Community Grants Guidelines

Download the 2019 Community Grants Guidelines

we are not currently accepting grant applications. check back in July 2020 for more details on our next community grant cycle.

Community Grants Focus Areas

The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound seeks to fund a wide range of programs and organizations that contribute to quality of life and positive outcomes for individuals and families living in Thurston, Mason, and Lewis Counties. Grant applications typically align with at least one of the Foundation’s focus areas, and we continue to be interested in all ideas that lead to building a better community. The following is a list of the types of activities under each focus area that we typically support.

Arts and Culture

  • Strengthen arts and cultural organizations
  • Cultivate and support appreciation of diverse cultures and art forms
  • Deepen community-based arts education for children and adults
  • Enhance organizations’ ability to diversify and expand audiences
  • Use the arts to promote cultural expression, build community, and bridge cultural divides

Community and Civic Engagement

  • Promote volunteerism, immigrant integration, and civic participation
  • Support coordination and organizing efforts that create change in communities and expand opportunities for all
  • Support leadership development opportunities, especially leadership that is diverse and inclusive

Economic Opportunity

  • Strategies to help individuals and families build financial assets and manage their finances
  • Develop pathways aimed at linking individuals disconnected from the
    workforce or school to opportunities for jobs, education, and achieving

Education & Youth

  • Expand educational opportunities, foster creativity, and enhance academic experiences for youth in our communities
  • Promote opportunities for youth development and leadership
  • Support programs that work with underserved youth and young adults
  • Offer training and support for educators/providers/families  

Environment & Animal Welfare

  • Support education opportunities to increase environmental awareness for people of all ages
  • Support the provision of care for animals (very limited funding)

Health & Wellness

  • Increase access to services that address health and wellness though all stages of life, especially for low-income and vulnerable populations
  • Increase awareness and activities that support healthy lifestyles and community well-being, especially for low-income and vulnerable populations

Housing & Human Services

  • Support access to healthy food, stable housing, and safe communities
  • Support access to information and services that allow vulnerable populations to remain safe and independent

Types of Support

The Community Grants program awards three types of grants:

Program Support

Program (or project) support grants can support ongoing or expanding programs or projects that align with the Community Foundation’s funding priorities. Program support grants can also support the development of a new program or project.

Capacity Building

Capacity building grants support opportunities to help an organization to more effectively carry out its mission. These grants will be awarded to support activities that will make an organization stronger, more successful, or more effective. Capacity building activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Training for staff, board, or volunteers
  • Improving financial management or information systems
  • Acquiring new technology or equipment to improve or expand services
  • Developing new sources of income
  • Organizational planning and/or development

Capacity building requests should include an explanation of how the activities will improve the organization.

General operating

General operating grants invest in a grantee’s mission, rather than specific projects or programs. It allows grant recipients to use funds as they see fit to reach their goals—whether for salaries and overhead, to invest in technology, or to fund a marketing campaign. General operating support grants are available to nonprofits with operating budgets under $1.25 million. An organization's headquarters must be based in Thurston, Mason, or Lewis Counties to be eligible for general operating support.


In reviewing grant proposals, the Community Foundation generally considers the following evaluation criteria:

  • Contributes to individual and community well-being
  • Meets an important community need in Thurston, Mason, and/or Lewis County
  • Collaborates and shares, carrying out their work in coordination with partners or in cohorts
  • Addresses disparities and increases opportunities for historically underserved people and communities
  • Meaningfully engages the voices, perspectives, and expertise of the people and communities that represent their program participants
  • Are positioned to impact the need or opportunity they are addressing (strong leadership-board, volunteer and staff, well-crafted policies and procedures, broad funding base)
  • Are well-planned and likely to succeed (realistic budget – both income and expenses, operating or business plan in place, evaluation or outcomes targeted and measures in place)

Applicants should be prepared for an interview at the mutual convenience of the applicant and the Community Foundation’s Grants Committees. Grants Committees will review applications and make recommendations to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is responsible for final grant decisions.


The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound makes grants to 501(c)(3) public charities that serve Thurston, Mason, and Lewis County residents. If your organization or group is not a 501(c)(3), you must secure a fiscal sponsor.

Grant amounts typically range from $2,500 to $10,000. Each organization may submit one application per cycle. Applications are reviewed by our Grants Committees, consisting of board and community members. The review may include a site visit or interview. The Grants Committees then present funding recommendations to our Board of Directors for final action in late October. Grant payments will be mailed by December 31.

We do not support:

  • Organizations that discriminate with regard to age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, national origin, religious affiliation, or presence of a disability
  • Activities or purchases that occur prior to grant decisions
  • Endowments and debt reduction
  • Individuals
  • Political activities
  • Religious organizations when funds would be used in whole or in part to further the organization’s religious purposes

Our Community Grants program typically does not support*:

  • National and statewide organizations that cannot demonstrate a local presence
  • Capital support for new buildings, renovations, property acquisitions, or major expansions (we occasionally support smaller proposals of $5,000 or less for equipment purchases) 
  • Higher education institutions and private schools
  • Annual campaigns, events, tickets, fundraisers
  • Re-granting programs or service club projects
  • Individual schools, daycares, or camps
  • Recreational programs and equipment, including playgrounds
  • Short-term events and celebrations, such as conferences, festivals, and fundraising functions

*We encourage you to contact us with questions about whether your proposal’s activities would fit within our Community Grants objectives and guidelines. Contact Melissa Rosscup (360) 705-3340

Nondiscrimination Policy

The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disabilities, age, status as a veteran, national origin, or any other protected classes. Applicants for the Community Grants program must hold similar standards in the provision of services.

Contact Us!

We welcome and encourage questions about the Community Grants process. Please feel free to get in touch with staff for questions about eligibility, the online grants system, your proposal, or anything else about the Community Grants process. We strive to respond to all inquiries within 48 hours. Contact Melissa Rosscup at or (360) 705-3340.