Grants are non-repayable funds or products disbursed or given by one party (grant makers), often a government department, corporation, foundation or trust, to a recipient, often (but not always) a nonprofit entity, educational institution, business or an individual. In order to receive a grant, some form of "Grant Writing" often referred to as either a proposal or an application is required.
Most grants are made to fund a specific project and require some level of compliance and reporting. The grant writing process involves an applicant submitting a proposal (or submission) to a potential funder, either on the applicant's own initiative or in response to a Request for Proposal from the funder. Other grants can be given to individuals, such as victims of natural disasters or individuals who seek to open a small business. Sometimes grant makers require grant seekers to have some form of tax-exempt status, be a registered nonprofit organization or a local government.
For example, tiered funding for a freeway are very large grants negotiated at government policy level. However smaller grants may be provided by a government agency (e.g. municipal government).
Project-related funding involving business, communities, and individuals is often arranged by application either in writing or online.
In the United States, grants most often come from a wide range of government departments or an even wider range of public and private trusts and foundations. According to the Foundation Center these trusts and foundations number in excess of 88,000 and disperse in excess of $40 billion every year. Trusts and Foundations are a little more complex to research and can be found through subscription-based directories.
Most often, education grants are issued by the government to students attending post-secondary education institutions. In certain cases, a part of a government loan is issued as a grant, particularly pertaining to promising students seeking financial support for continuing their educations.
Grant compliance and reporting requirements vary depending upon the type of grant and funding agency. In the case of research grants involving human or animal subjects, additional involvement with the Institutional Review Boards (IRB) and/or Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is required.
The European Commission of the EU provides financing through numerous specific calls for project proposals. These may be within Framework Programmes. Although there are many 7 year programmes that are renewed that provide money for various purposes. These may be structural funds, Youth programmes and Education programmes. There are also occasional one off grants to deal with unforeseen aspects or special projects and themes. Most of these are administered through what are called National Agencies, but some are administered directly through the EU Commission in Brussels. Due to the complexity of the funding mechanisms involved and especially the high competitiveness of the grant application processes (14%) professional Grant Consulting firms are gaining importance in the grant writing process.
Another funding body in Europe is the Council of Europe. This is separate from the EU. Similarly there are calls and various projects that are funded by this Council.
Grant-giving organizations in Ireland include the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and Science Foundation Ireland for research grants.
Denmark has an educational universal grant system, SU (Statens Uddannelsesstøtte, the State Education Fund). It is available to all students from 18 years of age, with no upper limit, who are currently taking courses. There are two systems of SU.
In addition to the government grant scheme, more than 35,000 grants in Denmark exists, which is the second largest number of foundations in Europe by country. The foundations are estimated to possess 400 billion Danish kroner (US$60 billion) in accessible funds.
In Poland there exist two major grant organisations, both founded by the government:
Foundation for Polish Science also offers different kinds of scientific grants for distinguished scholars, both Polish citizens and foreigners.
Grants are made available in the United Kingdom for a variety of business, charitable and research purposes. The biggest grant distributors are government departments and agencies which offer grants to third party organisations (often a charitable organisation) to carry out statutory work on their behalf.
Other major grant distributors in the United Kingdom are the National Lottery, charitable trusts and corporate foundations (through Corporate Social Responsibility policies). For example, Google contributes to the grants process through its Google Grants programme, where any charitable organization can benefit financially from free Google Ads advertising if they share Google's social responsibility outcomes.
Grants are time limited (usually between one and three years) and are offered to implement existing government policies, to pilot new ways of doing things or to secure agreed outcomes. A grant will usually only be given for a specific project or use and will not usually be given for projects that have already begun.
Over the years the discipline of writing grant bids has developed into a specialised activity. Many organisations employ fundraising professionals to carry out this work. In the United Kingdom the fundraising profession is governed by The Institute of Fundraising. The grant writing process generally includes search, proposal and accounting for competitive grant funds. Traditional search methods - for example referring to the Charities Aid Foundation Directory of Grant Making Trusts - are quickly becoming replaced by online fundraising tools.