What Is a Government Contract? And How Does a Contract Differ from a Grant?

This post was originally published on May 9, 2018 and updated on August 28, 2019.

We expect to hit some turbulence in this blog post, so we have turned on the proverbial fasten seat belt light.

The seemingly simple question, “What is a government contract?”, requires a complex answer. We have divided this blog post into four sections: (1) basic definitions, (2) five differences between grants and contracts, (3) examples of a grant and contract to illustrate these differences, and (4) resources for more information.

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What Is the Office of Management and Budget? (And How Does It Relate to Federal Grants?)

This post was originally published on May 1, 2017 and updated on July 23, 2019.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is an Executive Branch office that oversees the implementation of the President of the United States’ vision across government agencies (WhiteHouse.gov – OMB). This relates to the grant programs implemented by federal agencies and affects how they are managed, their budgets, and the forms applicants complete when applying for a grant.

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Resource: Self-Paced Grants Management Courses from the Department of Education

Continuing our blog series on applicant resources from federal government agencies and offices, today we highlight one of the more comprehensive sets of training modules on offer from the U.S. Department of Education. In fact, there are currently ten self-paced e-learning courses available on ED.gov’s Grants Training and Management Resources page.

Applicant Resources

“While the topics focus primarily on fiscal issues, there are important concepts included in the trainings that are applicable to anyone involved in grants activities, either programmatic or fiscal,” reads a description of the resource.

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Grant Writing Basics: How to Start Working on Future Funding Opportunities

As with many projects in life, it is best to begin your planning and writing as early as you can. When applying for federal grants, the OMB Uniform Guidance sets forth a 30 to 60 day range for federal funding opportunities to be open:

“(b) The Federal awarding agency must generally make all funding opportunities available for application for at least 60 calendar days. The Federal awarding agency may make a determination to have a less than 60 calendar day availability period but no funding opportunity should be available for less than 30 calendar days unless exigent circumstances require as determined by the Federal awarding agency head or delegate.” §200.203(b)

A reasonable follow-up question to this is what to do if you would like to begin working on a grant application more than two months in advance.

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Gil Tran on What Is Coming Up for the OMB Uniform Guidance in 2018

While telling a story about a vacation to Venice, Italy, Gil Tran, Senior Policy Analyst for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), described Venice as a beautiful and unique city where, “you’re always going to get lost when you’re in it.” Despite its layout, he said, “When you get lost, that’s when you discover all the gems.”

According to Tran, this is how grant professionals ought to dive into and enjoy the OMB Uniform Guidance (or the “Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards” for those who prefer its full name). Immerse yourselves and get lost, only to discover the wonderful “nuggets” of regulations governing your federal award experience.

While many of you may have a less enchanted, more pragmatic approach to grant administration, you nonetheless need to know the latest about the Uniform Guidance.

OMB's Gil Tran, Senior Policy Advisor, presenting at the OGAPA Grants Management Conference

Continue reading Gil Tran on What Is Coming Up for the OMB Uniform Guidance in 2018

What Is the OMB’s ‘Uniform Guidance’ for Grants?

With a name like Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (commonly called “Uniform Guidance”), you’re unlikely to mistake this government publication for a comic book or romance novel. But, unless you’re a federal grants expert, you may have some difficulty pinning down the Uniform Guidance’s main goal.

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In plain English, the Uniform Guidance is simply a set of authoritative rules and regulations about federal grants from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This “guidance” is designed to keep everyone in the federal grants community – Congress, grant-making agencies, and applicants – on the same page.

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