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What is a Grant?

A "grant" is a general term for funds that organizations receive that are not expected to be repaid. To receive a grant, organizations must compete for funds by submitting an application and undergoing an evaluation process.

Grants may be awarded by state or local agencies, private foundations, or corporations. Here, however, we will focus on grants from the federal government.

While grants are not paid back, they are not free money. Funds should be spent responsibly and according to what was described in the approved application.

Expected deviations from the approved plan should be communicated to the agency’s program officer in charge of overseeing your particular grant project.

Key things about grants:

Competitive. Grant programs almost always have more applicants than available resources can fund. Due to high demand, even strong applications can fail to receive funding the first time around. Many agencies, however, provide comments generated by the grant reviewers. Be sure to read them, improve your application, and apply again. If you need help understanding the reviewers’ comments, talk to the program officer.

Targeted. Grant programs are authorized by Congress to address a particular problem, and to do so within specified parameters. A grant will only fund projects that fall within the scope of that purpose.

Extensive. Grant proposals contain a thorough plan to address a problem that meets the purpose outlined in a granting agency’s guidelines. These guidelines require a written narrative for which applicants need to conduct extensive research and planning to complete.

Some complex proposals can take 6 months or more to finish. Applicants should know how much time and resources they will need to invest and plan accordingly.

Conditional. Each grant program has its own specifications regarding who is eligible to apply, grantee obligations, and reporting requirements. These must be followed.