Federal, State, and Program Acronyms for Grant Writing (and Writers)

Grant writing, like virtually any activity that involves bureaucracies, uses numerous acronyms. Something about governments makes them particularly fond of acronyms; Elmore Leonard even mocks that tendency in his novel Road Dogs. For novices, acronyms and jargon form an opaque barrier, but over time they become a language unto themselves, separating initiates from masters. Below, you’ll find a handy guide to the many acronyms used in Grant Writing Confidential (GWC) and the Seliger Funding Report E-Mail Newsletter. The guide includes federal agencies/departments, processes, large grant programs, and the like, all of which you’re likely to encounter here and elsewhere. In posts on GWC, acronyms used are usually defined, but sometimes one slips by.

Here are some that we often use (more acronyms will be added over time; if you have a suggestion, don’t hesitate to e-mail Jake Seliger):

ARRA: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: The Federal legislation authorizing billions of dollars in program funding and tax cuts, referred to originally as the “Stimulus Bill,” “Stimulus Package,” or “HR 1.”

BEDI: Brownfields Economic Development Initiative: A large HUD program designed to rehabilitate brownfields, which are former industrial or otherwise environmentally compromised sites. Note that the applicant must be a CDBG formula recipient and the grant is tied to a loan, called a Section 108 Loan. The security for the loan is the jurisdiction’s future CDBG allocation. As a result, there are few takers for BEDI grants or the counterpart EDI, which is the same kind of program but without the Brownfields requirement.

CA: California: A state abbreviation. State abbreviations usually follow postal codes.

CBO: Community-Based Organization: An organization that provides human services and is embedded within a particular community or population. In contrast to Faith-Based Organizations (see below), CBOs don’t have a religious affiliation.

CDBG: Community Development Block Grant: A pass-through HUD program that allocates funding to “entitlement cities and counties”, as well as states for smaller cities and rural areas, on a formula basis; funds can be used for a variety of affordable housing, economic development, infrastructure and other projects.

CFR: Code of Federal Regulations: The rules and requirements published by administrative agencies and departments, like HUD, the Dept. of Education, and the like. Or, to use the state description, “the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government.”

CMW PEP: The Carol M. White Physical Education Program: A federal program designed to increase physical fitness participation and promote healthful eating habits among school-age children by funding physical education activities during the school day and after school.

CoC: Continuum of Care: Authorized under the several “McKinney Act” Programs administered by HUD, Continuum of Care funds are allocated at the local level by regional “Continuum of Care” agencies (see “LAHSA” below) to provide an array of services to the homeless.

CSBG: Community Services Block Grant Program: A pass-through Office of Community Services (OCS) program that allocates funding to “entitlement cities and counties”, as well as states for smaller cities and rural areas, on a formula basis; funds can be used for a variety of human services, job training and other projects that benefit low-income persons.

DHHS: Department of Health and Human Services: The federal department charged with activities related to its name, or, in the grandiose vision of whoever wrote the department’s own description, the “principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.”

DOC: Department of Commerce: The federal department charged overseeing commercial activity.

Dept. of Education: The federal department charged with overseeing education. Note that it is seldom referred to as the “DOE” because that acronym was usurped by the Department of Energy, as shown below.

DOE: Department of Energy: The federal department charged with overseeing issues relating to energy production, consumption, and research. This shouldn’t be confused with the Department of Education, which is usually written as Dept. of Education or by its full name, unless otherwise noted.

DOL: Department of Labor: The government agency that “is charged with preparing the American workforce for new and better jobs.” Its authority sometimes overlaps with the DOC’s.

EDA: Economic Development Administration: The federal department charged with increasing jobs, providing skills training, and the like, by funding economic development activities, including infrastructure.

EHB(s): Electronic Handbook(s): HRSA’s acronym, which often appears in the plural, for a full electronic submission package. The deadline for an EHB is often later than the Grants.gov submission deadline. I have no idea why HRSA didn’t choose “EH” as the acronym for “Electronic Handbook.”

FBO: Faith-Based Organization: An organization that provides human services but is affiliated with a religion or movement. These organizations are generally separated from a particular religious body itself (i.e. the church, synagogue, mosque, temple, etc.), but still can retain ties to that body. Although FBOs cannot use Federal funds for religious activities or restrict access to services based on the religion of recipients, services are often provided from their religious point of view.

FEMA: The Federal Emergency Management Agency: Now a sub-organization of the Dept. of Homeland Security, FEMA is “tasked with Disaster Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery planning.” In reality, its tentacles extend far beyond that mission.

FFO: Federal Funding Opportunity: This is yet another way to say “RFP,” or announce that that funding is available.

FHA: Federal Housing Administration: A sub-organization of HUD, the FHA “provides mortgage insurance on loans made by FHA-approved lenders throughout the United States and its territories.” In effect, it often subsidizes housing purchases and building.

FOA: Funding Opportunity Announcement: This is another acronym for “RFP,” or announce that funding is available.

HUD: The Department of Housing and Urban Development: The federal department charged with overseeing issues related to housing, including Section 8 vouchers, public housing, FHA financing, and the like.

IHE: Institute of Higher Education: A post-secondary school responsible for education after grade 12. This could be a technical institute, two-year community college, four-year college, or a university.

LAHSA: Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority: The joint Los Angeles city and county organization is charged with addressing homelessness issues in L.A. County. It is primarily funded through “Continuum of Care” (see above) grants from the “McKinney Act” Programs, administered by HUD, on a formula, pass-through basis.

LEA: Local Education Agency: This is usually a long way of saying “school district,” or the city/county agency charged with overseeing K – 12 education. Sometimes individual public charter schools can function as independent LEAs, depending on the law in their particular state.

NOFA: Notice of Funding Availability: This is synonymous with “RFP” and means a document issued by a funder to solicit proposals.

NSF: National Science Foundation: The federal department charged with improving and researching science and technology.

OJJDP: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention: The Department of Justice office responsible for distributing federal formula grants to the states for various juvenile justice programs. OJJDP also administers a number of direct competitive grant programs and periodically issues RFPs for them.

PWEDA: Public Works and Economic Development Act: This 1965 act authorizes many EDA activities and sets guidelines for how EDA’s money is supposed to be spent.

RAT Board: Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board: The organization charged with investigating fraud and abuse at federal agencies. See more here.

RFA: Request for Funding Assistance: This is synonymous with “RFP” and means a document issued by a funder to solicit proposals.

RFP: Request for Proposals: This is the basic acronym that we use indiscriminately to describe documents that offer guidelines for grant funding. That the federal government has invented four terms for the exact same idea/process is a microcosm of larger problems associated with taming the federal bureaucracy (see “SGA,” below, for the fourth term).

SAMHSA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: A large sub-organization of DHHS responsible for conducting the kinds of programs its name implies it would conduct.

SEA: State Education Agency: State-level government organizations that oversee education.

SF-424: Standard Form 424: This is the basic cover form for most federal grant applications. Even though it is supposed to be a “Standard Form,” different agencies, such as Department of Education, use variants of the SF-424. Also, SF-424s included in grants.gov application files are different than the paper versions. So, SF-424s are not “standard”.

SGA: Solicitation for Grant Applications: Like a Request for Proposals (RFP), an SGA is a document issued by a funder to solicit proposals.

STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: This acronym is most common in NSF and Dept. of Education programs, as both organizations frequently publish RFPs involved with STEM-related subjects.

TX: Texas: Another state abbreviation.

WSJ: The Wall Street Journal: One of the two best daily newspapers in the United States, the other being the New York Times.

In addition to learning lots of acronyms, it also helps to have a strong working knowledge of how government is organized if you’re going to understand the grant process. If you, like many of us, slept through or never experienced the relevant portion of your civics class, a variety of books, pamphlets, and websites describe how governments operate, but we like Rulemaking: How Government Agencies Write Law and Make Policy and Politics and the Bureaucracy. Neither sounds exciting, but either would be helpful if you’re looking for a crash course in levels of government and their functions, which is essential if you’re going to understand grants, grant writing, this blog, and, ultimately, how to make sure your agency is funded.