What Is a Federal Award?

This post was originally published in 2017 and updated on January 2, 2020.

When you hear the word “award,” do you envision the federal government conferring funding to you to implement a public-serving project? Some of you grant professionals did, but it is understandable if you thought of this year’s Best Film, the league MVP debate, or your child’s T-ball participation trophy.

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What Is a Grant? [Updated]

A grant is one of the government’s tools for funding ideas and projects to provide public services, stimulate the economy, and benefit the general public. Grants can be awarded for a wide-variety of activities, such as innovative research, recovery initiatives, infrastructure building, or any of the other hundreds of funding programs in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA).

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Examples of U.S. federal grant programs include those that support justice and law enforcement, social services and health research, and research in science and technology.

The process of successfully serving the public through grants, though, can be quite complex. Grant programs originate from laws, and then are administered by the appropriate federal agency. For example:

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What Is a Mandatory Grant?

Mandatory grants are a type of grant that must be awarded to each eligible applicant (generally a government entity) based on the conditions defined in the authorizing statute. Must be awarded? Authorizing statute? What does all that mean?

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Let’s break it down by looking at the life of a mandatory grant:

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