When you're new to fundraising, it may seem that there is a whole vocabulary of grant-making that you aren't familiar with. Use this glossary to get your bearings.
Activities: the actions you will take in order to reach your objectives and goals (i.e. hold a baby fair in order to reach your objective of educating local expectant parents about normal birth options)
Authorized Signature: the signature of the person who is legally responsible for your organization
Budget (Project): a breakdown of revenue and expenses by category (salaries, supplies, equipment, etc.) of the amount of money that is required to complete a project or series of projects. This may be for one year or multiple years.
Budget (Organizational): a breakdown of revenue and expenses by category for an organization as a whole. This is typically developed for a fiscal year and incorporates all sources of revenue (project grants, operational funding, individual donations, etc.)
CFDA: the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (federal grants). Go to www.grants.gov for information on applying for federal grants.
Community Foundation: a 501(c)(3) organization that makes grants for charitable purposes in a specific community or region.
Direct Costs: all items that can be categorically identified and charged to the specific project, such as personnel, fringe benefits, consultants, travel, equipment, supplies and materials, etc.
Donee or Grantee: the recipient of a grant
Donor or Grantor: an individual or organization that makes a grant or contribution to a donee.
Executive Summary: also called a cover page – briefly summarizes the project and gives basic “who, what, why, where, how” information. It is often the only page that will be read so it is crucial to state your case in a very succinct and professional manner.
501(c)(3): the section of the U.S. tax code that defines nonprofit, charitable (as broadly defined), tax-exempt organizations; 501(c)(3) organizations are further defined as public charities, private operating foundations, and private non-operating foundations.
Financial report: a report detailing how grant funds were used by an organization. Most grantmakers require this kind of report from grantees. A financial report generally includes a listing of all expenditures from grant funds
Fundraising: the process of soliciting money or items by requesting donations or applying for grants
Fundraising Plan: an organizational plan over a specific period of time that defines all fundraising activities, events, and grant applications
General operating support grant: a grant made to further the general purpose or work of an organization, rather than for a specific purpose or project (project support); also called an unrestricted grant
Goals: what you intend to accomplish. A goal is more abstract than an objective in that it does not always have measurable outcomes (i.e. a goal might be “to decrease the rate of unnecessary medical interventions in the birth process”. An objective would be “to educate medical personnel in your community on the value of normal birth”. An activity you would use towards accomplishing this objective might be to “set up appointments with 10 doctors and their staff to show them the latest best practices and research that address the importance of normal birth”. The measurable outcome would be the “statistics that you keep on the number of normal births vs. intervention within those doctor’s offices”.
Grant: an amount of money or objects given to an organization or individual to fill a need that the grantor supports.
Grassroots fundraising: efforts to raise money from individuals or groups from the local community on a broad basis. Grassroots fundraising activities include membership drives, raffles, auctions, benefits, and a range of other activities.
Indirect Costs: overhead costs that your organization would have to pay in order to support a grant project (i.e. utilities, rent, secretarial or coordinator time). Some funders are very specific about not allowing overhead costs to be built into the grant while other funders realize that these costs are essential to the project and may fund a certain percentage. Be sure to clarify this issue before building indirect costs into a grant budget.
In-kind contribution: a contribution of equipment, supplies, or other tangible resources, space, or staff time that shows good faith support for the project and is not part of the requested funds.
Matching Funds: a dollar amount that another party agrees to contribute to the project in the same amount as the funder. Sometimes the dollar value of in-kind contributions may be considered to be matching funds.
Monitoring: the methods you will use to ensure that your project activities are being completed as stated in the grant, in the timeline specified in the grant and within the budget
Narrative: the written portion of your proposal that describes who, what, where, when, why, and how. Most funders are very specific as to format and content of the narrative.
Needs Statement or Justification: the part of the grant in which you explain why you should be funded and specifically what the need is, using supporting data whenever possible
Objectives: specific, measurable aims for the project with matching outcomes to measure them
Outcomes: Expected results of the project which can be used to measure its success
PI: an acronym for Principal Investigator – the responsible person and contact generally in federal projects
Project Director or Coordinator: the individual responsible for activities involved in the project, including the evaluation and follow-up
Proposal: a written application, often accompanied by supporting documents, submitted to a funder in requesting a grant. Most foundations and corporations do not use printed application forms but instead require written proposals; others prefer preliminary letters of inquiry prior to a formal proposal. Consult published guidelines.
Letter of Inquiry: a brief letter outlining an organization's activities and its request for funding that is sent to a potential funder in order to determine whether it would be appropriate to submit a full grant proposal. Many funders prefer to be contacted in this way before receiving a full proposal.
Letter of Interest: a very short summarization of your project written to a potential funder that will allow them to determine if they would like to see a full proposal. Similar to a letter of inquiry but more brief.
RFP: an acronym for Request for Proposal. Sometimes referred to as an RFA (Request for Application). When the government issues a new contract or grant program, it sends out RFPs to agencies that might be qualified to participate. The RFP lists project specifications and application procedures. While a few foundations occasionally use RFPs in specific fields, most prefer to consider proposals that are initiated by applicants.
Tax-exempt: refers to organizations that do not have to pay taxes such as federal or state corporate tax or state sales tax. Individuals who make donations to such organizations may be able to deduct these contributions from their income tax.
There are many components to a complete grant application. Before you submit any application, use this checklist to make sure everything is in order.
Are your familiar with the grant-making organization’s mission? Does your proposed project advance that mission? It doesn’t matter how impressive your project is if it doesn’t match with the funding organization’s priorities. Your organization’s mission may be to advance Mother-Friendly Childbirth in your community. This doesn’t mean you can’t go to grant-making organizations that want to protect women’s rights, improve children’s health, lower the preterm birth rate, or prevent family violence. But make sure that you are explicit about how your proposed activities will advance their mission, not yours.
Does your funder have preferences or requirements about the population or geographic region served? It may be that the funder is only interested in projects that help underserved populations. They may be bound by by-laws or legal restrictions that prevent them from giving to certain causes or applicants outside of their service area. Don’t waste your time if it’s not the right fit.
Are your budget and timeline realistic and are they within the limits the funder has specified? Do your homework and be sure that the money you are requesting is realistic for the activities you propose and the time it will take to achieve your goals. Have you thought about your methods of accounting and reporting revenues and expenditures?
Have you accurately reflected the value of in-kind contributions and volunteer labor in your budget? Don’t take these for granted. Valuing these contributions shows your funder that there are dedicated people and some amount of infrastructure behind your organization.
Did you propose goals and objectives that are realistic and achievable? Goals are the method of achieving your needs. Objectives are the specific ways you will attain your goals and activities are the actions needed to reach your objectives. If you are a small, grass-roots organization, no funder will expect your proposed project to decrease the cesarean section rate, preterm birth rate, etc. But perhaps it will reach 200 expectant women with key messages about normal birth, provide one-to-one breastfeeding support to 75 nursing mothers, or match 30 low-income women with volunteer doulas. Think big with your mission but be realistic about (and proud of!) what you can achieve with your current resources.
For each objective, are you able to monitor and evaluate your progress? The evaluation techniques and ability to sustain a project beyond funding are key elements of consideration for a funder.
Have you provided all requested attachments such as budgets, current biographies or “CV’s”, and by-laws? Have you followed application instructions and formatting requirements?
Have you double and triple checked spelling and grammar? Have you edited your application for redundant or unnecessary words and sentences?
DON’T FORGET: Be clear and concise, follow the funder’s guidelines, and always double check everything. It is a waste of your valuable time to submit a grant that will get rejected because you didn’t follow directions.