Office of Grants & Contracts

Glossary terms and definitions

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Accountability - The monitoring of grant funds. See also FSRS

Approval Request - The form on Online Grant Information System (OGIS) used to request approval to submit a grant application to a funder.

Approved Proposal - Approved (funded) grant your host organization (institution, agency, secondary school, or a combination thereof) submitted.

APR - Annual Performance Report. The Department of Education uses this report to assess a grantee’s (funded project) progress in meeting its approved goals and objectives, as well as determining prior experience points.

Award - The sum of money given by a contracting or granting agency.


Boilerplates - Sections of a document that have been used so often they become standardized elements that seldom change with each new use. E.g. institution mission statement, college history, accreditation, etc.

Budget - A plan for anticipated expenditures and activities stated in financial terms. 

Types of Budgets:  

  • Line Item: Budget formatorganized in tabular and narrative form, in which expenditures are listed as items, each on their own lines, that describe expenditures.
  • Performance: Budget format in which costs of performing sets of interrelated activities are aggregated.
  • Program: Budget format in which costs are related to outcomes and expenditures.  

Budget Narrative - Also referred to as a budget justification, this document provides an in depth explanation of the expenses (and in somes cases revenues) of the accompanying line-item budget.  For example, the line-item budget shows travel expenses that will be incurred, and the budget narrative will explain why the travel expenses are necessary to the project.

The format of the budget narrative should follow the listing of items on the line-item budget (top to bottom), and can vary depending on the funder. 

Budget Period - EDGAR 77.1 defines as an interval of time into which a project period is divided for budgetary purposes. Also known as Project Year.


Capital Expenses - Funds for purchases of equipment (over a certain amount), real property, building renovations and construction.

CDFA - Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.

CEDA - Clearwater Economic Development Council.

Challenge Grant - Challenge grants are offered by a funder with express stipulation that the grantee organization must locate another funder (or collection of resources) who will share a percentage of the project costs. Federal grant programs use this provision to assure the participation of local resources in grant programs.

Cognizant Agency - The cognizant federal agency is the agency from which the institution receives the greatest amount of funds. This is the agency the hosting institution negotiates the Indirect Cost Rate Agreement with.

Community Foundation - A 501 (c)(3) organization which makes grants for charitable purposes in a specific community or region. Funds are usually derived from many donors and held in an endowment independently administered; income earned by the endowment is then used to make grants.

Company Sponsored Foundation (Corporate Foundation) - A private foundation whose grant funds are derived primarily from the contributions of a profit-making business organization. The company sponsored foundation may maintain close ties with the donor company, but it is an independent organization with its own endowment and is subject to the same rules and regulations as other private foundations.

Contract - An award given for a specific activity in which the funder has specified all the terms (e.g. who can apply, exactly what is to be done, and how, at what cost, and by whom.)

Contribution - Gift or donation in various forms for which no tangible value is received.

Cost Share - Agreement in which two or more organizations share the cost of the project. See Matching.


Direct Costs - The specific identifiable costs of operating the grant supported project. Usually broken down into categories in the budget such as personnel, travel, equipment purchase, consumable supplies, rent, etc.

DOL - Department of Labor.

Donors - Persons who make cash or material contributions to the organization and its programs.


EDA - Economic Development Administration.

EDGAR - Educational Department General Administrative Regulations. Also known as the general regulations.

EFA - Educational Foundation of America.

Endowment - Stocks, bonds, property, and funds given permanently to an organization so that it may produce its own income. Foundations use endowments to create funds for grantmaking purposes.

Equipment (Institutional definition) - EDGAR 74.34 (f)(1)(i-ix) defines equipment as an article of nonexpendable, tangible personal property having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost which equals or exceeds the lesser of the capitalization level established by the institution for financial statement purposes, or $5,ooo.

ESIE - Elementary Secondary & Informal Education.


Facilities & Administration Costs (aka F&A Costs) - OMB Circular A-21 B (aka OMB Circular s CFR 220) identifies F&A as “costs that are incurred for common or joint objective and therefore cannot be identified readily and specifically with a particular sponsored project. F&A costs are synonymous with ‘indirect’ costs.” Also known as overhead costs.

Federal Register - The Federal Register is published every federal working day. Notices of Proposed Rule Making, closing dates for applications, etc. are all published in the Federal Register.

Fiscal Agent - U.S. organization with tax exempt status under code 501 (c) (3) that serves as the legal applicant for a non-tax exempt 501 (c) (3) organization. The fiscal agent takes on all legal responsibility for the grant. 

FIPSE - Foundation and Improvement of Secondary and Elementary Ed.

Foundation - A nongovernmental, nonprofit organization with funds and a program managed by its own trustees and directors, established to further social, educational, religious, or other charitable activities by making grants.

Foundation Support - Cash support derived from grants given for this project/program by private foundations.

FSRS - The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) is intended to hold the government accountable for spending, and reduce wasteful spending. The FFATA Subaward Reporting System (FSRS) is the reporting tool Federal prime awardees use to capture and report subaward and executive compensation data. For more information, please visit the FSRS website.

Funding Agency - The agency that awards a grant.

FY - Fiscal year (e. g. FY12).


GAARP - Grant Application Approval Request Procedure.

GEPA - General Education Provisions Act. Section 427 of GEPA affects applicants for new grant awards. This section requires each applicant for funds (other than an individual person) to include in its application a description of the steps the applicant proposes to take to ensure equitable access to, and participation in, its Federally-assisted program for students, teachers, and other program beneficiaries with special needs.

GPRA - The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) is a statute that requires all federal agencies to manage their activities with attention to the consequences of those activities. Each agency is to clearly state what it intends to accomplish, identify the resources required, and periodically report their progress to the Congress. In so doing, it is expected that the GPRA will contribute to improvements in accountability for the expenditures of public funds, improve Congressional decision-making through more objective information on the effectiveness of federal programs, and promote a new government focus on results, service delivery, and customer satisfaction.

Grant - For institutional purposes, a grant or a grant sub-contract is defined as funding which has specific outcomes that have to be addressed during the life of the grant.

Grant Budget - A financial description of the proposed project. It provides an understanding of the scale and scope of the proposed project.

Grant Contact - The person to contact for additional information about the application.

Grant Life Cycle - Begins at the proposal, through the project, and ends when the final report has been submitted. Usually the end of a grant’s life is signaled through a letter from the Funding Agency.

Grant Request - A request for funds that may be in the form of a short exploratory letter or a complete proposal.

Guidelines - A funder’s statement of its goals, priorities, eligibility criteria, and application procedures, or those of one of its programs. Guidelines will either tell you how to write your proposal or they will include forms to use that will constitute your proposal.


Hard Money - Money, cash; rather than facilities or services.

HRD - Human Resource Development.


IERI - Interagency Education Research Initiative.

Independent Student - Defined in Section 480 (d) of the HEA (Higher Education Act) of 1965, as amended as any individual who:  

  1. is an orphan or ward of the court;  
  2. is a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States (as defined in subsection (b)(1)&(2));  
  3. is a married individual; or  
  4. has legal dependents other than a spouse.

Indirect Costs - A budget category that is intended to cover those general administrative costs of operating a project that are hard to assign to specific project functions. These costs can include building rent and maintenance, depreciation, general local travel, and so forth. Indirect costs are usually calculated as a flat percentage of either the budget as a whole or the personnel category alone. Also known as Overhead.

In-kind Donations - The fair market dollar value of non-cash contributions to the project or program which are provided to applicant by volunteers or outside parties at no cash cost to the applicant. Volunteer time is calculated at minimum wage unless the volunteer is donating services which they provide as part of their profession in which case time is calculated at that person’s professional rate. Donated materials should be calculated at fair market value. Only donated items that are directly involved in the project or program described in the application should be included. Items or services unrelated to the project or program, even though received by the applicant, are not acceptable.


Letter of Support - Written statements attached to proposals.

Leveraging - Funding a program in a way that will enhance or encourage grants from other private, public, or individual sources.

Loaned Executive - A management level employee who is granted temporary, full-time, or part-time paid leave from their corporate duties to serve in some capacity with a nonprofit, charitable, or educational organization.


Matching - Grantee contributing, such as cash or in-kind (property, equipment, supplies, or services.)


NAHEI - Native American Higher Education Initiative

Narrative - The explanatory prose portion of the proposal that supplements the application form of many grant applications.

Needs Assessment - A critical component of the proposal, the needs assessment answers the question, “Why is this project needed?” It should provide a rationale for the funder’s consideration. Good needs assessments not only point out what the needs are, and why remedies for them are needed, but they also back up these assertions with quantitative data.

NEH - National Endowment for the Humanities

Non-traditional Student - A broad term with several different definitions. LCSC defines this as a student 26 years of age or older.

NPRM - Notice of Proposed Rule Making.

NSF - National Science Foundation.


Objectives - The proposal’s goals must be translated into specific, quantified targets or levels of achievement in order to provide a set of criteria by which the success or failure of the project can be judged. Objectives set forth desired changes in terms of numbers of clients, the level of activity or skill, and deadlines.

OGC - Office of Grants & Contracts.

OMB Circular A-21 (aka OMB Circular 2 CFR 220) - The Office of Management and Budget general cost principles as they relate to Federal projects hosted as higher education institutions.

OMB Circular A-110 (aka OMB Circular 2 CFR 215) - The Office of Management and Budget administrative requirements as they relate to educational institutions and non-profit organizations sponsoring Federal projects.

OMB circular A-133 - The Office of Management and Budget audit requirements for all institutions hosting Federal projects.


Principal Investigator (P.I.) - The P.I. is primarily responsible for locating funding sources and initiating projects for their program/unit of responsibility. The P.I. submits a proposal to a funding agency outlining the specifics of the project, the methodology of the tasks to be undertaken and the likely completion time for the work. Once funded a Principal Investigator (P.I.) is responsible for providing program administrative and compliance oversight. The PI also supervises the preparation and submittal of all appropriate reports for grant funded projects and ensuring grant compliance with any applicable rules and regulations. A P.I. may or may not also serve as the program director.

Planning Grant – A grant that funds the planning process of a program.

PMS - Payment Management System (used by ETA).

Principles affecting the allowability of costs - Reference OMB Circular A-21 C (aka OMB Circular 2 CFR 220) Basic Considerations:

  1. are the expenditures reasonable; 
  2. are they allocable to the funded grant;          
  3. are they given consistent treatment; and          
  4. do they conform to any limitations as to types or amounts of cost items.

Private Foundations - U.S. organizations that have charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or cultural purposes. When identified as philanthropic foundations, they are primarily in the business of funding causes, programs, organizations, and individuals they consider worthwhile.

Program - A set of interrelated activities aimed at the production of a service or some other outcome.

Program Grant - Grant earmarked to fund a specific project or program activity of an organization rather than for general operating expenses.

Project - A program which is time bound and has a relatively clear set of objectives.

Project/Program Director - A Program Director works with the PI to develop and implement guidelines and policies with the purpose of ensuring compliance with all applicable rules and regulations. The program director develops, implements, and evaluates program activities, monitoring the effectiveness of the funded project and adjusting as needed to ensure meeting the stated objectives. Human resources duties, such as the recruitment and training of employees, typically also fall under the program director's list of responsibilities, as does monitoring the project's budget.

Project Period - Defined in EDGAR 74.2 as the period established in the award document during which Federal sponsorship begins and ends. Usually synonymous with Grant Cycle.

Proposal - Written request for a grant contribution. Outlines why the grant is needed, the need or purpose it will serve, the plan for meeting said need or purpose, the amount of money needed, and background about the applicant.


Query Letter - A brief letter outlining an organization’s activities and its request for funding sent to a foundation or corporate giving program to determine whether it would be appropriate to submit a full grant proposal. Many grantmakers prefer to be contacted in this way before receiving a full proposal.


RBEG - Rural Business Enterprise Grants

Restricted Funds - Gifts made for restricted purposes and held and not commingled with current, operating, or capital funds. Most grant funds need to be regarded as restricted funds for accounting purposes.

RFP - Request for Proposal.


SBDC - Small Business Development Center

Section 501(c)(3) - U.S. Internal Revenue Service Code section that defines exempt organizations – those organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, educational, or similar purposes. Many foundations restrict their grantmaking to 501(c)(3) organizations.

Seed Money - Charitable funds that are used to defray start-up costs of a program.

Soft Match - Service, facilities, equipment; anything but cash.

Soft Money - Insecure funding. Usually available for no more than a year.

Space Rental - Payments specifically identified with the project for rental of office, studios, theater, hall, gallery, and other such spaces.

STEM - Science Technology Engineering and Math (Education)

Supplement vs. Supplant - Federal funds may not be used to supplant, or replace funds or services that would otherwise be provided by state funding. Federal funds may be used to supplement, or augment programs and services. (OMB Circular A-133)


Unrestricted Funds - Grants made without prior stipulations as to their use, to be spent as the grantee sees fit. Also called Discretionary Funds.


Valuation - Method of affixing value to in-kind match.