So, what is a contract? The dictionary lists a variety of definitions for the word contract. Two that pertain to grant contracts are as follows: (1) “an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified”; and, (2) “an agreement enforceable by law.” (Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/.)
The proposed program plan – With a contract award, the granting agency or foundation will expect that the proposed plan detailed in the application will be implemented as described with a minimum of changes. It will be assumed that as professionals, the program team has developed and proposed an implementation plan and strategies that are based on recognized and best practices in their field. If the team proposes to achieve that which is not truly attainable, it is likely that the organization will not be able to meet its contractual obligations if an award is received. If this happens, the organization could be endangering future grant awards and be putting itself in a position that requires the repayment of grant funds.
Equipment and supply purchases – Without prior written approval, equipment and supplies (such as computers, laptops, furniture, inkjet cartridges, etc.) cannot be paid for with grant funds unless they were included in the proposed budget. Additionally, if it was proposed that computers be purchased with the grant funds, these same funds cannot arbitrarily be switched to pay for new furniture.
After all, a grant contract is not a suggestion. Any grant professional that has ever survived a funder’s audit knows that it is in fact “an agreement enforceable by law.”