Reading Grants Effectively: A Guide to Understanding Grant Elements

Jun 3, 2024 1:28:00 PM / by Mari Crocitto

Reading Grants Effectively: A Guide to Understanding Grant Elements

“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Grant opportunities allow organizations to elevate their current programs so they can channel connections within their communities to provide assistance to their intended populations. However, searching through the plethora of federal, national and foundational databases to identify Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), Request for Proposals (RFPs) or Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs) can get tiring if you are unsure what to seek out. 

Here are nine identifiable elements to help save time when determining whether a specific grant fits your organization’s capabilities:

1. Posting and Closing Dates

Posting dates signify when a grant opportunity is officially “open” and applicants are allowed to submit applications to the granting organization. Closing dates list the final date and time applications must be submitted, whether electronically or through physical mail. For planning and preparation purposes, this section will help organizations decide whether they have the time and resources available to complete a grant application.

Be aware that the grantor may sometimes hold multiple deadlines for an application and request applicants to submit through multiple methods. For example, an organization may request an electronic submission of an application in the beginning of the month and then ask for a physical copy to be sent over via mail by the end of that same month. Furthermore, some larger grant opportunities may request applicants to submit via multiple federal and state grant portals. 

2. Number of Awards

The number of awards suggests the approximate number of applicants who are expected to be awarded a particular grant. Funding Opportunities that show only one or two expected awards may already have an idea of who they are considering. Grants offering more awards tend to have higher odds of an applicant being awarded. Keep in mind that, sometimes, a federal opportunity will show a zero in the number of awards section through the funding opportunity is  currently active. Typically this means that the grantor is considering applications on a case-by-case basis. Contact the grantor just to be certain before continuing to pursue a particular solicitation.

Be aware that applications may not reveal the exact number of grantees who will be awarded funding until applicants submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) and are invited to the next steps of the application process. 

3. Funding Amounts

Funding amounts display the maximum and minimum amounts of funding available for applicants. Some opportunities will display only the total estimated program funding amounts. Refer to all grant documents to see if the program focus areas within the solicitation offer specific minimum and maximum amounts of funding. The total estimated program funding amounts can correlate to the number of applicants who will be awarded. Applicants should take notice of this section to help determine whether the amount meets their funding desires. 

4. Matching Funds

Cost matching, or cost sharing, is when the applicant is responsible for providing a portion of their own contributions towards a project or program. Such contributions are either cash or in-kind. 

Cash matching refers to the grantee utilizing their own funds in a project or program. Said funds can be generated through revenue, non-federal grants, or cash donations from non-federal third-party partner organizations to be eligible to pursue a grant opportunity.1 Be aware that a cash match is the most common type of match used and the most straightforward to track.2

An in-kind match is the utilization of “goods, services, property, or space provided instead of money.”3 In other words, in-kind contributions take into account the value of the activities and/or labor that organizations conduct in order to complete a project/program.

Be aware that applicants should defer from opportunities if they do not have the funding or third-party partnership available to provide matching funds. Certain grants may limit matching funds to coming from the applicant or a third party directly.

5. Project Period

The project period, also known as the period of performance, indicates the amount of time in which a project must be completed. It also plays a part in how organizations must distribute funds to complete projects within that time frame. Be mindful that project periods give a timeline for project execution. If an organization plans to implement their projects in a short timeframe, then project periods may be a great indicator of whether funding opportunity fits the organization’s schedule.

6. Program Focus Areas

Program focus areas are the select topics that a specific grant opportunity supports. For example, a grant opportunity may support programs under the selected topics of the arts, education, and youth engagement compared to another grant focusing specifically on technology and healthcare. Each selected topic may have separate requirements that applicants need to complete. Some organizations may require you to choose only one focus area. If you do not see a program focus area that fits your organization’s programs, then the said grant may not be a proper fit.

7. Eligible and Ineligible Applicants

The eligible and ineligible applicants section reflects the types of  organizations that can apply for the grant opportunity. For example, if an opportunity specifies that only nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply, then individuals, federal agencies, and for-profit organizations are automatically excluded from applying.

8. Eligible and Ineligible Activities

The eligible and ineligible activities sections highlight what specific projects within your program are acceptable, or unacceptable. The activities are typically expanded from program focus areas. If your organization plans to accomplish an activity that falls under ineligible activities then it would be best to move on to another opportunity rather than reorient your original plans. 

9. Contact Information

The grant contact information is a great resource for applicants to contact grantors to clarify any of the requirements set in the solicitation. There is normally an email address and phone number present so applicants can connect through multiple communication avenues. Furthermore, some opportunities may designate a specific agency contact per topic area mentioned to improve workflow efficiency and ease the influx of an applicant’s questions regarding topic requirements. 

Reviewing these nine elements serves as a helpful introduction to finding whether an opportunity aligns with your organization’s capabilities. There are, of course, several other elements to a grant that serve an important role in determining if a grant is right for you. If you are looking for expert assistance in determining if a grant is the right fit, USFCR offers a complimentary service where we can determine eligibility. Simply fill out the following grant assessment, identifying the FOA in question, and a member of our grant consulting team will be happy to assist. 

To learn more, feel free to contact us at  (866) 216-5343 or

If you are ready to go after grants, but need assistance in the process, USFCR’s Grant Writing Team can assist your organization’s unique program needs. 

Take the Grant Assessment


1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (n.d.). Fact sheet for Systems of Care in Indian County: Understanding grant match requirements. Retrieved from 

2.  South Carolina Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Matching funds guide. Retrieved from 

3.  Grant Ready Kentucky. (2024, Feb 28). Federal Grant Match Requirements 101. Retrieved from 


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Mari Crocitto

Written by Mari Crocitto