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Knowing the language of budget development is essential for writing proposals that win grants. Entries here span Salaries to Zero Funding. Their context is North America.


Below is a list of glossary terms in this post:


Salaries Supplies
Seed Money Sustainability
Selection Criteria Travel
Sequestration Unallowable Costs
Single Point of Contact (SPOC) Uniform Application Forms
Soft Funds Unrestricted Funds
Standard Form Wages
Sub-Grantee Zero Funding


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.


SEQUESTRATION: A mandatory spending cut in the federal budget, such as through a repeal of legislation authorizing a grant program, a reduction of the funding appropriated for a grant program, or an appropriation of no funding for a grant program.


SINGLE POINT OF CONTACT (SPOC): The person in state government whom an applicant must inform when it is applying for a federal grant. The federal Office of Management and the Budget maintains a list of single points of contact. Some states have one; others do not.


SOFT FUNDS: A non-technical term for the funding of staff positions or other resources using grant funds rather than other means (e.g., revenues from tax levies); it reflects the premise that such assets are not as secure or stable, 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. The federal General Services Administration provides a comprehensive collection of standard forms. Example: SF424. Also see: Uniform Application Forms.


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 (e.g., 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 thoroughly 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.  Example: SF424. 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. Also see:Declining Funding, Level Funding.


This post concludes a revised seven-part series Glossary for Budget Development. A companion five-part series covers Proposal Development, and a companion two-part series covers Evaluation Plans.



Knowing the language of budget development is essential for writing proposals that win grants. Entries here span Operating Support Grant to Review Panel. Their context is North America.


Below is a list of glossary terms in this post:


Operating Support Grant Project Period
Other Proposal
Overhead Recipient
Pass-Through Funding Regulations
Personnel Replicability
Private Foundation Request for Proposals (RFP)
Program Office Research Grant
Program Officer Restricted Funds
Project Review Panel
Project Income  


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 proposing budget line items vaguely identified as “contingency” or as “miscellaneous.”


OVERHEAD: SeeIndirect 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 or non-profit organizations); 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. Also see: Key Personnel, Staff,  Staffing Plan.


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. Example: Sarkeys Foundation.


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 entire 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, 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.


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.


A later post will cover Budget Development Glossary entries from Salaries to Zero Funding.


Knowing the language of budget development is essential for writing proposals that win grants. Entries here span In-Kind Contribution to Novice Applicant. Their context is North America.


Below is a list of glossary terms in this post:


In-Kind Contribution Level Funding
Indirect Cost Rate Leveraging
Indirect Costs (IDC) Line Item
Invitational Priority Market Value
Lead Agent (Applicant) Matching Funds
Lead Agent (Grant Maker) Matching Grant
Letter of Commitment Materials
Letter of Inquiry Multiyear Budget
Letter of Intent (LOI) Non-Competitive Grant
Letter of Support Novice Applicant


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 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 a Final Rate, a Fixed Rate, a Predetermined Rate, or a Provisional Rate. A foundation grant maker also may solicit and approve an applicant’s proposed indirect cost rate before it considers a proposal from an applicant or awards a grant to it.


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 than units of government to allow full or partial recovery of an organization’s indirect costs. Also see: Direct Costs, Indirect Cost Rate.


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. Commonly includes: introduction; problem statement; objectives and activities; evaluation plan; organizational capacity statement; and budget. 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: (1) 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 in order to gauge the number of applicants likely to be competing for funding in a given grant program. (2) 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. Also see: Declining Funding.


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.


LINE ITEM: A single, discrete, allowable element of expenditure with an allocated cost within a specific cost category. Line items are parts of a detailed, itemized budget.


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. 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 $500,000 grant award. Also see: Cost Sharing.


Calculating Matching Funds
Match Required Grant Maker Share Local Share Total Budget
50% Match = 1:1 $500,000 $500,000     $1,000,000
33% Match = 2:1 $500,000 $250,000     $750,000
25% Match = 3:1 $500,000 $166,667     $666,667
20% Match = 4:1 $500,000 $125,000     $625,000
10% Match = 9:1 $500,000 $55,555     $555,555


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 may be conjoined with Supplies or it may be 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 for a grant.


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 Budget Development Glossary entries from Operating Support Grant to Review Panel.


Knowing the language of budget development is essential for writing proposals that win grants. Entries here span Floor Amount to Hard Funds. Their context is North America.


Below is a list of glossary terms in this post:


Floor Amount General Grant
Form 990-PF Grant
Formula Grant Grantee
Fringe Benefits Grantor
Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) Grant Agreement
Funding Cycle Grant Period
Funding Offer Guidelines
Funding Priorities Hard Funds


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. Accessible (for free) on GuideStar, the forms are useful for prospect research.


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


FRINGE BENEFITS: A cost category for non-salary and non-wage modes of staff compensation that accrue to those who qualify for them; usually stated as a percentage (%) of salaries or wages. Among examples are: health insurance; dental insurance; unemployment insurance; workers’ compensation; paid holidays; paid sick leave; paid personal leave; paid vacation days; and FICA (social security).


FULL-TIME EQUIVALENT (FTE): The financial obligation for one full-time staff member. Full-time often denotes a position that requires more than 30 hours per week. 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 (stated as: % FTE) or as a specific number of hours per week.


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 PRIORITY: Any one of the 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. Also called a Funding Preference.


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.


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, Sub-grantee.


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


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.


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, 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.


A later post will cover Budget Development Glossary entries from In-Kind Contribution to Novice Applicant.





Knowing the language of budget development is essential for writing proposals that win grants. Entries here span Demonstration Grant to Fiscal Year. Their context is North America.


Below is a list of glossary terms in this post:


Demonstration Grant Enabling Legislation
Direct Cost Endowment Fund
Direct Services Grant Equipment
Discretionary Grant External Grant
DUNS Number Family Foundation
Earmark Federated Giving Program
Eligible Activity Fiscal Agent
Eligible Applicant Fiscal Sponsor
Eligibility Criterion Fiscal Year (FY)


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 COST: A cost 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 also may be a grant awarded to a recipient based upon 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, must use Internet Explorer); it is 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 ACTIVITY: One of a circumscribed set of activities for which applicants can propose to spend available grant funds. Enabling state or federal legislation often explicitly defines eligible activities. Many public and private grant makers also often define them in their application guidelines or on their websites.


ELIGIBLE APPLICANT: One of several 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, Local Educational Agencies, and Federally Recognized American Indian Tribes, among others. Depending upon the specific grant maker and the specific grant program, individuals also are often eligible to apply for grants.


ELIGIBILITY CRITERION: One of several qualifying factors that a potential applicant must satisfy before it seeks a grant; often it pertains to the type of individual or organization as an applicant or to the population 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 educational agency, and the federal educational agency.


FAMILY FOUNDATION: An independent, private foundation that the members of a single family fund and maintain. Example: Walton 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: Tulsa Area United Way.


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 Budget Development Glossary entries from Floor Amount to Hard Funds.

Knowing the language of budget development is essential for writing proposals that win grants. Entries here span Capacity to Declining Funding. Their context is North America.


Below is a list of glossary terms in this post:


Capacity Concept Paper
Capacity-Building Grant Construction
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Consultants
Categorical Grant Contact Person
Ceiling Amount Continuation Grant
CFDA Number Contractual
Challenge Grant Corporate Grant
Commitment Cost Categories
Community Foundation Cost Sharing
Competitive Grant Declining Funding
Competitive Priority  


CAPACITY: A measure of an applicant’s present and future ability to implement and sustain an initiative or project that it has proposed for external grant funding.


CAPACITY-BUILDING GRANT: (1) A grant designed to create or expand an applicant’s ability to provide services – often of a magnitude and scope similar to those funded through a proposed grant – after that grant expires. (2) A grant intended to create or expand an applicant’s ability to operate more effectively or more efficiently or more sustainably.


CATALOG OF FEDERAL DOMESTIC ASSISTANCE (CFDA): The former compendium of all domestic grant programs and other forms of assistance for all federal agencies in the United States of America; its program descriptions provided critical information for potential applicants for federal grants. Also see: Assistance Listings and CFDA Number.


CATEGORICAL GRANT: A grant awarded by a federal agency to an eligible entity, such as a unit of state or local government, for a specific purpose, as defined by law or regulation.


CEILING AMOUNT: The maximum amount allowed as a grant request, often stated as the upper limit of an anticipated funding range. Also see: Floor Amount.


CFDA NUMBER: A unique five-digit code for each federal funding program; it includes a unique two-digit prefix code for the specific federal agency, a dot or point, and a unique three-digit code for each specific funding program. Example: All grants from the United States Department of Education are coded as 84.XXX. Example: Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant Program is CFDA 84.336S. Also see: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA).


CHALLENGE GRANT: A grant from a single source intended to lead to further grants from other sources by committing the grant maker to award a grant only if the applicant raises the balance of funds from other sources within a certain pre-defined time period.


COMMITMENT: A measure of an applicant’s present and future internal investment of its own resources – both cash and in-kind – in an initiative or project that it proposes for external grant funding.


COMMUNITY FOUNDATION: A charitable organization that awards grants in a specific community or geographic region. In general, community foundations receive funds from many donors, maintain them in multiple endowments, and use the endowments’ income to fund grant awards. Example: Greater Houston Community Foundation.


COMPETITIVE GRANT: A grant from a program in which eligible applicants submit proposals, the grant maker reviews, rates, and ranks the proposals, and the highest ranked proposals are funded down a list of applicants, usually until available funds are exhausted.


COMPETITIVE PRIORITY: An area of focus which a grant maker would prefer to see as part of an applicant’s proposal; it may affect the rating or the rank ordering of proposals either by the award of additional scoring points or by its use as a tie-breaker. Also see:Absolute Priority, Invitational Priority.


CONCEPT PAPER: A short variant of a full-length grant application, often only two or three pages long, that may be used or required for applicants seeking a corporate or foundation grant. At the least, it should include a problem statement, a program narrative, and a budget.


CONSTRUCTION: A cost category for the materials used in creating or modifying the facilities where some or all of a project’s activities will take place; by contrast, construction labor itself is a contractual budget line item. Some grant programs disallow construction line items.


CONSULTANT: An individual or organization that provides paid professional advice or services to support a grant-funded project or initiative, but which is not in the employ of the grant recipient or its partners; some grant makers use Consultants as a distinct cost category.


CONTACT PERSON: A person or persons of whom a grant maker may ask questions about the content, nature, and scope of an applicant’s proposal. Examples: The proposed project’s Principal Investigator or Project Director or the applicant’s Executive Director.


CONTINUATION GRANT: A grant of additional funding awarded for one or more budget periods following the initial budget period of a multiyear discretionary grant; its award may require the applicant to demonstrate adequate progress towards accomplishing objectives during a current funding period.


CONTRACTUAL: A cost category for services to be provided by independent contractors in implementing a project. Contractors may be organizations or individuals. Such budget items may include: evaluators, trainers, consultants, partner subcontracts, and many other external providers of services; they may also include contracts for the rental or lease of facilities or equipment or similar resources.


CORPORATE GRANT: A charitable grant awards program funded by a for-profit business or corporation; it may be independent of the corporation and it may have its own endowment. Example: Royal Dutch Shell offers several types of local grants for community, education, and environment.


COST CATEGORIES: The set of primary types of line items presented in a project budget. Common categories for government grants are: Personnel; Fringe Benefits; Contractual; Travel; Supplies; Equipment; Construction; Other; and Indirect Costs. Categories for foundation grants are typically fewer; they may be as few as only Personnel and Non-Personnel.


COST SHARING: An applicant’s contribution to the costs of a grant-funded project or initiative beyond any matching that may be required by law or regulation. Also see: Matching Funds.


DECLINING FUNDING: An amount of grant funding that decreases from year to year during a multiyear grant period. Also see: Level Funding, Zero Funding.


A later post will cover Budget Development Glossary entries from Demonstration Grant to Fiscal Year.


Knowing the language of budget development is essential for writing proposals that win grants. Entries here span Absolute Priority to Building Renovation Grant. Their context is North America.


Below is a list of glossary terms in this post:


Absolute Priority Award
Activity Award Notification
Allowable Cost Budget
Annual Performance Report (APR) Budget Item
Applicant Budget Justification
Application Budget Narrative
Assistance Listings Budget Period
Assurance Building Renovation Grant


ABSOLUTE PRIORITY: An area of focus that a government agency, as a grant maker, requires without exception as part of an applicant’s proposal, and that, if it is absent, prevents a proposal from being reviewed, scored, or ranked. It is one of three common types of government agency funding priorities. Also see: Competitive Priority, Invitational Priority.


ACTIVITY: One of a logical sequence of actions or steps to be undertaken to accomplish one or more project objectives by applying specific identified resources and strategies to solve a problem or to meet a need within a pre-defined span of time. Also see: Objective.


ALLOCATION: A specific amount of funding that an applicant proposes or requests for each line item in each cost category in its budget.


ALLOWABLE COST: Any one of the cost categories or discrete line items that a grant maker permits or encourages or requires an applicant to include as part of a proposed budget. Also see: Unallowable Cost.


ANNUAL PERFORMANCE REPORT (APR): A yearly document that a grant recipient submits (often online) to a grant maker, as required; commonly, it includes a description of project accomplishments, a statement of progress towards attaining project objectives, and project budget information. It may also discuss obstacles to successful implementation and past or future steps or actions to overcome them. It is also called an Annual Report.


APPLICANT: The organization or individual that seeks a grant by submitting a proposal (or an application) for funding. It will be legally responsible for properly managing the funding if a grant is awarded. Also see: Fiscal Agent.


APPLICATION: The total formal document or package that an applicant submits to a grant maker. It describes a proposed project and its budget, and it usually forms the basis for a grant award; often used as a synonym for Proposal.


ASSISTANCE LISTINGS: A relatively new, searchable list of all domestic grant programs and other forms of assistance for all federal agencies in the United States of America; its program descriptions present information of interest to potential applicants for federal grants. Also see: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.


ASSURANCE: A legally binding declaration, signed by an applicant and commonly included with its application, which certifies that the applicant already does comply with specific requirements of a grant maker and/or will comply with them if a grant is awarded.


AWARD: A specific amount of grant funding; often called a Funding Award or a Grant Award.


AWARD NOTIFICATION: A formal, written, physical document that a grant maker typically mails to an applicant; it informs the applicant that it will receive a grant, and it indicates the amount of the grant award and the start and end dates of the grant period. It is also called a Grant Award Notification (GAN) or a Notice of Grant Award (NOGA) or a Notice of Award (NOA).


BUDGET: (1) The total estimated cost of all project activities. (2) A plan for expending funds in a grant award. A budget often may incorporate both revenues (also called income) and expenditures.


BUDGET ITEM: A single element in a proposed budget; it includes a brief description and an amount requested per project year. Also see: Line Item.


BUDGET JUSTIFICATION: A brief description or explanation defending items in a proposed budget, particularly all of those items that peer reviewers may find questionable.


BUDGET NARRATIVE: A brief description or explanation of some or all of the line items in a proposed budget; it is often used as another term for a Budget Justification.


BUDGET PERIOD: The time-span that any given budget covers, usually any 12 consecutive months, such as a grant maker’s fiscal year. Also see: Grant Period, Project Period.


BUILDING RENOVATION GRANT: A grant of funds intended to be used to repair, renew, or construct one or more buildings or parts of buildings; informally, it is also called a Bricks and Mortar Grant.


A later post will cover Budget Development Glossary entries from Capacity to Declining Funding.


Active seekers of competitive grants must be aware of broad social, political, and economic trends that impact their ability to obtain funding. Some of these trends are newly emerging; others are persistent. A few of the more salient trends in the 2010s are explored here.


Trend: Cost-Sharing

Grant makers consistently expect evidence of an applicant’s investment in or commitment to its proposed project. Cost sharing may be explicit or implied, optional or required. Required shared cost ratios of 4:1, 3:1, 2:1, even 1:1 are common. Local cost sharing can demonstrate broad-based community support for problem-solving strategies an applicant proposes to use.


Cost-Sharing Strategies:

  • Observe at least the minimum cost sharing ratios required
  • Select cost sharing items whose values can be documented well
  • Identify specific cost sharing commitments and amounts in letters of commitment
  • Build resources for use in cost sharing through partnerships and collaboration


Trend: Community Engagement

Many competitive grant programs encourage authentic, measurable, and sustained involvement of families and community groups in planning, implementing, and evaluating a project. Both public and private grant makers also often require documentation of the nature and extent of such community engagement.


Community Engagement Strategies:

  • Design programs around forms of community engagement
  • Ensure active community participation in developing grant proposals
  • Offer alternative ways for community members to participate
  • Use multiple channels to invite public participation in grant-related activities


Trend: Research

Both public and private grant makers demand a robust research-based rationale for the strategies an applicant proposes. Applicants for projects involving direct services, as well as those for model, demonstration, and research-oriented projects must show that they will integrate or apply best practices in doing what they propose to do.


Research Strategies:

  • Create an on-hand research base for use in anticipated proposals
  • Do a thorough literature search well before you need a review of it for a proposal
  • Use scientific and statistical research studies and meta-analyses
  • Use local, state, and national plans, reports, and white papers as resources


Trend: Training

Many grant makers expect applicants to budget for human resource development or to demonstrate that qualifications of staff and other participants eliminate the need for it. Such terms as “family education”, “parental involvement”, “staff development”, and “professional development” all tend to carry more positive connotations than mere “training.”


Training Strategies:

  • Collect vitae and resumes for potential use in future proposals
  • Adopt the grant maker’s alternate term of choice in writing about “training”
  • Do local needs assessments to support plans to conduct “training”
  • Review the research literature about what works in doing “training”


This is one of a series on trends in grant making. As a grant writer and/or a grant seeker, you may discern others, or you may discern counter-trends. If so, don’t hesitate to comment.

This is one in a series of posts presenting sample elements of a possible proposal. In their illustrative details, its contents are both fictional and factual; however, its overall approach has won grants for similar purposes.


Budget. YCESC will contribute the services of a Project Coordinator (conservatively estimated at 10% full-time equivalent) to organize, coordinate, and evaluate the project’s Environmental Education training and dissemination activities in collaboration with its school and Watershed Education partners. Use of local and state in-kind matching funds will exceed 25% of the total cost of the project; they will represent an estimated $9,000 (or 26.47%) out of a total budget of $34,000. 

The budget identifies and justifies the costs of a project or initiative. It should be consistent with objectives, activities, strategies, and other aspects of the Work Plan as well as with future funding plans. Funds for budget items may come from a grant, an applicant, and other sources.


The budget presents itemized costs and their basis. It must be specific, detailed, accurate, and justified. Some grant makers may allow applicants to adjust a proposed budget during negotiations or after notification of funding.


An itemized budget can use a four-column format: Item Cost Category, Grant (Requested) Funds, Other (Local) Funds, and Line Item Totals:


  1. Item Cost Category – a brief description of each budget item
  2. Grant (Requested) Funds – funds from the requested grant award
  3. Other (Local) Funds – funds from all other sources than the requested grant award
  4. Line Item Totals – sums of each line in Grant Funds and Other Funds columns


Budget Graphic


A Budget Justification explains the calculations and factors used to arrive at figures presented for each budget line item.


In ordinary practice, budget considerations loom large. They can drive an applicant’s initial decision to submit a grant proposal as well as impact every aspect of any proposed Work Plan.


Preparing Budgets


In planning a budget for a proposal, several questions prove useful:


Personnel: What personnel will the project or initiative require? What will they cost? Who will pay for them? Do you have already established salary and wage schedules?


Fringe Benefits: What benefits will personnel receive? What will they cost? Who will pay for them? On what basis are the fringe benefits calculated? What do they include?


Travel: Will personnel travel anywhere? Who will go? What will transportation, lodging, event registrations, and per diem expenses cost? What will each destination cost?


Supplies: What supplies will the project or initiative require? How does the grant maker define supplies? What will they cost? Who will pay for them?


Equipment: What equipment will the project or initiative require? How does the grant maker define equipment? What will it cost? Who will pay for it?


Contracts: What contracted services will the project or initiative require? Who will provide them? What will they cost? Who will pay for them?


Other: What other resources will the project or initiative require? What will they cost? Who will pay for them?


Indirect Costs: What is your indirect cost rate? On what basis is it calculated? How was it established? To what categories of budget items can it be applied?


This post is one in a series about questions useful in planning competitive grant proposals.


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