Grantmaking Glossary

# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

: The section of the tax code that defines nonprofit, charitable, tax-exempt organizations; 501(c)(3) organizations are further defined as public charities, private operating foundations, and private non-operating foundations. See also operating foundation; private foundation; public charity.

: The actions an organization takes to fulfill its goals, implement a program and achieve desired outcomes. Activities may also be called "strategies," "action steps," "processes" or "methods."
applicant: An organization that submits a proposal for financial assistance.
assets: The amount of capital or principal — money, stocks, bonds, real estate, or other resources — controlled by a foundation or corporate giving program. Generally, assets are invested and the resulting income is used to make grants.
attachments: Supporting documentation that is included with your grant proposal. Among the attachments required for proposals submitted to the Colorado Health Foundation are a list of your organization's Board of Directors and the organizational affiliation of each member; IRS letter documenting your 501(c)(3) status; current annual operating budget; and financial statements.
award: financial support to help you achieve your goal.

: In philanthropic terms, the donee or grantee receiving funds from a foundation or corporate giving program is the beneficiary, although society may benefit as well.
board of directors: The group of volunteers with the responsibility for governance and supervision of the policies and affairs of the organization, its committees, and its officers. It carries out the purpose of the organization.
budget: A planning document projecting the income and expense necessary to accomplish an objective.

: Generally refers to activities that allow your internal operating structure to better achieve your goals, such as marketing and communications, technology, strategic planning and record-keeping.
capital support: Funds provided to improve an organization's facilities or infrastructure. Funding might include, but is not limited to, new construction, expansion, renovation, or replacement of an existing facility or piece of equipment.
chair: The person in the chief volunteer position or the person elected to lead the board.
challenge grant: A grant that is paid only if the donee organization is able to raise additional funds from other sources. Challenge grants are often used to stimulate giving from other donors. See also matching grant.
community foundation: A 501(c)(3) organization that makes grants for charitable purposes in a specific community or region. The funds available to a community foundation are usually derived from many donors and held in an endowment that is independently administered; income earned by the endowment is then used to make grants. Although a community foundation may be classified by the IRS as a private foundation, most are public charities and are thus eligible for maximum tax-deductible contributions from the general public. See also 501(c)(3); public charity.
community fund: An organized community program which makes annual appeals to the general public for funds that are usually not retained in an endowment but are instead used for the ongoing operational support of local agencies. See also federated giving program.
company-sponsored foundation (also referred to as a corporate foundation): A private foundation whose assets are derived primarily from the contributions of a for-profit business. While a company-sponsored foundation may maintain close ties with its parent company, it is an independent organization with its own endowment and as such is subject to the same rules and regulations as other private foundations. See also private foundation.
corporate foundation: See company-sponsored foundation.
cooperative venture: A joint effort between or among two or more grantmakers. Cooperative venture partners may share in funding responsibilities or contribute information and technical resources.
corporate giving program: A grantmaking program established and administered within a for-profit corporation. Because corporate giving programs do not have separate endowments, their annual grant totals generally are directly related to company profits. Corporate giving programs are not subject to the same reporting requirements as corporate foundations.
cover letter: A concise summary of your organization, its purpose and the reason for requesting funding.

direct costs
: Specific costs incurred by a grant-support project (e.g., salaries, training, travel, administrative/operating) presented in an itemized list.
diversity: Full participation by members of many different groups.
donee: The recipient of a grant. (Also known as the grantee or the beneficiary.)
donor: An individual or organization that makes a grant or contribution to a donee. (Also known as the grantor.)

employee matching grant: A contribution to a charitable organization by an employee that is matched by a similar contribution from his or her employer. Many corporations have employee matching-gift programs in higher education that encourage their employees to give to the college or university of their choice.
endowment: Funds intended to be invested in perpetuity to provide income for continued support of a not-for-profit organization.
equipment: Tangible, nonexpendable, personal property including exempt property charged directly to the award having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost to be stated by the grantmaker.
evaluation: The systematic collection of information about a program that enables stakeholders to better understand the program, improve its effectiveness, and/or make decisions about future programming.
Important notes:

  • Effective evaluation requires systematic data collection — not haphazard, once-in-a-while data collection.
  • Evaluation results are useful for internal purposes (e.g., helping to set new goals, organizational course correction) and external purposes (e.g., communication with stakeholders, reporting to funders)
  • Evaluation is key to becoming a learning organization.

evaluation plan: A tool that sets out strategies for the systematic collection of information to answer questions about an organization or program — for example, whether an organization is moving closer to achieving its mission and goals, or whether a program is achieving its intended outcomes or implementation goals.

family foundation
: An independent private foundation whose funds are derived from members of a single family. Family members often serve as officers or board members of family foundations and have a significant role in their grantmaking decisions.
federated giving program: A joint fundraising effort usually administered by a nonprofit "umbrella" organization that in turn distributes the contributed funds to several nonprofit agencies. United Way and community chests or funds, the United Jewish Appeal and other religious appeals, the United Negro College Fund, and joint arts councils are examples of federated giving programs. See also community fund.
fiscal sponsorship: Affiliation with an existing nonprofit organization for the purpose of receiving grants. Grantseekers may either apply for federal tax-exempt status or affiliate with a nonprofit sponsor.
fiscal year: A 12-month period upon which a budget is planned.
focus area: An enduring, board-directed area that guides how the Foundation engages through grantmaking, investing, policy and advocacy, convening and learning.
form 990-PF: The public record information return that all private foundations are required by law to submit annually to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
form 990: The information return that public charities file with the IRS.
foundation: A tax-exempt nonprofit institution that typically distributes funds rather than operating its own programs.
FQHC (federally qualified health center): (1) A facility located in a medically underserved area that provides Medicare beneficiaries preventive primary medical care under the general supervision of a physician (2) Health centers that have been approved by the government for a program to give low cost health care. Medicare pays for some health services in FQHCs that are not usually covered, like preventive care. FQHCs include community health centers, tribal health clinics, migrant health services, and health centers for the homeless.

general/operating support
: A grant made to further the general purpose or work of an organization, rather than for a specific purpose or project; also called an unrestricted grant or basic support.
general purpose foundation: An independent private foundation that awards grants in many different fields of interest. See also special purpose foundation.
goals: Clear statements of the overall purpose of your program. Goals provide an answer to the problem statement and communicate the intended aims or impacts over the life of the program.
grant: An award of financial assistance from a foundation or the government.
grantee: The organization/group/agency that receives a grant and is accountable for how the funds are used.
grantee financial report: A report detailing how grant funds were used by an organization. Many corporate grantmakers require this kind of report from grantees. A financial report generally includes a listing of all expenditures from grant funds as well as an overall organizational financial report covering revenue and expenses, assets and liabilities. Some funders may require an audited financial report.
guidelines: Procedures set forth by a funder that grantseekers should follow when approaching a grantmaker.

health information technology (HIT)
: The use of computers and electronic applications in providing and documenting medical care. The most common HIT terms include several types of health records—the electronic medical record (EMR), the electronic health record (EHR), and the patient health record (PHR)—as well as computerized physician order entry (CPOE), clinical decision support (CDS), electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) and interoperability.

independent foundation: A grantmaking organization usually classified by the IRS as a private foundation. Independent foundations may also be known as family foundations, general purpose foundations, special purpose foundations, or private non-operating foundations. See also private foundation.
indicators: Measurable markers that a certain condition or circumstance exists, or certain outcomes have been achieved. They tell you how much progress you have made toward a particular goal, output, or outcome.
indirect costs: The overhead necessary to support a grant (e.g., rent, maintenance, depreciation) that cannot be directly attributed to a specific project.
in-kind contribution: A contribution of equipment, supplies, or other tangible resource, as distinguished from a monetary grant. Some corporate contributors may also donate the use of space or staff time as an in-kind contribution.
inputs: Resources used to achieve specific objectives of a program, such as staff, facilities, equipment and money.

joint venture
: Operation consisting of two or more nonprofits, or a nonprofit and a for-profit organization.


letter of inquiry / letter of intent: A brief letter outlining an organization's activities and its request for funding that is sent to a prospective donor in order to determine whether it would be appropriate to submit a full grant proposal. Many grantmakers prefer to be contacted in this way before receiving a full proposal.
liability/liabilities: 1) Claims on assets held, excluding ownership equity. For a foundation, payments outstanding for grants authorized and not yet paid or remaining grants to be paid over multiyear periods, are liabilities. 2) The state of being legally obliged and responsible for actions, people, or debts.
logic model: A visual representation of how your program works – a "picture" of your program. A Logic Model includes what you put into your program (resources), what you do (activities), and what you plan to achieve (outputs and outcomes).

matching grant
: A grant that is made to match funds provided by another donor. See also challenge grant; employee matching grant.
mission: The main purpose/reasons that an organization exists.
mission statement: A statement that describes how an organization's purpose is aligned with its vision. A mission statement is brief — "short enough to fit on a t-shirt" is one rule of thumb — and describes why the organization exists, what it does, for whom it exists, and the value that it creates, without listing specific activities employed to achieve the mission. An organization should decide how often to revisit the mission statement and who should participate in its review. An annual review is wise, since communities change and program demands shift. Re-examining the mission statement ensures that it continues to reflect an organization's values and offers the appropriate direction for the organization.
multi-year grant: A commitment by a foundation to provide support for more than one year (typically two to five years), contingent upon satisfactory grantee performance.

narrative: The written portion of your grant, describing who, what, when, where, why, and how the funding will be used. Every grant application has at least 2 parts: the narrative and the budget.
needs assessment: An explanation of why you should receive the grant and how much funding is needed to achieve your goal. Outline your needs and provide data showing the "problem areas."
nonprofit, not-for-profit: An organization that provides services of benefit to the public without financial incentive. A not-for-profit organization is qualified by the IRS as a tax-exempt organization.

objectives: The specific goals of the project that can be measured with matching outcomes.
operating expenses: The money needed to keep your organization going, not the funding needed for specific programs or services.
operating foundation: A 501(c)(3) organization classified by the IRS as a private foundation whose primary purpose is to conduct research, social welfare, or other programs determined by its governing body or establishment charter. An operating foundation may make grants, but the amount of grants awarded generally is small relative to the funds used for the foundation's own programs. See also 501(c)(3).
operating support grant: A grant to cover the regular personnel, administrative, and miscellaneous expenses of an existing program or project. See also general/operating support.
outcome evaluation: An evaluation used to identify the results of a program's effort. This type of evaluation provides knowledge about (1) the extent to which the problems and needs that gave rise to the program still exist, (2) ways to ameliorate adverse impacts and enhance desirable impacts, and (3) program design adjustments that may be indicated for the future.
outcome objective: The specific goal of your activity. Example: "By December 31, 2009, we will add electronic health record software to 20 computers in 10 community health clinics."
outcomes: The results that your program aims to achieve. Outcomes are the changes that occur because of a program, or the difference that is made by a program. When defining outcomes, consider: how does the program touch the lives of individuals, groups, families, households, organizations or communities?
outputs: The measurable products of your program; the concrete items that are produced as part of your program.

policy: A governing principle pertaining to goals, objectives and/or activities. It is a decision on an issue not resolved on the basis of facts and logic only.
private foundation: A nongovernmental, nonprofit organization with funds (usually from a single source, such as an individual, family or corporation) and program managed by its own trustees or directors. Private foundations are established to maintain or aid social, educational, religious or other charitable activities serving the common welfare, primarily through the making of grants. See also 501(c)(3); public charity.
profit: Net proceeds after deducting allowable costs.
program officer: A staff member of a foundation who reviews grant proposals and processes applications for the board of trustees. Only a small percentage of foundations have program officers.
project director: Person responsible for all activities covered by the grant, including assessment and follow-up.
proposal: A written application, often accompanied by supporting documents, submitted to a foundation or corporate giving program 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.
public charity: A nonprofit organization that qualifies for tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. Public charities are the recipients of most foundation and corporate grants. Some public charities also make grants. See also 501(c)(3); private foundation.

: The applicant's specific work-related experience that enable it to achieve the mission of the project for which funding is requested; it establishes the credibility of the applicant.
qualitative data: Data described in terms of quality, as opposed to "quantity" (see "Quantitative data"). Qualitative data is often obtained through asking open-ended questions, to which the answers are not limited to a set of choices or a scale. Qualitative data collection is most useful when you would like information in people's own words, or when the questions you are asking have too many possible answers for you to be able to list them. Qualitative data is more time-consuming to analyze than quantitative data, but can be a worthwhile and important part of a data collection effort.
quantitative data: Data described in terms of a quantity or number. Quantitative data is collected through closed-ended questions, where users are given a limited number of answer choices, or asked to answer on a scale. While quantitative data collection is suitable for collecting numeric data such as age, income, number of staff, number of children etc., many types of information can be collected quantitatively if placed on a scale.

: An acronym for Request for Proposal. 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 an increasing number of foundations use RFPs in specific fields, most still prefer to consider proposals that are initiated by applicants.

: The process of evaluating one's own organizational or personal effectiveness. The term is sometimes recommended for restriction to processes that are focused on quantitative and/or testing approaches.
special purpose foundation: A private foundation that focuses its grantmaking activities in one or a few areas of interest. See also general purpose foundation.
strategic plan: A document at the organizational level, delineating an organization's mission, goals and strategies for attaining those goals. A good strategic plan articulates goals and strategies for the organization as a whole, and broad goals and strategies for its programs. A strategic plan typically covers a 3- to 5-year timeframe.
summary: Brief written description of the proposal (includes who, what, why, where, when and how).

target population
: The specific population intended as beneficiary of a program. This will be either all or a subset of potential users.
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.
technical assistance: Operational or management assistance given to nonprofit organizations. This type of help can include fundraising assistance, budgeting and financial planning, program planning, legal advice, marketing and other aids to management. Assistance may be offered directly by the staff of a foundation or corporation, or it may be provided in the form of a grant to pay for the services of an outside consultant. See also in-kind contributions.
trustee: A foundation board member or officer who helps make decisions about how grant monies are spent. Depending on whether the foundation has paid staff, trustees may take a more or less active role in running its affairs.


vision: 1) The ideal future the organization is striving to achieve. 2) A process by which an organization envisions the future it wants, and plans how to achieve it. Through public involvement, organizations and communities identify their purpose, core values and vision for the future, which are then transformed into a manageable and feasible set of goals and an action plan.
vision statement: Written expression of a nonprofit's goals.


Definitions compiled from:
Foundation Center. Guide to Funding Research: Glossary. Available at:

Innovation Network, Inc. Glossary: Nonprofit Planning & Evaluation. Available at:

Nonprofit Good Practice Guide Glossary. Available at: