What Is a Discretionary Grant?

Note: This is the second post in our ‘What Is’ series about the grant lifecycle and grant types.
A “discretionary” grant is a grant in which a federal agency selects the awardee (i.e., grant recipient) based on merit and eligibility. After you apply for a discretionary grant on Grants.gov, the applications are sent to the federal agency for a competitive review process and final funding decision.

What is blog series logoThe review process can vary for each program and federal agency. Here’s an example:

  • Applications for a specialized type of research are likely to undergo rigorous peer review by a panel of subject matter experts
  • Personnel in the federal agency also review the applications, and then make funding recommendations using the peer review results and their own assessments
  • After multiple layers of review, a final funding decision is made based on the quality of the application and how well the proposed project will fulfill the program’s mission

Quote calloutSo, what’s unique about a “discretionary” grant?

For discretionary grants, the federal awarding agencies review, assess, and evaluate the quality of the grant application to inform their funding decisions—it’s a competitive process.

There are other types of grants, such as mandatory, formula, or block grants, where federal agencies have less discretion in the final funding decision. For these types, grants are awarded based on the minimum eligibility and qualification requirements prescribed by legislation.

We’ll discuss these other grants as we continue our What Is series. Look for our next article in the series—What Is a Mandatory Grant?

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17 thoughts on “What Is a Discretionary Grant?

  1. Why are you charging for getting the Grants they said anyone that charges don’t go to, and what if after you charge they don’t get the grant, do you refund their money, or are you a scam like many others out there.
    please reply, Stan Morris


  2. Are there standards which all agencies have to uphold as far as discretionary grant review for objective scoring?


    1. Hi Melanie, thanks for the question. This post on small business grants might be helpful to your search: https://blog.grants.gov/2016/07/07/exploring-eligibility-can-small-businesses-receive-federal-grants/

      For background about what is a federal grant and their public-serving purpose, check out this blog post: https://blog.grants.gov/2017/02/07/new-series-what-is-a-grant/

      Or, you can go directly to the Search Grants tab to look for open grant opportunities you are eligible to apply for: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html


  3. Hurricane Harvey flooded my land since I have a creek that runs through my property. The creek bed is changed now and so is my road that goes to the back of the property. Is there a grant to clean up the creek? I also lost a buck of fish out of my 3.5 acre lake.


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