One of the biggest hurdles to creating and submitting competitive grant applications is often the language of grants. Below is a brief list of terms that are frequently used in grants and some basic explanations of their most common meanings within the world of grants. Watch for future similar posts with explanations of additional terms!
RFP: This acronym means, "Request for Proposals." The RFP is the official application instructions and guidance. For most private and state grants, it is the full application package. For most federal grants, it is a companion to the grants.gov application package which contains all of the required grant forms and is the main document to which grantees must attach the required documents they create (including the abstract, narrative, budget narrative, GEPA statement, and appendices). The RFP is also sometimes called the RFA (Request for Applications), grant application, grant guidance, NOFA (Notice of Funding Available), SGA (Solicitation for Grant Applications), etc. You should follow all directions listed in the RFP to the letter.
Abstract: This document is required for most federal and state grants and some private grants with longer applications. It is a one- to two-page summary of your project that you write up using full sentences and paragraphs. Some funders provide a specific list of the types of information to be included, others leave it up to the applicant to determine how to briefly summarize the project. The Abstract is not typically scored but is still required if requested. Some funders refer to the Abstract as an Executive Summary and allow it to be up to three pages in length. Abstracts are sometimes published publicly in part or in whole, so it is best not to include sensitive or proprietary information in this document.
Narrative: The Narrative is your the main portion of your grant application. It is usually the longest section of the application, and it is where you explain why you need the grant, what you want to do, how you will do it, who will oversee the project and run the programs, and how you will assess and monitor progress. You should write your narrative using full, grammatically-correct sentences that are broken appropriately into paragraphs. This is the section the reviewers score, so ultimately this is the section that wins the grant or doesn't. Therefore, this should be the section on which most of your time should be concentrated. The RFP should provide you with a specific list of what to include in your Narrative. (This list is typically called the Selection Criteria or something similar for US Department of Education grants and some other federal grants.) You should order and present your narrative exactly as that list explains.
Budget Narrative: Usually separate from your Narrative, the Budget Narrative is where you explain exactly what you want to spend your grant funds on by budget category as defined in the RFP. Some funders require a specific form for this, while others allow you to create your own format as long as you utilize the funder's budget categories. Be sure to present line item detail that clearly shows how much each item costs, how many units you want to purchase, and the total for the line, as well as explaining what the item is and how it is important to project activities and contributes to the achievement of project goals. Provide the total for each budget category as well as the annual project totals. If the grant you are applying for has a matching requirement, you should also present a line-item matching budget by funder-defined budget category.
Need: This is a section in the Narrative often labeled as such, but sometimes referred to as Target Population or by other names. Regardless of the name used, virtually all grants include a section that asks you to explain and provide data demonstrating the problem(s) your target population and organization are faced with that you plan to address through the grant you are requesting. It is really important you use local data and information here. State and national statistics should typically only be presented for comparison purposes.
Outcomes: Most grants consider Outcomes to be specific, measurable, short-term, time-defined aims that include a target. For example: There will be a 20% increase in the percentage of students who spend 50% or more of their Physical Education class time in their target heart rate zones by the end of Year 2. Some funders refer to these as measurable objectives, but typically objectives are broader, longer-term aims or activities for achieving short-term aims. Your outcomes should be included in your Narrative.
Goals: Goals are broad, overarching, long-term project aims. You should clearly articulate one or more goals in your Narrative.
Management Plan: Also part of your Narrative, your Management Plan is your plan for operating the grant and ensuring all of the activities are completed on time and within budget. A strong management plan will include an explanation of the roles, time commitments, and qualifications of key staff members and project teams, as well as a clear timeline of activities that indicates persons responsible for each task.
Evaluation: In grant applications, "evaluation" most commonly refers to your assessment and monitoring of the grant project itself, rather than of the individual participants. While assessment of participants is likely part of your evaluation process, it should not be all of it. Your grant evaluation plan as explained in your narrative should include specifics about who will be involved and how and when you will assess each of your outcomes, as well as information about how you will obtain stakeholder feedback and other qualitative data. It's also important to discuss how often and how will review data and other information collected and how it will be used for project improvement. The Evaluation section is typically one of the last sections of the Narrative.