence, created as a consequence of a grant award, to perform later tasks or activities similar to those performed during a grant period. Also see: Mission and Vision.


COLLABORATION: The processes of implementing shared goals, joint leadership, and shared responsibility and accountability, and of accruing shared resources and benefits during a project or initiative; often they are described as part of a Management Plan. Also see: Management Plan.


COMMITMENT: A measure of an applicant’s or a partnership’s investment of its own limited financial and programmatic resources in undertaking a project or initiative proposed for grant funding.


A later post will cover entries in this Glossary with the initial letters C to I.



The vocabulary of budget development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. Revised and expanded in mid-2016, this final set of entries covers words and phrases from R to Z. Its context is the United States of America.


RESTRICTED FUNDS: Funds that a grant recipient may use only for predetermined purposes – such as those defined in the approved budget of a funded grant proposal – and that consequently it cannot expend as general funds. Also see: Unrestricted Funds.


REVIEW PANEL: A group of peers or experts retained by a grant maker to evaluate the merits of grant proposals in a grant competition and to recommend which ones should be funded. Sometimes the reviewers may include one or more directors or trustees of a foundation.


SALARIES: The compensation of professional and technical personnel – who are typically limited only to those holding a post-secondary degree – before the addition of fringe benefits.


SEED MONEY: A grant award intended to help start a new project or initiative or to launch a new non-profit organization. It also may be called a Start-Up Grant.


SELECTION CRITERIA: The formal set of factors a grant maker uses in scoring and ranking a set of competitive proposals to determine which ones it will select for funding. It also may be called Criteria or Review Criteria.


SINGLE POINT OF CONTACT (SPOC): A person in state government whom an applicant must inform when it is applying for a federal grant in the United States of America. A list of single points of contact is maintained at the federal Office of Management and Budget. Some states have a SPOC, others don’t.


SOFT FUNDS: A non-technical term for the funding of staff positions or other resources using grant funds rather than other means such as revenues from tax levies; it reflects the premise that such assets are not as secure, over the long term, as those funded using other means (e.g., annual tax levies). Also see: Hard Funds.


STANDARD FORM: A blank template that an applicant must complete and submit, as each specific program requires, with its application for a federal grant. A comprehensive collection of standard forms is available at the federal General Services Administration, but be certain to observe strictly the cautionary guidance available at this site.


SUB-GRANTEE: A lower-tier recipient (e.g., a county agency) of grant funds from a higher-tier recipient of those funds (e.g., a state agency) and not directly from the grant maker; also called a sub-recipient. Also see: Grantee.


SUPPLANTING: A deliberate shifting or displacement in the source of funds (e.g., state or local) used to afford a given resource (e.g., personnel) in an organization because of the availability of federal grant funds after a new grant award. One caveat in many government grant programs is “Do not supplant.”


SUPPLIES: A cost category for consumable resources such as paper, pens, pencils, postage, folders, files, binders, paperclips, toner, blank data storage media, and similar office products. Definitions and thresholds for value of the discrete items vary widely across grant programs and funding agencies. Also see: Materials.


SUSTAINABILITY: A measure of the perceived likelihood that an applicant (and its partners, if any) will be able to obtain and use funding (and other resources) from itself and/or other sources to continue its proposed project or initiative after its initial grant funding ends. Grant makers of all types often favor proposals that exhibit a high potential for sustainability.


TRAVEL: A cost category for costs associated with going place-to-place, including fares (air, bus, train, taxi, or shuttle), vehicle rentals or leases, mileage, tolls, meals, tips, and lodging. Every item assigned to this category must be clearly defined and well justified.


UNALLOWABLE COSTS: The cost categories or discrete line items that a grant maker forbids or discourages an applicant to include as part of a proposed budget. Also see: Allowable Costs.


UNIFORM APPLICATION FORMS: The standard forms that applicants must complete and submit with applications for federal grants; several of them require specific or detailed budget information. Examples: SF-424 and SF-524. In federal programs, these are associated with specific notices of grant opportunities posted on


UNRESTRICTED FUNDS: Funds from a grant or any other source that an organization may use for any legal purpose, such as general funds or operating funds. Also see: Restricted Funds.


WAGES: The hourly compensation of non-professional personnel – typically all of those who do not hold a post-secondary degree – before the addition of fringe benefits, if any.


ZERO FUNDING: The termination of a grant program authorized by law or regulation by ending all appropriations for funding it.


This post concludes a seven-part series on Budget Development. A later series of posts will present a Proposal Development Dictionary.




The vocabulary of budget development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. Revised and expanded in mid-2016, this final set of entries covers words and phrases from O to R. Its context is the United States of America.


OPERATING SUPPORT GRANT: A grant that supports the general purpose or work of an applicant, and as such may be used as general revenue or unrestricted funding.


OTHER: A cost category commonly used in state and federal grant programs for budget items that do not fit other categories. Every item assigned to this category should be as clearly defined and as well justified as every other item in a proposed budget. Avoid using this cost category for budget line items vaguely identified as “contingency” or as “miscellaneous.


OVERHEAD: See: Indirect Costs.


PASS-THROUGH FUNDING: A scheme for the distribution of funding where a first tier of grant recipients (e.g., state agencies) administers a grant program, awards sub-grants to a second tier of eligible applicants (e.g., school districts); and performs a yearly program audit of the second-tier grant recipients. It also may be called Flow-Through Funding.


PERSONNEL: A cost category for the human resources or labor, internal to the applicant as an organization, who will be involved in implementing a project; it includes positions paid in salaries and those paid in wages, and it excludes all independent contractors (e.g., evaluators and other consultants). Personnel may or may not be paid out of a proposed grant budget.


PRIVATE FOUNDATION: A legally defined type of nonprofit organization whose directors or trustees conduct charitable programs for social, cultural, educational, religious, or other permissible purposes.


PROGRAM OFFICE: An administrative unit, within a grant-making organization, that implements or coordinates the details of conducting a grant program, including the review and ranking of applications.


PROGRAM OFFICER: An administrator on the staff of a grant-making organization who runs a specific grant program, manages grant competitions, and provides technical assistance either to potential grant applicants or to existing grant recipients or to both.


PROJECT: The proposed plan for which an applicant requests grant funds.


PROJECT INCOME: The revenue an applicant’s project is expected to generate during a given time-span; it may include products sold, membership dues, service fees, earned interest, and funds raised by other means. It may also be called Program Income or Revenue.


PROJECT PERIOD: The total time for which support of a discretionary project has been approved; it is usually a series of one-year budget periods. Most project periods last one to five years; some may be longer, others may be shorter. Also see: Budget Period and Grant Period.


PROPOSAL: A written application of vastly varying length and content, submitted to one or more grant makers, describing a plan or initiative to meet one or more identified needs, and requesting partial or full funding for its support. Some grant makers and grant programs require much more formal, detailed, and highly structured proposals – narratives and budgets – than do others. It also may be called an Application or a Funding Request.


RECIPIENT: An individual or organization that will receive a grant or has received a grant.


REGULATIONS: Administrative guidelines for government grants, issued after enabling legislation, which establish and define eligible applicants; eligible beneficiaries; the nature of activities to be funded; allowable costs; selection criteria for proposal review; and other requirements. Example: Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR).


REPLICABILITY: The proven or predicted ability of a project’s effective activities and strategies to be transportable to another setting and to generate similar results in it; it is a factor in considering the potential impact of an initial grant award and it is a criterion often associated with grant programs that fund demonstration projects. Also see: Demonstration Grant.


REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS (RFP): A formal invitation to apply for a grant that describes what types of applicants are eligible to apply; when proposals are due; the program selection criteria; the contents required in a complete proposal; anticipated levels and durations of funding; and other considerations. The specific length and contents of an RFP vary widely from one grant program and one solicitation to another. Also may be called a Request for Applications (RFA) or a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).


RESEARCH GRANT: A grant designed to support research rather than to support other purposes such as direct services or general operating costs. Also see: Direct Services Grant.


A later post will cover entries in this Glossary starting with letters R to Z.





The vocabulary of budget development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. Revised and expanded in mid-2016, this set of entries covers words and phrases from I to N. Its context is the United States of America.


INDIRECT COST RATE: An annually revised percentage established by a unit of government for a grant recipient that the recipient uses in computing the amount it charges to a grant to reimburse itself for the indirect costs it incurs in doing the work of the grant-funded project. The rate may be final, fixed, predetermined, or provisional. A foundation grant maker also may solicit and approve an applicant’s proposed indirect cost rate before it considers a proposal from it or awards a grant to it.


INVITATIONAL PRIORITY: An area of special focus which a grant maker would prefer to see an applicant address in its proposal, but which does not affect the review, rating, or rank ordering of proposals.


LEAD AGENCY (Applicant): The organization that submits a proposal on behalf of a partnership of two or more organizations and that serves as the grant recipient. If funded, the lead agency is legally responsible for implementing and administering its funded project, for properly managing all grant funds, and for submitting all required reports.


LEAD AGENCY (Grant Maker): Particularly in federal grant making, the agency or program office with the primary responsibility for approving or funding a project. It reviews the proposals, coordinates with other involved agencies, and notifies the applicant of its funding outcome.


LETTER OF COMMITMENT: A brief official letter that conveys the willingness of a partner organization to commit cash or other resources to a proposed project; it specifies the terms and conditions of the commitment, the precise resources to be offered or delivered, and the actual or estimated values of those resources. Also see: Letter of Support.


LETTER OF INQUIRY (LOI): A brief, but formal, mode of grant application, typically one to five pages long, often used when an applicant seeks a grant from a foundation; it commonly includes an introduction, a problem statement, objectives and activities, an evaluation plan, an organizational capacity statement, and a budget. The letter of inquiry often forms a basis for deciding whether the foundation will request a full proposal from an applicant. Informally, also known as an LOI.


LETTER OF INTENT: A brief official letter or email (or other specified form of notification) from a potential applicant to a grant maker that conveys its intention to apply for funding. The grant maker may request or require the letter of intent to gauge the number of applicants likely to be competing for funding in a given grant program. Alternatively, some grant makers may use the term as a synonym for Letter of Inquiry.


LETTER OF SUPPORT: A brief official letter that conveys the enthusiasm, endorsement, and encouragement of an individual or an organization for an applicant’s proposed grant project or initiative and for its request for funding, but does not explicitly commit resources to it. Also see: Letter of Commitment.


LEVEL FUNDING: An amount of grant funding that does not change from year to year during a multiyear grant period.


LEVERAGING: A measure of the potential role that a given grant award is likely to have in attracting other funding or resources to a proposed project or initiative. As the specific grant maker requires, an applicant may present either a ratio of requested grant funds to total project funds or a ratio of requested grant funds to funds from other sources.


MARKET VALUE: The economic value of a resource (e.g., volunteer labor at minimum wage) as determined up to the date and time an applicant submits a proposal (e.g., the wage rate in effect on or before that date); often, an applicant determines market value by checking an official government publication or website or by reviewing a grant program’s regulations.


MATCHING FUNDS: The share of the total costs of a project or initiative, as required by law or regulation, which comes from any source other than the specific grant being sought; the matching funds may consist of the fair market value of donated resources (in-kind contributions) or of actual cash to be spent (cash) or of both. See the table for examples when an applicant is requesting a $200,000 grant award. Also see: Cost Sharing.


Calculating Matching Funds
Match Required Grant maker Share Local Share Total Budget
50% Match = 1:1 $200,000 grant $200,000 local     $400,000
33% Match = 2:1 $200,000 grant $100,000 local     $300,000
25% Match = 3:1 $200,000 grant $66,700 local     $266,700
20% Match = 4:1 $200,000 grant $50,000 local     $250,000
10% Match = 9:1 $200,000 grant $22,500 local     $222,500


MATCHING GRANT: A grant awarded to an applicant with the intention of matching some of the funds (i.e., as a partial match) or all of the funds (i.e., as a total match) awarded to an applicant by another source. Also see: Challenge Grant.


MATERIALS: A cost category for consumable resources such as media (e.g., books, workbooks, digital videodisks, or software), references, and training products. The category is often conjoined with Supplies or is subsumed as a part of Supplies. Also see: Supplies.


MULTIYEAR BUDGET: A budget covering all or part of two or more consecutive fiscal or calendar years. Many grant makers require a budget for an entire multiyear project period at the time of the original application.


NON-COMPETITIVE GRANT: A funding program from which applicants are eligible for a grant award if they complete and submit required materials by a given deadline. Also may be called: a Budget Earmark, an Allocation Grant, an Entitlement Grant, a Formula Grant, or a Mandatory Grant.


NOVICE APPLICANT: An individual or an organization that has not obtained a discretionary grant directly from a specified unit or level of government (e.g., a federal agency) or from a specified grant program within a defined time-span (e.g., the last five fiscal years).


A later post will cover entries in this Glossary starting with letters O to R.




The vocabulary of budget development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. Revised and expanded in mid-2016, this set of entries covers words and phrases from F to I. Its context is the United States of America.


FLOOR AMOUNT: The minimum amount allowed as a grant request, often stated as the lower limit of an anticipated funding range. Also see: Ceiling Amount.


FORM 990-PF: A yearly Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form required of all private foundations (hence the -PF) that provides a public record of the financial status and grant-making activity of a private foundation. In some respects, Form 990-PF is the equivalent of an annual federal income tax return to be filed by private foundations.


FORMULA GRANT: A non-competitive grant whose amount is established by applying a formula based upon criteria described in a law and amplified in that law’s subsequent regulations, and awarded after a yearly formal application process; it may also called an Entitlement Grant or an Allocation Grant or a Mandatory Grant.


FRINGE BENEFITS: A cost category for non-salary and non-wage modes of staff compensation that accrue to those who qualify for them. Examples of typical fringe benefits are: health insurance, dental insurance, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, paid holidays, paid sick leave, paid personal leave, paid vacation days, and FICA (social security). Fringe benefits are usually calculated as percentages (%) of salaries or wages.


FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT (FTE): The financial obligation for one full-time staff member. Two or more persons may split the position in the budget to add up to one full-time equivalent. FTE may be written as a percentage (often abbreviated as % FTE) or as a specific number (N) of hours per week (sometimes abbreviated as N hrs/wk).


FUNDING CYCLE: A sequence of events that starts with a formal public notice that funds are available, and includes the deadline for submission of applications, the review of applications, the award of grants, the completion of contractual documents, and the release of funds; the same sequence may recur in subsequent years if funds are available.


FUNDING OFFER: A proposal by a grant maker, in oral or written form, to award a successful applicant an amount of funding that is less than it had requested; such an offer may occur when the grant maker either does not allow certain proposed line items in an applicant’s budget or does not have enough funds to fund the project or initiative at the full amount requested.


FUNDING PRIORITIES: Project-related factors that grant makers may use to award extra rating-points to otherwise-qualified applicants. Priorities may also include such non-project factors as geographic distribution of grant awards and the diversity of types of funded applicants. Many federal grant programs announce absolute priorities, competitive priorities, or invitational priorities in their requests for proposals. They are also called Funding Preferences.


GENERAL GRANT: A grant designed to subsidize the organization-wide operating expenses of a worthy applicant rather than to provide support for a specific project or initiative. Also called an Operating Support Grant or an Operational Grant. Example: Facility rent and utilities.


GRANT: An award of funding for an eligible recipient to do pre-defined activities using pre-defined resources over a pre-defined time-span to achieve pre-defined objectives and advance towards one or more pre-defined goals, but whose outcomes are less certain than those expected from a contract.


GRANT AGREEMENT: A legally binding and enforceable understanding entered into by a grant recipient with a grant maker; it is commonly based on an approved application made by the grant recipient and it commits the grant recipient to implement certain activities and pursue certain objectives, within a pre-defined time-span, for a specific amount of funding. By reference, it may incorporate other municipal or state or federal statutes and regulations beyond those enabling the grant program.


GRANTEE: The organization or individual that receives the grant funds and is responsible for implementing and administering the project or initiative and managing the grant funds; it is also called a grant recipient. Also see: Grantor and Sub-grantee.


GRANTOR: The organization (e.g., corporation, foundation, or governmental unit) that awards grants; it is also called the Funder, the Funding Agency, or the Grant Maker. Also see: Grantee and Sub-grantee.


GRANT PERIOD: The total time-span for which a grant maker has committed to funding a grant recipient; it may or may not last exactly as long as a budget period or a project period. Also see: Budget Period and Project Period.


GUIDELINES: The instructions that describe what the grant maker wants to fund, what applications for funding must contain, how applications – including their budgets – must be prepared and submitted, and how proposals will be reviewed. Also see: Request for Proposals.


HARD FUNDS: A non-technical term for the funding of staff positions or other resources that support a program or initiative by using annual tax levies or similarly predictable and renewable revenues rather than by using grant funds; its character reflects the perception that such assets are more secure, over the long term, than those funded using grant funds. Also see: Soft Funds.


IN-KIND CONTRIBUTION: A non-cash donation of labor (paid staff or unpaid volunteer), facilities, equipment, materials, or supplies to carry out a project. Applicants for grants must exercise extraordinary care in calculating the cash value of in-kind contributions and in identifying, tracking, and reporting the sources of such contributions. Also see: Matching Funds.


INDIRECT COSTS (IDC): A cost category for costs that are not readily allocable to or identifiable with operating a specific grant program; it is also often called Overhead. Indirect costs equal direct costs multiplied by the approved indirect cost rate (IDC = DC x rate). Such costs commonly relate to administration and facilities. Generally, a government agency, as a grant maker, reimburses indirect costs only after it has negotiated and approved an indirect cost rate with the grant recipient. As grant makers, foundations are less apt to allow full or partial recovery of an organization’s indirect costs than are units of government. Also see: Direct Costs.


A later post will cover entries in this Glossary starting with letters I to N.




The vocabulary of budget development is part of the language required for writing a winning grant proposal. Revised and expanded in mid-2016, this set of entries covers words and phrases from D to F. Its context is the United States of America.


DEMONSTRATION GRANT: A grant designed to help an applicant to test, prove, or establish the feasibility or effectiveness of new approaches or new types of services in solving one or more defined problems or in addressing one or more defined needs.


DIRECT COSTS: Costs directly associated with operating a project and borne using funds from a grant maker. In government grants, direct costs commonly include: personnel (salaries, wages, and fringe benefits), consultants or contractual services, supplies and materials, equipment, travel, construction and renovation, and other. Foundation and corporate categories for allowable direct costs are typically fewer than government categories. Also see: Indirect Costs.


DIRECT SERVICES GRANT: A grant designed to provide services directly to a pre-defined population of beneficiaries rather than to support other purposes such as research or general operating costs. Also see: Research Grant.


DISCRETIONARY GRANT: A grant awarded to a recipient selected after a competitive review based upon the judgment of the grant maker or at the option of the grant maker. A discretionary grant program commonly involves a high ratio of applications to grant awards. In the foundation context, a discretionary grant may also be a grant awarded to a recipient based on the judgment of a member of its board of directors or trustees or at the option of a member of its board of directors or trustees.


DUNS (DATA UNIVERSAL NUMBERING SYSTEM) NUMBER: A unique nine-digit identification number provided by Dun & Bradstreet (for free) and now required as an identifier for every applicant before it applies for a grant from the federal government.


EARMARK: A grant appropriated by a legislative body prior to a peer review. It specifies the applicant’s name, the activity, and the grant amount.


ELIGIBLE ACTIVITIES: A circumscribed set of activities for which applicants can propose to spend available grant funds; enabling state or federal legislation often explicitly defines them, and many public and private grant makers also often define them in their application guidelines or on their websites.


ELIGIBLE APPLICANTS: Specific and defined types of organizations that may apply for funding from a specific grant program at a specific time. Types commonly include: non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, institutions of higher education, state educational agencies, and local educational agencies, and federally recognized American Indian tribes, among many others. Depending upon the specific grant maker and the specific grant program, individuals also are often eligible to apply for grants.


ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Qualifying factors that a potential applicant must satisfy before it seeks a grant; often they pertain to the type of individual or organization as an applicant or to the persons or geographic area to benefit from a grant.


ENABLING LEGISLATION: A law, enacted at any level of government (e.g., city, borough, county, parish, state, federal), which creates and defines one or more grant programs.


ENDOWMENT FUND: An account of funds set up to be invested in perpetuity to provide income for the continuous support of a non-profit organization. Some foundations will award grants for endowments.


EQUIPMENT: A cost category for durable resources requested in a budget; generally, each discrete item of equipment lasts more than a defined period of time (e.g., one year or three years) and costs more than a defined minimum amount (e.g., $500 or $5,000). Definitions of equipment in terms of durability and minimum cost vary widely among grant makers. Also see: Supplies.


EXTERNAL GRANT: A grant awarded to the applicant by any source other than the applicant itself. Example: For a school district, sources of such external grants include the local community foundation, the state education agency, and the federal education agency.


FAMILY FOUNDATION: An independent, private foundation that the members of a single family fund and maintain. Example: Davis Family Foundation.


FEDERATED GIVING PROGRAM: A collaborative fundraising effort usually administered by a supervising nonprofit organization that in turn distributes the funds generated through that effort as grants to other nonprofit organizations. Example: United Way of Greater Houston.


FISCAL AGENT: An organization that has legal accountability for managing a grant award, for expending its funds, and for reporting on grant expenditures.


FISCAL SPONSOR: A third-party organization that agrees to serve as the fiscal agent for a grant on behalf of an applicant or a consortium of applicants; some grant makers will permit use of a fiscal sponsor, others will not.


FISCAL YEAR (FY): A 12-month period at the end of which the financial accounts are closed for the organization in question. Common fiscal years are: October 1 through September 30 (federal), July 1 through June 30 (states), and January 1 through December 31 (foundations). Organization-wide financial audits commonly occur after the end of each fiscal year.


A later post will cover entries in this Glossary starting with letters F to I.




%d bloggers like this: