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What is a Grant?
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What is a grant?  My definition is simple - A grant is an opportunity. As grant professionals, our clients fight the endless battle of fiscal responsibility vs. the immense desire to fill unmet needs in their communities. No matter who is president, what party controls congress, or what budget gets approved, reimbursement for services and funding for the most at-risk citizens of this country have never been sufficiently funded. Grants are an opportunity for non-profits and government agencies to obtain the funding they need to reach their goals and measurably impact the target sector they serve. According to Wikipedia, grants are “non-repayable funds or products disbursed or given by one party (grant makers), often a government department, corporation, foundation or trust, to a recipient, often (but not always) a nonprofit entity, educational institution, business or an individual”. This, too, is accurate.

Of the 1.4 trillion dollars in government funding in federal fiscal year 2020, the budget includes almost $185 billion in domestic discretionary spending which means that these dollars will be available in competitive grant solicitations[1]. In addition to government grants, in 2018- the latest totals we have to date- giving by foundations was $75.86 billion[2] and giving by corporations totaled $20.05 billion[3]. Grantmakers want results and they demand accountability, as they should. The Office of Management and Budget utilizes the “Uniform Guidance” which contains requirements, cost principles, and audit requirements for federal awards. Foundations and corporations are typically less stringent but certainly have grant guidelines, allowable and non-allowable budgetary expenditures, and marketing requirements to abide by. Once awarded a grant, the authorized signatory must sign an agreement to these terms in order to get the funding.

As good stewards of grant awards, the one constant in all we do as grant professionals is to follow our Grant Professional Association (GPA) Code of Ethics. These ethical and professional standards are embedded in the lifecycle of the grant process through pre-award, award, post-award, and close out. Before the time a “Request for Proposal” (RFP) is released for a funding opportunity that aligns with an agency’s mission and strategic plan, grant professionals are diligently gathering research and data on their communities, agencies, staff and board of the agency, programmatic outcomes, and policies and procedures. They are meeting with decision makers to determine the priorities of the agency and the best approach, practices, and policies to meet the agency goals. After all, grants are competitive and the timetable from release of the RFP to submission is often less than 60 days, although the notice of an award can take up to one full year. 

Grants are time sensitive, specific, and unique - outline, page limits, font size and type, scoring rubric, narrative and attachments are almost always different. This is why grant professionals who continually stay up to date on the trends of funders, who have the skills of grantsmanship and who abide by the GPA Code of Ethics can be great resources for any agency or organization applying for grants of any size, from any grant maker. The opportunities are not endless nor are they always the right fit, so be strategic and embrace them – the need is certainly there!

AuthorCyndi MacKenzie, Grant Professional Certified, has won over $30 million in resources with her clients. With 17 years in the field, Cyndi offers ethical services to non-profits of all sizes including prospect research, board development, strategic planning development, grant writing and management, budget creation and post-award consultation. As a Grant Professional Approved Trainer, Cyndi provides webinar, in-person and customized training on topics ranging from grant readiness to uniform guidance compliance.  Cyndi is a Grant News contributing author and Co-Chair of the GPA Ethics Committee.  She has offices in FL and ME. 



[2] Candid

[3] Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018.