Standard Terminology You Should Know for Grant Writing

All federal grant and cooperative agreement announcements use two types of terms: general and program-specific. General terms are words or phrases that appear in all funding announcements. Program-specific terms are words or phrases used in connection with a particular program. Knowing both types of terms and using them correctly throughout your grant application increases your review criteria points and therefore the likelihood that your application will be recommended for funding.

The gist of general terms

Knowing general terms can help you understand what any funding agency is talking about in the grant or cooperative agreement announcement. If you’ve only been schooled in oranges, and the funding agency writes its entire announcement in apples, you’ll be lost if you don’t understand the key terms used.

Some key general terms you may encounter in grant announcements include the following:

  • Budget period: The interval of time by which a grant program defines its funding cycle. The cycle can range from one year to multiple years. For example, a large percentage of federal grants start on the first day of the federal fiscal year, October 1; the budget period for grants awarded on October 1 ends on September 30 of the following year.

  • Nonprofit organization: Typically defined according to what the tax code classifies as a “charitable” or 501(c)(3) organization.

  • Project period: The total time a project is approved for support, including any extensions. This time period can range from 12 months to 60 months (or longer).

  • Third party: Any individual, organization, or business entity (different from your partners) that isn’t the direct recipient of grant funds but will subcontract with the grantee to act as its fiscal agent and carry out specified activities in the plan of operation.

  • Third-party arrangement: An arrangement in which the fiscal agent is the third party in the grant or cooperative agreement application.

Seek out program-specific terms

Every government program, both federal and state, has its own terms and definitions. These program-specific terms appear in the full grant application guidelines.

Each government agency provides its own definitions of the terms in the grant-funding opportunity announcement. Use the same terms as those published in the announcement when you write your grant application. By using each agency’s terms and its definitions, you meet the basic requirement of the review criteria — showing that you understand the feds’ language.

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