Community Stories

Changes to our Community Grants Program

Learn more about the changes we are making to our grants this year.

Community Foundation of South Puget Sound is making some changes to our grantmaking this year. During planning meetings in 2019, our Board of Directors had decided to review our approach to community grantmaking in 2020 as part of their governance work. Then this year, COVID-19 changed so much about all of our lives. For many of us, the pandemic has highlighted the things that are most important and amplified critical needs. One of those needs—one that the Community Foundation can do something about—is responsive, flexible, and unrestricted funding for community-based nonprofits.

We recognize that nonprofit leaders have been saying for years that unrestricted funding is the most valuable kind of funding for their organizations—and the most difficult to raise. COVID-19 has highlighted the ways that restricted funds hinder nonprofits’ abilities to quickly change course or respond to a crisis.

The Community Foundation was founded to be a permanent source of funding to help our communities thrive. We know that nonprofits are at the frontlines of our communities—working tirelessly for individual and collective well-being. And we believe those same nonprofit leaders know how to best use the funds they raise to accomplish their goals.

At the Community Foundation, we are committed to using our resources to care for our most vulnerable residents and to help build vibrant, healthy, and equitable communities. As we constantly strive to be a more effective grantmaker, a better partner to nonprofits, and responsible stewards of the funds we manage, we are making the following changes to our Community Grants this year:

Most grants will be unrestricted
Unrestricted funding means the grant is at the discretion of the nonprofit organization to spend as they see fit. Unrestricted funding helps give nonprofits the freedom to learn, adapt, and take risks. It is critical in supporting an organization’s sustainability and effectiveness.
Most grant awards will be $5,000 or less
For the past several years, our average grant size has been approximately $4,500. Many organizations have had the experience of applying for a grant of $10,000 and then receiving $5,000 or even $2,500 from us. This change is an attempt to be more explicit about an existing practice. As a community foundation we seek to fund a broad range of organizations that contribute to the social, health, and environmental well-being of our communities.  
A simpler, less burdensome application
A shorter grant application will reduce the time spent on this process for both applicants and grant evaluators, so that the time and effort put into the application is relative to the amount received.
Clearer evaluation process and criteria
We are also working on developing a clearer scoring process to guide our volunteer Grants Committee members. Making funding decisions with limited resources is never easy. We are working to be as clear as possible—with ourselves and nonprofits—about what criteria we are using to make those decisions.

We are also exploring how our organization can have the greatest impact in our communities. We know that sometimes, having a greater impact can mean concentrating some of our grant funding on specific community goals and objectives. The Community Foundation is beginning to explore ways we can increase our impact in the community through this kind of focused grant making. We know there are needs and opportunities in our communities that need larger and more concentrated funding than we’ve given in the past.

We are taking a small step in this direction by adding an optional question into our grant application process where we invite nonprofits to tell us about emerging needs and opportunities. Based on what we learn, we may consider making a few larger “focused” grants this year.

As an organization, we believe in continuous improvement in everything we do, and that all processes must be updated over time. In fact, community foundations are, by definition, meant to adapt to the changing needs of our communities over time. We believe that responding and adapting to critical needs will help us continue to contribute to building a vibrant, healthy, and equitable South Puget Sound.


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