Types of Grants

This illustration provides an overview and description of various funding opportunities for grantees. Grantees may find this information useful when applying for grants.  


In the attached flowchart, you will see listed the major types of grants. Descriptions of each type of grant follow the chart. Flow chart. [PDF, 20KB]

Mandatory Grants

A mandatory Grant is a grant that a federal agency is required by statute to award if the recipients meet the eligibility and compliance requirements of the statute and regulations. The amount of the award is usually determined by multiplying a fixed amount of money with a mathematical index. The index is usually a measure of need based on such factors as population, per capita income, and various program-specific factors. Mandatory grants are typically awarded to state governments and sometimes other entities.

Mandatory grants include block, open-ended, and closed-ended grants.

Block Grant. Typically regarded as mandatory grants to states, some block grants consist of what had been several smaller, specific-purpose grants consolidated into one “block.” Block grants usually provide greater flexibility of use of the provided funds and place fewer federal administrative restrictions on the recipients.

Open-Ended Grant. A type of mandatory grant where the legislation authorizes appropriation of funds sufficient to pay a set portion of the recipient’s (normally state’s) total cost without an upper limit, hence “open-ended.” Open-ended grants are sometimes referred to as “open-ended entitlement grants,” due to the entitlement of individual citizens to funds under the awards.

Close-Ended Grant. A type of mandatory grant where the award constitutes an upper limit on the amount of funds the federal government may pay for the activities, hence “close-ended.”

Discretionary Grants

Discretionary grants are awards that permit the Federal government, according to specific legislation, to exercise judgment (discretion) in selecting the project or proposal to be supported and selecting the recipient organization through a competitive process. The award amount is determined either through a negotiation agreement between the recipient and the grants office/program office or on a formula basis. Discretionary grants are also referred to as “project” grants. Additionally, the funds for these programs are appropriated annually at the discretion of the Congress.

Discretionary grants and cooperative agreements are used to support the following types of projects:

Demonstration – To establish or demonstrate the feasibility of new methods of delivery or types of service.

Research – To develop new knowledge or to evaluate existing knowledge in new settings.

Training – To support the training of individuals for careers in fields important to the mission of the awarding agency and to help professional schools establish, expand, or improve programs of continuing professional education. Training awards consist of institutional training grants and individual fellowships or scholarships. Most fellowship/scholarship programs also require a payback obligation to work at the agency for a specified period of time in exchange for the financial assistance that was received for training.

Service – To support the cost of developing, organizing, establishing, providing, or expanding the delivery of services.

Construction – To A project to support the building or expansion of a facility.

Conference – To support a meeting that is relevant to advance knowledge and understanding of a scientific or public health topic. A conference is defined as a gathering, symposium, seminar, workshop, or any other organized, formal meeting where persons assemble to coordinate, exchange, and disseminate information or to explore or clarify a defined subject, problem, or area of knowledge.

Types of Grants. HHS/GrantsNet. 2009. English.

Last Reviewed: August 2009

Last Updated: September 8, 2015