Foundation Operations: Grantmaking-> Commonly Used Terms - GIH Skip Navigation

Foundation Operations: Grantmaking-> Commonly Used Terms

Definitions of commonly used terms in grantmaking.

Reprinted with permission from Grantmaking Basics: A Field Guide for Funders, (c) 1999 by the Council on Foundations. For additional information, please visit

"Bricks and Mortar"
: An informal term indicating grants for buildings or construction projects.

Building Campaign: A drive to raise funds for construction or renovation of buildings.

Capital Campaign: Also referred to as a Capital Development Campaign, a capital campaign is an organized drive to collect and accumulate substantial funds to finance major needs of an organization such as a building or major repair project.

Challenge Grant: A grant that is made on the condition that other monies must be secured, either on a matching basis or via some other formula, usually within a specified period of time, with the objective of stimulating giving from additional sources.

Decline: Also referred to as Denial, a decline is the refusal or rejection of a grant request. Some declination letters explain why the grant was not made, but many do not.

Demonstration Grant: A grant made to establish an innovative project or program that will serve as a model, if successful, and may be replicated by others.

Donee: See Grantee.

Donor: See Grantor.

Expenditure Responsibility: When a private foundation makes a grant to an organization that is not classified by the IRS as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) and as a public charity according to Section 509(a), it is required by law to ensure that the funds are spent for charitable purposes and not for private gain or political activities. Such grants require a pre-grant inquiry and a detailed, written agreement. Special reports on the status of the grant must be filed with the IRS, and the grantees must be listed on the foundation's IRS Form 990-PF.

Financial Report: An accounting statement detailing financial data, including income from all sources, expenses, assets and liabilities. A financial report may also be an itemized accounting that shows how grant funds were used by a donee organization. Most foundations require a financial report from grantees.

Funding Cycle: A chronological pattern of proposal review, decision making and applicant notification. Some donor organizations make grants at set intervals (quarterly, semi-annually, etc.), while others operate under an annual cycle.

Giving Pattern: The overall picture of the types of projects and programs that a donor has supported historically. The past record may include areas of interest, geographic locations, dollar amount of funding or kinds of organizations supported.

Grant: An award of funds to an organization or individual to undertake charitable activities.

Grant Monitoring: The ongoing assessment of the progress of the activities funded by a donor, with the objective of determining if the terms and conditions of the grant are being met and if the goal of the grant is likely to be achieved.

Grantee: The individual or organization that receives a grant.

Grantor: The individual or organization that makes a grant.

Guidelines: A statement of a foundation's goals, priorities, criteria and procedures for applying for a grant 

In-Kind Contribution: A donation of goods or services rather than cash or appreciated property.

Letter of Intent: A grantor's letter or brief statement indicating intention to make a specific gift.

Leverage: A method of grantmaking practiced by some foundations. Leverage occurs when a small amount of money is given with the express purpose of attracting funding from other sources or of providing the organization with the tools it needs to raise other kinds of funds. Sometimes known as the "multiplier effect."

Matching Grant: A grant or gift made with the specification that the amount donated must be matched on a one-for-one basis or according to some other prescribed formula.

Operating Support: A contribution given to cover an organization's day-to-day, ongoing expenses, such as salaries, utilities, office supplies, etc.

Pledge: A promise to make future contributions to an organization. For example, some donors make multiyear pledges promising to grant a specific amount of money each year.

Post-Grant Evaluation: A review of the results of a grant, with the emphasis upon whether or not the grant achieved its desired objective.

Preliminary Proposal: A brief draft of a grant proposal used to learn if there is sufficient interest to warrant submitting a proposal.

Program-Related Investment: A loan or other investment made by a private foundation to a profitmaking or nonprofit organization for a project related to the foundation's stated purpose and interests. Program-related investments are an exception to the general rule barring jeopardy investments. Often, program-related investments are made from a revolving fund; the foundation generally expects to receive its money back with limited, or below-market, interest, which then will provide additional funds for loans to other organizations. A program-related investment may involve loan guarantees, purchases of stock or other kinds of financial support.

Query Letter: Also referred to as a letter of inquiry, this is a brief letter outlining an organization's activities and a request for funding sent to a prospective donor to determine if there is sufficient interest to warrant submitting a full proposal. This saves the time of the prospective donor and the time and resources of the prospective applicant. (See Preliminary Proposal.)

Restricted Funds: Assets or income that is restricted in its use, in the types of organizations that may receive grants from it or in the procedures used to make grants from such funds.

Seed Money: A grant or contribution used to start a new project or organization.

Site Visit: Visiting a donee organization at its office location or area of operation and/or meeting with its staff or directors or with recipients of its services.

Technical Assistance: Operational or management assistance given to a nonprofit organization. It can include fundraising assistance, budgeting and financial planning, program planning, legal advice, marketing and other aids to management. Assistance may be offered directly by a foundation or corporate staff member or in the form of a grant to pay for the services of an outside consultant. (See In-Kind Contribution.)

Tipping: The situation that occurs when a gift or grant is made that is large enough to significantly alter the grantee's funding base and cause it to fail the public support test. Such a gift or grant results in "tipping" or conversion from public charity to private foundation status.


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