Community Grantmaking

Our Approach

Community Grantmaking is our way to have reactive grant funds available for nonprofit organizations. Instead of having an open application and grant deadlines, we emphasize a personal approach, where we discuss with organizations their potential project or program before deciding on next steps.

A primary goal of this conversation is to also understand each organization’s total capacity. We believe that organizations do their best work, and serve community members in the most effective way, when they are strong and durable. The Foundation continues its commitment to capacity building and community growth by focusing on grants that fall into the following four areas of focus:

  • Projects that allow organizations to become more efficient. This may include improved technology, staff development, software, energy/environmental changes, exploration of strategic partnerships, capital, etc.
  • Projects that work to develop new programs or strengthen current programs that align with community needs, as well as projects that seek to provide opportunities for organizations to build on community plans or aspirations. This may include assessments and evaluations of existing programs, community convenings, collaborations, arts and cultural events and new programs that evolve from community or organizational planning activities.
  • Projects that engage and develop board capacity. This may include board training, retreats, conferences, consulting assistance, etc.
  • Projects that diversify revenue streams. This may include business planning, collaborations, development of fee for service or other fundraising avenues, etc.

Eligible organizations have 501(c)3 status or a fiscal agent with such status and operate primarily in Onondaga, Madison and/or Oswego Counties. Explore our process below to get started, we look forward to connecting with you and your organization.

The Process

Interested organizations should first log in to their account in Foundant, our online grants management system. If you aren’t sure if you have an account or would like to reset your password, please contact Sheria Walker

Once the Letter of Intent is submitted a Foundation team member will reach out, usually within 2 weeks, to set up an intake meeting. Intake meetings provide the Foundation with a time to learn more about an organization in general, receive any updates, and talk in detail about the organization’s request.

Since the Foundation only invites proposals, the intake meeting serves as a starting point for this process. After an intake meeting organizations can expect to hear back from the Foundation within 2-3 weeks. Next steps might include an invitation to submit a proposal, follow up questions, or connections to other organizations or leaders in town. Unfortunately a possible result could be that the Foundation isn’t interested in seeing a proposal at this time; the Foundation has limited resources and receives many more requests than we can fund.

If the Foundation is interested in seeing a proposal, please note that applicants will gain access to the application via the online grants management system. While the Foundation does not have deadlines, organizations should expect to submit a proposal within 6 months of receiving application guidelines. If the applicant takes longer than 6 months to submit a proposal, the Foundation will require additional conversations.

Start Your Application

If you are interested in applying for a grant, we would love to hear from you! Use the button below to access Foundant – our grants management system.

  • If you have applied in the past, log in using your username and password.
  • If you are applying for the first time, simply follow the instructions for creating an account.

Use this to create an account, log in, start an application, or edit an application in progress.

Use this link to preview the application. Find the program you are applying for, (i.e. Community Grantmaking), and select Preview to view the application. Please note that only the LOI (Letter of Intent) prompts are visible at this stage.


What areas do you fund?

As a place-based funder, we specifically focus on Onondaga, Madison and Oswego counties. This means that we fund a variety of types of organizations, and we don’t focus on a specific population. If your organization serves people/animals/the environment in this geographic area feel free to reach out to us. The Foundation looks to fund projects that will build an organization’s internal capacity, so requests vary drastically from organization to organization. That being said, feel free to check out some recent grants, and make sure that your request fits into one of our four Community Grantmaking focus areas.

What is a Letter of Inquiry (LOI)? How formal does it need to be?

The Letter of Inquiry (LOI) is really just an online form – it’s not even technically a letter. There’s no need to be formal when you fill it out. Please do make sure that you answer all of the questions, but don’t feel like you need to sweat over every phrase and word.

Should I call the Foundation for an introductory phone call before I submit an LOI?

Nope! No need. Your submitted Letter of Inquiry indicates to us that you’re ready to have a meeting and talk more about your project. We look forward to meeting with you.

Do I need to have a specific project in mind to submit an LOI?

Nope! You should have a general idea of what you’d like to talk to us about, but it’s absolutely okay to fill out an LOI if you just want to have an introductory conversation or talk through some ideas with us. Just let us know in the LOI what the purpose of the conversation will be.

Help! I don’t know if my organization has an account in Foundant.

If you don’t know if your organization already has an account, please reach out to Sheria Walker so that she can get you set up and logged in.

Help! I forgot my password.

No worries! Contact Sheria Walker.

What should I expect to happen in the intake meeting?

Organizations should be prepared to answer general questions about their organization, update the Foundation, and share details regarding their request. Typical questions will include:

  • What kinds of programs and services does your organization offer? Who do you primarily serve?
  • What is your organization’s overall budget? Where does your funding come from?
  • How big is your Board of Directors? Do they meet regularly? Are they representative of the population you serve?
How long does the Community Grant process take?

Honestly, it depends. Everyone’s favorite answer, right? In all seriousness, the Foundation works hard to maintain a flexible approach, and as such, the community grantmaking timeline can vary significantly. That being said, below are some general timeline guides:

  • If you’ve submitted the initial LOI to begin the grantmaking process, you will hear back from the Foundation within 2 weeks to set up an intake meeting.
  • If you’re waiting to hear the result of an intake meeting, you should expect to hear from the Foundation within 2-3 weeks.
  • If you’ve submitted an application, decisions are usually made within 2-3 months.
What are your grant deadlines?

Our Community Grants don’t have deadlines – we have conversations with organizations on a rolling basis. We want organizations to approach us when they are ready for a conversation, not based on a deadline. If you’re interested in talking to the Foundation, and feel like the timing is right for your organization, just go ahead and fill out an LOI.

What’s the difference between Community Grants and What If Mini Grants? Can I apply for both?

Community Grants and What If… mini grants  are two very different grants with two very different audiences. As such, organizations may not apply for both. Community grantmaking is meant for more established organizations in our tri-county service area (Onondaga, Madison and Oswego counties) and has a direct focus on supporting requests that address organizational capacity building. What If… mini grants are specific to grassroots groups within the City of Syracuse.

What is the typical grant size?

Community grants vary in size, but in general the average community grant falls between $7,000 and $15,000.

My LOI got declined, now what?

Unfortunately we receive many more requests than we are able to fund, and we often have to make tough decisions regarding funding. If your LOI is declined, you can always reach back out to the Foundation to get further clarity on why the decline happened. We try and be as transparent as possible – if there is something your organization could do to strengthen an LOI, we will let you know!

A declined LOI doesn’t mean an organization can never approach us again. Feel free to reach back out with different ideas and projects in the future.

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