Grantees Are Still Swimming in Confusion

February 4, 2011 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment


Okay, so you’re probably wondering what a duck has to do with grants. Follow my train of thought here.

In my eight-plus years of covering grants management, I’ve realized that entities and organizations of all types struggle to define the difference between a subgrant and a contract. Some of the best-attended audio conferences we’ve had here at Thompson have focused on defining subgrants and contracts. The topic even emerged at the recent National Grants Partnership meeting during a question-and-answer session on the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act when Karen Lee of the Office of Management and Budget was asked to clarify the difference between subgrants and contracts.

To put it simply, Lee explained that vendors under a contract provide goods and services that would help to meet the outcomes of the grant. A subgrant is an agreement in which the substance of the grant flows from the prime to the first-tier subrecipient. The definition is spelled out in OMB Circular A-133 §__.210, and we provide a thorough analysis and comparative chart on the topic in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.

I recall that during one of his audio conferences on subgrants vs. contracts for Thompson, grants management consultant Bob Lloyd emphasized that, unlike contracts, subgrants take on the nature and requirements of the grant, adding that “If it looks like a duck, and acts like a duck, it’s a duck.” Again I say, “Quack!”

Have you experienced confusion in determining the difference between a subgrant and a contract? Let us know!


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