Demystifying Grant Funding Jargon: A Guide to Understanding Grant Funding Terminologies

August 16, 2023
min read

Ever felt like grant funding applications come with their own secret language? For many startups and entrepreneurs, wading through the maze of grant jargon can be as challenging as designing the next big product. But fear not! We're here to play translator. In "Demystifying Grant Funding Jargon," we'll break down the most common terms and phrases, transforming them from confusing code into clear, actionable insights. No more scratching your head over puzzling terms; let's unlock the world of grant funding together!

1. Value Proposition:

This term encapsulates the unique selling point or standout feature of a startup's product or service. Imagine you're shopping for shoes, and one pair claims to improve posture and reduce back pain. That's the value proposition—something special that persuades customers to buy. It sets a product or service apart and offers a compelling reason for customers to choose one company over its competitors.

2. Business Model:

Think of the business model as a detailed map guiding a startup's journey to profitability. It lays out specific details: who the customers are, what the company is selling to them, the price, and how that will lead to profits. Like a recipe, it contains key ingredients (products or services) and steps (strategies) to achieve success.

3. Minimum Viable Product (MVP):

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is like making a basic version of a new thing, enough to show people the main idea. It’s a stripped-down version of a product, containing only essential features. Think of it as a prototype, like a builder's model home. It allows startups to gather feedback without investing too much time or money into full product development. The idea is to learn what customers truly want and adjust accordingly.

4. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC):

This metric is crucial for evaluating the efficiency of marketing efforts. It calculates the total cost to acquire a single customer, encompassing advertising, marketing campaigns, and more. Think of CAC as the ticket price to bring someone into your shop; naturally, the lower this price, the better for your finances.

5. Churn Rate:

Imagine pouring water into a bucket with holes—the rate at which water leaks out represents the churn rate. For businesses, this means the rate at which they lose customers. Keeping this rate low is essential as constantly replacing customers can be costly and hinder growth.

6. Burn Rate:

If a startup's finances were a candle, the burn rate would be the speed at which the candle melts. It represents how quickly a startup is spending its initial funds. Monitoring this ensures that the startup doesn't run out of money before achieving profitability or another funding round.

7. Runway:

Extend the burn rate analogy, and you'll get the runway—it's the time a startup can keep operating before its funds run dry. Just as planes need enough runway to take off, startups need enough funds to achieve lift-off, either becoming profitable or securing more investment.

8. Pitch Deck:

A pitch deck is like a visual storybook that startups use to introduce themselves to investors or partners. It has short, clear slides about the problem the startup solves, their solution, how they'll make money, and why they're awesome. It's like showing off the best parts of the startup to get support. Think of it as a highlight reel played during a sports match, capturing the best moments to draw in sponsors.

9. Pivot:

If a startup realises its initial plan isn't reaping desired results, it might choose to pivot—change direction. It's akin to a ship adjusting its course upon spotting an iceberg. Pivoting can mean modifying the product, targeting a different audience, or even changing the business model.

10. Bootstrapping:

Instead of seeking external funds or investors, a startup might choose to rely solely on its own savings and revenue to grow. Imagine starting a garden using only seeds from last year's plants. It's organic, self-reliant growth.

11. Product-Market Fit:

When a glove fits a hand perfectly, it feels just right. Similarly, when a product or service seamlessly fits into a market, addressing its needs and wants effectively, it achieves a product-market fit. It signifies that the startup has found a solid customer base eager for its offerings.

12. Scale:

Scaling is all about expansion. A startup that's ready to scale is preparing to amplify its operations, serve more customers, and enhance its product offerings. It's the transition from a local bakery to a nationwide chain—maintaining quality while serving more people.

13. Elevator Pitch:

Imagine being stuck in an elevator with a potential investor (like Dangote) for just a minute. What would you say to pique their interest? An elevator pitch is a concise, clear, and catchy explanation of a business idea meant to intrigue and inform quickly. 

14. KPI (Key Performance Indicator):

KPI, or Key Performance Indicator, is like a startup's report card. It shows how well the business is doing by using quantifiable metrics that indicate a startup's progress and success in achieving its goals, such as revenue growth, user engagement, and customer acquisition. They're like vital signs in a medical check-up, reflecting the health of the business. From revenue growth to customer feedback scores, KPIs offer a snapshot of a company's current standing and future potential.

15. RFP (Request for Proposals):

A document released by a funding organization that outlines the details of a grant opportunity, including the project's goals, eligibility criteria, application requirements, and submission deadlines. 

16. Matching Funds:

Some grant opportunities require the recipient to match a portion of the grant, demonstrating commitment. This means you have to put in some of your own money, and the grant funder adds the rest. It's like saying, "I believe in this, so I'm investing my own cash too."

17. Letter of Intent (LOI):

Before jumping into a detailed proposal, a startup might send an LOI—a brief letter outlining their interest and basic project details. It is a preliminary document submitted to express a startup's interest in applying for a grant. It provides basic information about the proposed project. It outlines key terms, but it's not legally binding, setting the stage for more serious discussions and agreements later. Think of it as a trailer before a movie; it gives a sneak peek but doesn't reveal the entire plot. 

18. Disbursement Schedule:

Funding from grants doesn't always come in one lump sum. The disbursement schedule is a timeline detailing when and how funds will be released. It’s like a payment plan, often contingent on the startup reaching certain milestones or completing specific phases of a project.


In the fast-paced world of startups, clarity is key. Familiarising yourself with essential terminologies isn't just a matter of industry jargon—it's about understanding the very building blocks of your venture. Each term we've explored sheds light on crucial aspects of the entrepreneurial journey, from conceptualising an idea to securing funding and scaling operations. Armed with this knowledge, you're better positioned to navigate the startup ecosystem with confidence and poise. Remember, in entrepreneurship, knowledge isn't just power—it's the fuel that drives innovation and growth. Keep learning, keep iterating, and most importantly, keep pushing forward. Whether you're just starting out or looking to expand, understanding these terms is a step towards ensuring your startup not only survives but thrives in today's competitive marketplace.

Do you need an expert to help with your next Grant?
Yes please!