Note: This blog post was originally published in 2017 and updated on March 18, 2020.
To understand the definitions of “subaward” and “subrecipient”, it helps to think in terms of a grant that has just been won. (If you are not sure what an “award” is, start with the What Is an Award? post, then come back.)
Rather than the grantor (i.e., the grant-making agency) entrusting just one entity with carrying out a federal program, sometimes multiple awardees will shoulder the responsibilities.
In such cases, one entity – the one who submitted the grant application – will serve as a pass-through to the partnering entities, which are called subrecipients.
The government funding they receive to carry out their responsibilities is called the subaward.
If you are looking for more formal definitions, the Grants Learning Center’s Terminology page defines subrecipient this way:
A non-Federal entity that receives a subaward from a pass-through entity to carry out part of a Federal program; but does not include an individual that is a beneficiary of such program. A subrecipient may also be a recipient of other Federal awards directly from a Federal awarding agency.
Meanwhile, subaward is defined as follows:
An award provided by a pass-through entity to a subrecipient for the subrecipient to carry out part of a Federal award received by the pass-through entity. It does not include payments to a contractor or payments to an individual that is a beneficiary of a Federal program. A subaward may be provided through any form of legal agreement, including an agreement that the pass-through entity considers a contract.
Federal grant applications requiring the participation of partner entities include subforms that are submitted at the same time as the forms completed by the primary applicant. The following video explains how subforms can be added to an application in Grants.gov Workspace.
If you found this blog post helpful, be sure to review all of the topics covered in our What Is? blog series.