What Is a Government Grant and Pass-Through Funding?

You can find a lot of websites about “government grants,” but not all of these sources are using this term in the same way. So, what is a government grant?

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As we’ve written about before, a federal grant is one form of federal financial assistance in which the main purpose is to carry out a public purpose. In such a grant, this is typically done by transferring anything of value (typically funding) from the federal agency to a non-federal entity.

The phrase “government” grant, on the other hand, is not an official term, but rather a common way people refer to a grant that is awarded by a governmental entity to another entity. In the U.S., this generally refers to the federal, state, or local government levels. On Grants.gov, we only have federal grant postings.

For prospective grant applicants, this means you may want to extend your search to your state and local government websites along with Grants.gov. This is especially true if you are an individual person seeking grants. For more details, read this blog article about individuals seeking “grants”.

When you say, “Government grant,” we ask, “Which one?”

If you are an individual who wants a “government grant,” you may be using the term to refer to various forms of federal financial assistance that may not actually be a grant. For example, food commodities like SNAP, education loans, and health insurance are not grants, so you will not find these federal financial assistance programs on Grants.gov. You should check out those links or the Benefit Finder tool on Benefits.gov for more information.

If you are an organization, such as a private university or nonprofit, that wants a “government grant,” you are probably using the term to refer to a federal grant. You may also be referring to state or local grants, which leads us to the topic of pass-through funding.

What about that pass-through funding?

Many federal grants are awarded to state governments, and the state governments then make subawards to other organizations to carry out the public purpose of the grant program within their state’s jurisdiction. This gives the state governments more flexibility and autonomy over the use of the federal grant funds. As a result, prospective applicants will need to search and apply through their state’s grants office.

Interested in learning more about grants? The Learn Grants category on this blog aims to unpack and explain the federal grants world. This is an extension of the Learn Grants tab on Grants.gov.

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