Dictionary of Terms

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A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | W

A
  • Administrative requirements
    The general practices that are common to the administration of grants, such as financial accountability, reporting, equipment management, and retention of records.
  • Allocable cost
    A cost that is allocable to a particular cost objective (i.e., a specific function, grant project, service, department, or other activity) in accordance with the relative benefits received. A cost is allocable to a Federal award where it is treated consistently with other costs incurred for the same purpose in like circumstances and (1) is incurred specifically for the award, (2) benefits both the award and other work and can be distributed in reasonable proportion to the benefits received, or (3) is necessary for the overall operation of the organization.
  • Allowable cost
    A cost incurred by a recipient that is:

    (1) reasonable for the performance of the award; (2) allocable; (3) in conformance with any limitations or exclusions set forth in the Federal cost principles applicable to the organization incurring the cost or in the NoA as to the type or amount of cost; (4) consistent with regulations, policies, and procedures of the recipient that are applied uniformly to both federally supported and other activities of the organization; (5) accorded consistent treatment as a direct or indirect cost; (6) determined in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles; and (7) not included as a cost in any other federally supported award (unless specifically authorized by statute).

  • Alteration and renovation (A&R)
    Work that changes the interior arrangements or other physical characteristics of an existing facility or installed equipment so that it can be used more effectively for its currently designated purpose or adapted to an alternative use to meet a programmatic requirement. Alteration and renovation may include work referred to as improvements, conversion, rehabilitation, remodeling, or modernization, but is distinguished from construction and large-scale permanent improvements.
  • Application
    A request for financial support of a project, program, or activity submitted on specified forms and in accordance with awarding office instructions.
  • Approved budget
    The financial expenditure plan for a grant-supported project, program, or activity, including revisions approved by the awarding office and permissible revisions made by the recipient. The approved budget consists of Federal (grant) funds and, if required by the terms and conditions of the award, non-Federal participation in the form of matching or cost sharing. Expenditures under an approved budget that consists of both Federal and non-Federal shares are deemed to be borne by the recipient in the same proportion as the percentage of Federal/non-Federal participation in the overall budget.
  • Assurance
    A written statement by an applicant, normally included with the application, indicating that it will abide by a particular requirement if a grant is awarded.
  • Audit resolution
    The process of resolving audit findings, including those related to management and systems deficiencies and monetary findings (i.e., questioned costs).
  • Authorized Organizational Representative
    The individual(s), named by the applicant/recipient organization, who is authorized to act for the applicant/recipient and to assume the obligations imposed by the federal laws, regulations, requirements, and conditions that apply to grant applications or awards.
  • Award
    The document that provides funds to a recipient to carry out an approved program or project (based on an approved application or progress report). The term, when used as a noun, is sometimes used interchangeably with “grant.”
  • Awarding office
    The Federal organizational component responsible for the business management and non-programmatic aspects of the award and administration of grants.

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B
  • Budget periods
    The intervals of time (usually 12 months each) into which a period of performance is divided for budgetary and funding purposes. Funding of individual budget periods sometimes is referred to as “incremental funding.”

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C
  • Carryover
    Unobligated Federal funds remaining at the end of a budget period that may be carried forward to another budget period within the period of performance to cover allowable costs of that budget period (whether as an offset or additional authorization). Obligated but unliquidated funds are not considered carryover.
  • Change of recipient
    A process in which the legal and administrative responsibility for a grant-supported project, program, or activity is transferred from one legal entity to another before the end of the period of performance. This action also may be termed “transfer of a grant.”
  • Chief Grants Management Officer (CGMO)
    As the principal Grants Management Officer (GMO) within an awarding office, the CGMO is responsible for the awarding office’s implementation and adherence to grants policy and regulatory requirements. The CGMO provides grants staff under his/her leadership with the authority to sign and issue Notice of Awards (NoA).
  • Closeout
    The process by which an awarding office determines whether all applicable administrative actions and all work required under the award have been completed by the recipient and the awarding office.
  • Cognizant agency for audit
    The Federal agency designated to carry out the responsibilities described in 45 CFR part 75External §75.513(a). The cognizant agency for audit is not necessarily the same as the cognizant agency for indirect costs. A list of cognizant agencies for audit may be found at the Federal Audit ClearinghouseExternal.
  • Cognizant agency for indirect costs
    The Federal agency responsible for reviewing, negotiating, and approving cost allocation plans or indirect cost proposals developed under 45 CFR part 75 on behalf of all Federal agencies. The cognizant agency for indirect cost is not necessarily the same as the cognizant agency for audit. For assignments of cognizant agencies see the following:
  • Competition
    A process in which applications undergo an objective review; the applications are evaluated against established review criteria and scored and rated accordingly.
  • Competitive segment
    The initial period of performance recommended for support (up to 5 years) or each extension of a period of performance resulting from a competing continuation award.
  • Completion date
    The date on which all work under an award is completed or the date in the NoA (as amended) on which Federal sponsorship ends (i.e., the end of the period of performance).
  • Conference
    A meeting, retreat, seminar, symposium or event that involves attendee travel.  The term “conference” also applies to training activities that are considered to be conferences under 5 CFR 410.404External.
  • Consortium agreement
    A formal agreement whereby a project is carried out by a recipient and one or more other organizations that are separate legal entities. Under the agreement, the recipient must perform a substantive role in the conduct of the planned project or program activity and not merely serve as a conduit of funds to another party or parties. Consortium agreements are considered subawards for purposes of this policy statement.
  • Contract under a grant
    A written agreement between a recipient and a third party to acquire commercial goods or services.
  • Construction
    A project to support the initial building or major A&R (i.e., large-scale modernization or permanent improvement) of a facility.
  • Consultant
    An individual who provides professional advice or services for a fee, but normally not as an employee of the engaging party. The term “consultant” also includes a firm that provides paid professional advice or services.
  • Cooperative agreement
    A financial assistance support mechanism used when there will be substantial Federal programmatic involvement. Substantial involvement means that the awarding office program staff will collaborate or participate in project or program activities as specified in the NoA.
  • Cost analysis
    The breakdown and verification of cost data proposed in an application budget, including evaluating specific elements of costs and examining them to determine the necessity, reasonableness, and allocability of the costs and their allowability pursuant to the applicable Federal cost principles and other governing requirements.
  • Cost sharing
    See “matching or cost sharing.”

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D
  • Direct assistance
    A financial assistance support mechanism, which must be specifically authorized by statute, whereby goods or services are provided to recipients in lieu of cash. Direct assistance generally involves the assignment of Federal personnel or the provision of equipment or supplies such as vaccines. This type of financial assistance also is described as “non-monetary assistance.”
  • Direct costs
    Costs that can be identified specifically with a particular sponsored project, an instructional activity, or any other institutional activity, or that can be directly assigned to such activities relatively easily with a high degree of accuracy.
  • Domestic conference
    A meeting held in the United States or Canada primarily for U.S. or U.S.-Canadian participation (even if foreign speakers are invited).
  • Domestic organization
    A public (including a State or other governmental agency) or private non-profit or for-profit organization that is located in the United States or its territories, is subject to U.S. laws, and assumes legal and financial accountability for funds awarded and for the performance of the grant-supported activities.

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E
  • Entity Identification Number (EIN)
    A three-part coding scheme of 12 characters used in PMS to identify organizations and individuals. The first character identifies the recipient as an organization or an individual. The next 9 characters are the Internal Revenue Service tax number identification (TIN) for organizations or the social security number (SSN) for individuals. The last 2 characters are a suffix to provide distinction between organizational entities that are assigned a single EIN and those that have more than one EIN. The entities could be subsidiaries, divisions, branches, subdivisions, or other organizational groupings of a major organizational entity.
  • Equipment
    An article of tangible nonexpendable personal property that has a useful life of more than 1 year and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit or the capitalization threshold established by the recipient, whichever is less.
  • Expanded authorities
    Operating authorities provided to recipients that waive the requirement for awarding office prior approval for specified actions.
  • Expenditure report
    For non-construction grants, generally the FFR; and for construction grants, the Outlay Report and Request for Reimbursement for Construction Programs.

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F
  • Facilities and administrative costs
    See “indirect costs.”
  • Federal funds authorized
    The total amount of Federal funds obligated by the awarding office for use by the recipient.
  • Federal Assistance Identification Number
    A number, unique within the Federal Agency, assigned to each award for financial assistance (Source: Office of Management and Budget Memorandum title: “Improving Data Quality for USAspending.gov”, date: June 12, 2013).
  • Federal Financial Report (FFR)
    A standard federal form, SF-425, that shows the status of funds in non-construction programs and is used to monitor the financial progress of awards. The forms require information on Federal and recipient shares and unobligated balances of Federal funds.
  • Federally recognized Indian tribal government
    The governing body of an Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Native village as defined in Section 3 of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), that is certified by the Secretary of the Interior as eligible for the special programs and services provided through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.
  • Federal share
    The amount, generally expressed as a percentage of total project costs, of financial, property, and other direct assistance provided by the awarding office, as specified in the NoA.
  • Financial assistance
    Transfer of money, property in lieu of money, or other direct assistance to an eligible recipient to support or stimulate a public purpose authorized by statute.
  • Foreign component
    The performance of any significant element or segment of a project outside of the United States, either by the recipient or by a researcher or other individual employed by a foreign organization, whether or not grant funds are expended.
  • Foreign organization
    An organization located in a country other than the United States and its territories that is subject to the laws of that country, regardless of the citizenship of the proposed PD/PI.
  • For-profit organization
    An organization, institution, corporation, or other legal entity that is organized or operated for the profit or financial benefit of its shareholders or other owners. Such organizations also are referred to as “commercial organizations.”

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G
  • Grant
    A financial assistance support mechanism providing money, property or other direct assistance in lieu of money, or both, to an eligible entity to carry out an approved project or activity in support of a public purpose and not the direct benefit of the government. A grant is used whenever the awarding office anticipates no substantial programmatic involvement with the recipient during performance of the financially assisted activities.
  • Grant-supported project or activity
    Those activities specified or described in an application or in a subsequent submission that are approved by an awarding office for funding, regardless of whether Federal funding constitutes all or only a portion of the financial support necessary to carry them out.
  • Grants Management Officer (GMO)
    The awarding agency official responsible for the business management aspects of grants and cooperative agreements, including review, negotiation, award, and administration, and for the interpretation of grants administration policies and provisions. GMOs are delegated the authority from the CGMO to obligate the awarding agency to the expenditure of funds and permit changes to approved projects on behalf of the awarding agency.
  • Grants Management Specialist (GMS)
    Awarding agency staff member who works under the direction of the GMO and is responsible for the day-to-day management of grants. Typically, the GMS is the primary contact to recipients for business and administrative matters pertinent to grant awards.

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H
  • High risk
    The term used to describe a recipient who is at risk of financial failure or failure to perform based on a history of poor performance or poor business practices, financial instability, or inadequate management systems.
  • Human subject
    A living individual about whom an investigator obtains data through intervention or interaction with the individual or obtains identifiable private information. Regulations governing the use of human subjects extend to use of human organs, tissues, and body fluids from identifiable individuals as human subjects and to graphic, written, or recorded information derived from such individuals.

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I
  • Indirect costs
    Costs that are incurred by a recipient for common or joint objectives and cannot be identified specifically with a particular project or program. These costs also are known as “facilities and administrative costs.”
  • Institutional review board
    An administrative body whose purpose is to protect the rights and welfare of human subjects recruited to participate in research activities conducted under the auspices of the organization with which it is affiliated. The IRB has the authority to approve, require modifications in, or disapprove all research activities that fall within its jurisdiction.
  • International conference
    A meeting designated as such by its sponsor or one that potentially involves participants in two or more countries other than the United States or Canada. The meeting may be held in any country, including the United States.
  • International organization
    An organization that identifies itself as international or intergovernmental and has membership from, and represents the interests of, more than one country, without regard to whether the headquarters of the organization and location of the activity are inside or outside of the United States.

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K
  • Key personnel
    The PD/PI and other individuals who contribute to the programmatic development or execution of a project or program in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not they receive salaries or compensation under the grant.

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L
  • Local government
    A county, borough, municipality, city, town, township, parish, local public authority (including any public housing agency under the United States Housing Act of 1937), school district, special district, intra-state district, council of governments (whether or not incorporated as a nonprofit corporation under State law), any other agency or instrumentality of a multi-, regional, or intra-state or local government.

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M
  • Matching or cost sharing
    The value of third-party in-kind contributions and the portion of the costs of a federally assisted project or program not borne by the Federal government. Costs used to satisfy matching or cost-sharing requirements are subject to the same policies governing allowability as other costs under the approved budget.
  • Monitoring
    A process in which a grant’s programmatic performance and business management performance are assessed by reviewing information gathered from various required reports, audits, site visits, and other sources.

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N
  • Non-competing extension
    A limited period of time beyond the end of the period of performance, authorized by an awarding office or a recipient under an expanded authority, needed to complete project activities.
  • Non-Federal entity
    A state, local government, Indian tribe, institution of higher education (IHE), or nonprofit organization that carries out a Federal award as a recipient or subrecipient.
  • Non-Federal share
    The portion of allowable project costs not borne by the Federal government.
  • Notice of Award (NoA)
    the official legally binding award document that:
    • i. notifies the recipient of the award of a grant;
    • ii. contains or references all the terms and conditions of the grant and federal funding limits; and,
    • iii. provides the documentary basis for recording the obligation of federal funds in the agencies’ accounting systems.
  • Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO)
    An awarding office’s formally issued announcement of the availability of Federal funding through one of its financial assistance programs. The announcement invites applications and provides such information as eligibility and evaluation criteria, funding preferences/priorities, how to obtain application kits, and the submission deadline (see Part I).

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O
  • Objective review
    An advisory review of discretionary grant applications conducted by unbiased reviewers with expertise in the programmatic area for which applications are submitted.
  • Obligations
    The amounts of orders placed, contracts and subawards, goods and services received, and similar transactions by a recipient during a budget period that will require payment during the same or a future budget period.
  • Outlays or expenditures
    The charges made to the federally sponsored project or program. They may be reported on a cash or accrual basis.

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P
  • Payment Management System (PMS)
    The centralized grants payment system for the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Peer review
    A form of objective review, generally required by statute, in which the assessment of scientific or technical merit of applications is carried out by individuals with knowledge and expertise equivalent (peer) to that of the individuals whose applications for support they are reviewing.
  • Period of performance
    The time during which the non-Federal entity may incur new obligations to carry out the work authorized under the Federal award. The Federal awarding agency or pass-through entity must include start and end dates of the period of performance in the Federal award.
  • Pre-award costs
    Costs incurred prior to the beginning date of the period of performance, in anticipation of an award and at the applicant’s own risk, for otherwise allowable costs.
  • Prior approval
    Written approval by a GMO evidencing prior consent before a recipient undertakes certain activities or incurs specific costs.
  • Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI)
    The individual(s) designated by the applicant organization/recipient to have the appropriate level of authority and responsibility to direct the project or program to be supported by the award. The applicant organization may designate multiple individuals as program directors/principal investigators (PD/PIs) who share the authority and responsibility for leading and directing the project, intellectually and logistically. When multiple PD/PIs are named, each is responsible and accountable to the official(s) at the applicant organization/recipient, or as appropriate, to a collaborating organization for the proper conduct of the project, program, or activity including the submission of all required reports. The presence of more than one PD/PI on an application or award diminishes neither the responsibility nor the accountability of any individual PD/PI.
  • Progress report
    Periodic, usually annual, reports submitted by the recipient and used by the awarding office to assess progress and, except for the final progress report, to determine whether to provide funding for the budget period subsequent to that covered by the report. The progress report is also referred to as the performance report.
  • Project or program costs
    The total allowable costs incurred by a recipient (and the value of in-kind contributions made by third parties) in accomplishing the objectives of the award during the period of performance.

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R
  • Reasonable cost
    A cost whose nature or amount does not exceed that which would be incurred by a prudent person under the circumstances prevailing when the decision was made to incur the cost.
  • Recipient
    The organization or individual that receives a grant or cooperative agreement award from an awarding office and is responsible and accountable for the use of the funds provided and for the performance of the grant-supported project or activity. The recipient is the entire legal entity even if a particular component is designated in the NoA. The term includes “grantee” and “non-federal entity.”
  • Reimbursement
    A payment made to a recipient upon its request after it makes cash disbursements. Most reimbursement payments are processed through PMS.
  • Research
    A systematic, intensive study intended to increase knowledge or understanding of the subject studied, a systematic study specifically directed toward applying new knowledge to meet a recognized need, or a systematic application of knowledge to the production of useful materials, devices, and systems or methods, including design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes to meet specific requirements. Also termed “research and development.”

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S
  • Significant rebudgeting
    A threshold that is reached when expenditures in a single direct cost budget category deviate (increase or decrease) from the approved budget amount for that budget category for that budget period by a specified amount, usually more than 25 percent of the total costs awarded. Significant rebudgeting is one indicator of change in scope.
  • Small business concern
    A threshold that is reached when expenditures in a single direct cost budget category deviate (increase or decrease) from the approved budget amount for that budget category for that budget period by a specified amount, usually more than 25 percent of the total costs awarded. Significant rebudgeting is one indicator of change in scope.
  • Significant rebudgeting
    A business that is independently owned and operated and not dominant in its field of operation; has its principal place of business in the United States and is organized for profit; is at least 51 percent owned or, in the case of a publicly owned business, at least 51 percent of its voting stock is owned by U.S. citizens or lawfully admitted permanent resident aliens; has, including its affiliates, not more than 500 employees; and meets other regulatory requirements established by the SBA at 13 CFR 121.
  • State
    Any state of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and any agency or instrumentality thereof exclusive of local governments.
  • Stipend
    A payment made to an individual under a fellowship or training grant in accordance with established levels to provide for the individual’s living expenses during the period of training. A stipend is not considered compensation for the services expected of an employee.
  • Subaward
    An award provided by a pass-through entity to a subrecipient for the subrecipient to carry out part of a Federal award received by the pass-through entity. It does not include payments to a contractor or payments to an individual that is a beneficiary of a Federal program. A subaward may be provided through any form of legal agreement, including an agreement that the pass-through entity considers a contract.
  • Subrecipient
    A non-Federal entity that receives a subaward from a pass-through entity to carry out part of a Federal program; but does not include an individual that is a beneficiary of such program. A subrecipient may also be a recipient of other Federal awards directly from a Federal awarding agency.
  • Substantive programmatic work
    The primary project activities for which grant support is provided.
  • Supplies
    Personal property other than equipment, intangible property, and debt instruments. The category of “supplies” includes items that could be considered equipment, but do not meet the threshold definition.

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T
  • Termination
    Permanent withdrawal by the awarding office of a recipient’s authority to obligate previously awarded grant funds before that authority would otherwise expire, including the voluntary relinquishment of that authority by the recipient.
  • Terms and conditions of award
    All legal requirements imposed on a grant by the awarding office, whether based on statute, regulation, policy, or other document referenced in the NoA, or specified by the NoA itself. In addition to general terms and conditions, the NoA may include other conditions that are considered necessary to attain the award’s objectives, facilitate post-award administration, conserve grant funds, or otherwise protect the Federal government’s interests.
  • Third-party in-kind contributions
    The value of non-cash contributions directly benefiting a grant-supported project or program that is provided by non-Federal third parties to the recipient, the subrecipient, or a cost-type contractor under the grant or subgrant without charge. In-kind contributions may be in the form of real property, equipment, supplies and other expendable property, and goods and services directly benefiting and specifically identifiable to the project or program.
  • Total project or program costs
    The total allowable costs (both direct and indirect) incurred by the recipient to carry out a grant-supported project or activity. Total project or program costs include costs charged to the award and costs borne by the recipient to satisfy a matching or cost-sharing requirement.

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U
  • Unallowable cost
    A cost specified by law or regulation, Federal cost principles, or term and condition of award that may not be reimbursed under a grant or cooperative agreement.
  • Unliquidated obligations
    The amount of obligations incurred by the recipient that has not been paid (for financial reports prepared on a cash basis) or the amount of obligations incurred by the recipient for which an outlay has not been recorded (for reports prepared on an accrual basis).
  • Unobligated balance
    The portion of the funds authorized by the Federal agency that has not been obligated by the recipient.

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W
  • Withholding of payment
    An action taken by an awarding office, after appropriate administrative procedures have been followed, that restricts a recipient’s ability to access its grant funds until the recipient takes corrective action required by the awarding office.
  • Withholding of support
    A decision by an awarding office not to make a non-competing continuation award within a previously approved project period.

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Page last reviewed: July 13, 2018