“What If…” Mini Grants

Our Approach

This year’s “What If…” Mini Grant program is designed to reflect the unprecedented needs that the City of Syracuse is facing in 2020. We believe that the people who live in a community should decide what happens in their community. Our goal is to provide City of Syracuse residents, who are working on a charitable project, with access to money, resources and connections.

Therefore, we look for projects that are driven by neighbors, grassroots organizations or others who are actively involved in making our city a better place. We are deeply committed to lifting up the ideas, voices, and initiatives of our Syracuse neighbors who have not been heard.

“What if…” is designed to foster growth in neighborhoods, strengthen the capacity of Syracuse residents who seek to make positive changes in their neighborhood while encouraging creativity, collaboration, and innovation.

We invite you to approach us with your ideas about how to build community support, show comradery, and solve the problems that you and your neighbors are facing.

The Process

The “Rapid Response” aspect of this year’s What If program reflects a faster and more streamlined process for both submitting and reviewing applications. The heart and soul of the program will remain constant while still making room for updates that are necessary to accommodate the challenges of our time.

Several of the most important changes are listed below:

  • We have temporarily eliminated the Resident Review Committee from the application approval process. Instead, decisions will be made by the Gifford team.
  • Application deadlines have been removed. We are excited to review grant applications in the order that they are submitted.
  • Orientation will no longer be mandatory and will instead be held on an as requested basis.

Want to apply? We would love to hear from you. You’ll need to log into your account in Foundant, our online grantmaking system. If you don’t yet have an account you will need to create one first. Applications are no longer password protected and you should see a link to the application under the “Apply” section of the system. If you need additional help accessing your account or would like to schedule a time to have an option orientation session with a Gifford team member, please contact Sheria Walker.

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. Rapid Response: What If Minigrant), and select Preview to view the application. Please note that only the LOI (Letter of Intent) prompts are visible at this stage.


Am I eligible to apply?
  • Applicant must be a resident of the City of Syracuse
  • Project must take place in the City of Syracuse
  • Applicant/group must be a grassroots organization, this funding is not meant for large, established nonprofits
What is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status?

Basically a 501c3 status is a federal tax status that nonprofit or charitable organizations can file for. It changes the way they are recognized by the government allows them to have special permissions in things like paying sales tax. Here is a great resource if you’d like to learn more:


Do I need to have a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status?

Nope! If your group does not have a 501c3 status, you can absolutely still apply for funding. You will need to find a fiscal sponsor who agrees to receive the funding on your behalf. The Foundation can help guide you through this process.

What is a Fiscal Sponsor

A fiscal sponsor is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit that is willing to accept money from us on your behalf.  Our grants must be paid to a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit (including churches) or to a public entity, such as a town, public school, or state agency. If you need one or have further questions regarding fiscal sponsors contact Sheria.

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.

Help! I’ve forgotten the password to my account.

No worries! Contact Sheria Walker.

Help! I started to fill out my application and now I can’t find it in my account anymore.

Contact Sheria Walker for help with this.

I don’t have access to a computer, can I still apply?

Absolutely! Yes, reach out to Sheria Walker and we will work with you to help provide access to an application.

Can I apply more than once?

Yes, but only after you can meet the following requirements:

  • Have you turned in all reports that were assigned to you? Is the project done and are all funds spent?
  • Is it is a new calendar year since you last got a grant? For example, if you got a grant in 2018 you would not be able to reapply until 2019.
Can I re-apply if my grant is denied?

Yes, absolutely. The Resident Review Committee always gives feedback and reasons why they deny a grant. Oftentimes you will be asked to reapply after you address whatever concerns they may have had.

I got the grant, but things aren’t going as planned, what should I do?
Call Sheena if you need to talk about a new timeline, new budget, an extension on your reporting deadline, etc.

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