Community learning grants

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Community learning grants


Organizations and communities across Washington are doing powerful work to improve health equity: from community organizing and leadership development, to cultural work to heal from trauma of racism and colonialism, to public education and policy advocacy. Group Health Foundation is eager to support this work.

The Foundation will make up to $15,000,000 in Community Learning Grants in 2019—with more opportunities to come in 2020 and beyond. Grants are for three years to provide core support to organizations and fiscally-sponsored projects.

Funding priorities


We have a broad and inclusive definition of health, and we look forward to learning about and supporting organizations that are addressing social determinants of health, pursuing community-defined health priorities, and working toward a more just and healthy civic life. Community Learning Grants prioritize:

  • Organizations and fiscally-sponsored projects that may be smaller or newer, and that have had less access to philanthropy and major donors.
  • Culturally-specific, cross-racial, and disability-led groups that are founded by people most impacted and led by the people whom they were created to serve.
  • Community-rooted groups with inventive, new, and overlooked ideas for changing systems—racial, social, legal, economic, governmental and more—that underpin opportunity and health. As grantmakers and policy advocates we are especially concerned with who has power in those systems—as well as the question of who should have power, and how to get there.

Initial applications may be submitted from Thursday, September 19 through Friday, October 25, 2019. Organizations that are interested and eligible are encouraged to apply right away—that window closes quickly and we know it is a busy time!

Our aspirations


The Foundation’s audacious goal of achieving health equity in Washington demands that we address root causes of inequities. Given this big goal, we expect that in the future the Foundation will work with larger and well-known groups that already have relationships with state and local policymakers, philanthropic funders, nonprofit leaders, and with us. Knowing that our focus will lead there naturally, our inaugural Community Learning Grants are intended to level the philanthropic playing field by giving a head start to smaller and less well-known organizations.

This is a choice born out of our mission and strategy. The Foundation seeks and supports people and communities whose ideas for achieving a healthy community may have previously been overlooked or underfunded.

Through Community Learning Grants, we aim to build trusting, accountable relationships. We hope to start by learning about your aspirations, what your organization (or fiscally-sponsored project) does, and how you are approaching your work to create a more equitable, healthy state.

Grant types and amounts


Grants are three-year awards of core-support funding. Organizations often call this “general operating support.” Groups that are fiscally sponsored or who use a fiscal agent can also receive core-support grants. In those cases, it means that the funding is (a) restricted to a named, sponsored project and (b) able to be used for any part of the project’s expenses and work.

The Foundation will consider requests at three pre-defined levels of giving:

  • $50,000 per year for three years ($150,000 total).
  • $75,000 per year for three years ($225,000 total).
  • $100,000 per year for three years ($300,000 total).

We strongly encourage groups who have historically thought of themselves as “smaller” to apply for what they need; we discourage organizations from selling themselves short by asking for smaller amounts. Conversely, we caution organizations with significant political and philanthropic access to moderate their requests in the Community Learning Grants application. Read the application guidelines for further information.

How to apply


We encourage everyone who is interested in applying to carefully review our guidelines before starting. Applying for and receiving a Community Learning Grant is a two-part process.

  1. Submit a grant request on or before October 25, 2019. The initial proposal seeks to learn about your organization, mission, community, structure, and partners. We estimate it will take about 60 minutes to complete. We recommend that you begin by downloading either the Word document or PDF fillable form so you can write out your answers first, then visit our online grant application to fill in all your answers and submit your proposal at one time.
  2. Some applicants will be invited to move to a second part of the proposal process. When invited, you will be asked to submit further information, including a financial narrative and budget, board and staff lists, as well as answers to any follow-up questions in early November.

The Foundation will notify grant recipients of awards in early December and send out grant agreement letters. Signed agreements will be due back before the end of 2019.

For more information, you can watch the below recording of a webinar we hosted to introduce this funding opportunity and answer some of the community’s questions. If you would like to view the video with subtitles, you can do so by clicking the CC button at the bottom of the video screen.

Accessibility


Group Health Foundation strives to make this process widely available to disabled people, people who communicate in languages other than English, and organizations that are new to working with funders like us. We have been working with groups around Washington to understand different types of needs that may come up. Based on that learning, we are working to provide:

  • Interpretation and translation services to ensure access to our guidelines, applications, and supplemental information in languages other than English (including ASL and/or CART).
  • Large-print formats of materials and instructions.
  • Alternative application methods, including over the phone, by video or voice recording, and on paper (as opposed to digital submission).
  • Support from professional grant writers.

We strive to provide these services to the organizations who will benefit most from that access. Contact us at grants@grouphealthfoundation.org or 866.389.5532 to tell us what you need and how we can improve. We know it takes time, trust, and effort to make these requests of the Foundation. Thank you for your willingness to share how we can make this process work for you.

Application guidelines


Who is eligible?

Group Health Foundation supports organizations and fiscally-sponsored projects whose work has significant impact on the people of Washington State. This includes organizations whose work is exclusively inside our borders, as well as those whose efforts impact individuals and families along Washington’s borders.

The Foundation is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, which means that we have flexibility in the types of organizations and work that we support. We expect most funding will support nonprofit organizations (e.g., 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), etc.) and tribal entities. In some cases, we may consider support for state or local governmental organizations. Community Learning Grants are not intended to support individuals.

What types of organizations or projects is the Foundation looking to support?

Group Health Foundation will prioritize support for those organizations that:

  • Have been overlooked by—or not yet introduced to—philanthropy and institutional funders like Group Health Foundation.
  • Are founded and led by people who reflect the future leadership of Washington—for example, people who are Black, Indigenous, people of color, queer, trans*, women, disabled and D(d)eaf people, people with low-incomes, and those with a host of other intersectional identities.
  • Have significant and specific connection to families in communities experiencing health inequities, whether on tribal lands or in rural, exurban, suburban, and urban places.
  • Are pursuing culturally-specific and intersectional approaches to their work—whether they are providing direct services, conducting community organizing and leadership development, organizing cultural reclamation and connection, leading anti-racism and anti-colonialism work, engaging people in public education and policy advocacy, or directing other efforts to involve people in a vibrant vision of Washington.
  • Are motivated to change the status quo and current ideas of who is entitled to health, influence, access, and leadership in our social, political, and economic systems.

Our desired outcome of the Community Learning Grants is a stronger and more influential set of community-based organizations across Washington.

What types of activities are supported by these grants?

Community Learning Grants provide multi-year, unrestricted funds to support day-to-day operations that fall within the mission of your organization. Grantees can use unrestricted funding for payroll and staffing costs, rent, programs, services, or other costs without limitation.

In our application form, we invite prospective grantees to share information about your organization’s mission, the long-term goals you have for your community, as well as what your organization does to achieve those long-term goals (i.e., your programs and your structure). If awarded, a Community Learning Grant from the Foundation can be used to support a part of or all aspects of your work, at your discretion.

Do I have to provide health care or direct services to apply?

No. In fact, we expect most Community Learning Grants to support organizations that do not currently provide care or services or plan to do so in the future.

Can we talk before I start the process?

Our team is growing, but we are still small. We already know that we need to be thoughtful about how we prioritize one-on-one conversations because we might not be able to speak with everyone on an individual basis—especially general inquiries. In addition to offering group calls, webinars, and published FAQs, we expect to prioritize individual discussions with people and organizations that:

  • Communicate in languages other than English and have interpretation needs.
  • Live in parts of the state without broadband or reliable internet connection, who may benefit from the chance to submit applications in alternative ways (e.g., by phone, on paper).
  • Would benefit from grant writing support.
  • Have disability access needs that require specific support.
  • Are newer to working with foundations and funders like Group Health Foundation.

We encourage everyone to check this page for the latest information the proposal process, answers to important questions, and updates. We will update this information frequently based on the excellent questions we receive. If you have specific questions that aren’t answered here, send them to us at grants@grouphealthfoundation.org. We will acknowledge and respond to all inquiries as quickly as we can, and aim to do so within three business days of receipt.

Can I apply if I’ve received a grant from the Foundation before? Can I apply if I was previously declined for a grant from the Foundation?

Yes.

Does applying impact my Event Sponsorship request?

No. The Foundation considers Event Sponsorships separately from Community Learning Grants. You can apply for both, and can do so at the same time.

You already have my information on file. Do I have to send it again?

Yes. You must provide full information for each application you submit, including complete 2019 Community Learning Surveys. Please forgive any inconvenience if you have previously applied for a grant or submitted an Event Sponsorship application.

We met when the Foundation visited my community—do I really need to write this all out for you?

Yes. We don’t feel comfortable relying only on the notes that we took a week, a month, or a year ago—and we want to hear about your work from your perspective exclusively. This is a chance for us to make sure we are really understanding one another.

What grant level (ask level) is appropriate to my organization?

There are three pre-defined options for request amounts:

  • $50,000 per year for three years ($150,000 total).
  • $75,000 per year for three years ($225,000 total).
  • $100,000 per year for three years ($300,000 total).

There is also opportunity for organizations seeking less than $50,000 per year to make a request at a lower amount; however, we try to avoid making grants less than $50,000 because we do not want smaller or newer organizations to sell themselves short.

Please select the request that seems right to you. Keep in mind the following considerations and use them as a baseline for understanding the Foundation’s highest priorities.

To be considered at the $100,000 per year level, organizations should demonstrate each of the following in their proposals.

  • A strong relationship with a base of individuals and families in communities where the organization works directly—whether that is a population served by an organization, organized around a particular policy or need, or something else.
  • Significant and specific connection to communities that have been overlooked or have experienced underinvestment—whether that is on tribal lands or in other urban, suburban, exurban, or rural places.
  • Leadership (including both senior staff and board or steering committee) that reflects people, places, and identities most impacted by inequities and disparate health outcomes.
  • A perspective about the racial, social, legal, economic, or governmental systems that underpin health equity, current inequities, and the change you hope to see in the world.

The Foundation will make the final decision about the funding level appropriate to each grantee. In some cases we may make a grant of $50,000 per year to an organization that asks for more, or a grant of $100,000 per year to an organization that asks for less.

How do you define “overlooked,” “smaller,” and “newer” organizations?

We seek to support organizations that have had inequitable access to philanthropy or major sources of independent (non-governmental) funding. We include within this definition whole classes of organizations, including those that are culturally-specific, disability-led, Indigenous, and multi-racial. Tribes—and even established people of color and civil rights organizations—are also included in this definition because they are disproportionately underserved by philanthropy, though they are by no means “new.” While there is not a specific rule in place, we generally consider organizations with annual philanthropic income of less than $500,000 to be “smaller,” and we suspect the larger grant amounts will go to these organizations.

Can organizations submit a joint application—for example, as part of a collaboration?

We believe that achieving change is a team sport. We place a high value on our grantees working together as partners. We also know that collaboration and partnership is strongest when organizations work together from a place of strength and stability, which is why our initial Community Learning Grants fund organizations and fiscally-sponsored projects individually (not as joint efforts). The grant application includes a section where you are encouraged to identify the partners you work with most. In the case of multiple collaborating organizations applying, please submit separate grant requests from each partnering organization and be sure to reference each other and the shared efforts of your organizations and projects.

Are national organizations with chapters or affiliates in Washington eligible to apply?

Yes, in limited circumstances. We welcome affiliates of culturally-specific, multi-racial, and disability-led organizations working in Washington to apply. In such cases, we will seek evidence of the chapter’s local control, including programmatic independence and in-state advisory or governance structure.

What is unlikely to be supported by Community Learning Grants?

The Foundation has a vested interest in reducing the amount of time and energy that social-change and nonprofit organizations spend on grant proposals. To that end, we try to be clear up front about what we are unlikely to support in order to help organizations determine for themselves whether the application is worth your time. The Foundation generally does not expect to support the following in this grant round.

  • Organizations and fiscally-sponsored projects that have significant financial assets, which we define as those that:
    • Have cash and invested assets of $5M or more; and/or
    • Exceed $3M per year in annual private philanthropic revenue from foundations and donors (excluding government grants and revenue from capital campaigns).
  • Philanthropy-serving organizations, funder collaboratives, and community-of-interest funds (including those hosted by charitable organizations and research institutions).
  • Partisan efforts or candidate electioneering, regardless of party affiliation.
  • Specific departments, pilot projects, or some component part of larger organizations (note: this is distinct from fiscally-sponsored projects).
  • Friends-of, fans-of, parents-of, and supporters-of groups affiliated with larger institutions.

Community Learning Grants do not support individuals (e.g., scholarships and fellowships), nor do they support organizations that do not primarily serve people in and immediately surrounding Washington.

Are there any exceptions or extension requests?

We will not make extensions to our proposal deadline of October 25, 2019. Please submit your proposal through our application portal early to avoid last-minute complications—and, most importantly, to ensure we can give your proposal due consideration.

We may consider other exceptions to our guidelines from organizations that are clearly prioritized in the Foundation’s Community Learning Grants proposal invitation. If you believe that includes you (smaller organization, led by people who are impacted by health inequity, founded by and for people in one or more overlooked communities, etc.), please send us an email (grants@grouphealthfoundation.org) right away. Even with these qualifications, exceptions to our guidelines are rare. Exceptions will not be made for late proposals or to our decision not to fund individuals (scholarships or fellowships).

… But I just learned about this and the proposal is due!

We are sorry to miss you this year. The good news is that you are welcome to apply for the next round of Community Learning Grants, which we will announce in 2020. Sign up for Group Health Foundation’s regular e-news to be among the first to learn of new grant opportunities.

We have reviewed the Community Learning Survey and do not have (or cannot collect) the demographic information requested. What do we do?

The data we collect from the Community Learning Survey helps us to measure how well we are doing in supporting reflective leadership and community-rooted organizations. We hope that collecting this data also creates an opportunity for organizations to reflect on the composition of senior staff and boards at a moment when the nonprofit sector, social movements, and political organizations are called to be increasingly inclusive and equitable.

We ask a series of survey questions about how individuals in your organization identify. At the same time, we want to be respectful of potential limitations. If there are elements of the identity questions that you cannot answer, or that pose a barrier for cultural or other reasons, please explain those barriers within the survey. We understand that questions about identity are complex and sometimes come with context that we may not fully understand. Moreover, we recognize that sharing this information requires trust. We commit to confidentiality of all information you submit to us and thank you in advance for investing your trust in the Foundation.

Are there special instructions for fiscal sponsors, fiscal agents, and other organizations that “host” other organizations?

The Foundation will consider funding multiple fiscally-sponsored projects from a single fiscal agent or sponsoring organization. The sponsoring organization does not need to be based in Washington State; however, the impact of the sponsored project must be in Washington and along its borders.

Fiscal sponsors and fiscal agents must be able to provide documents that clearly define the differing roles and responsibilities of the fiscal sponsor (e.g., their legal, administrative, and financial oversight) versus the sponsored project (e.g., ability to exercise reasonable independence in programs and priorities). The fiscal sponsor must have the ability to produce separate financial statements and reports for each project that applies for funding. Generally, the Foundation expects that fiscally-sponsored projects have distinct program staff or volunteer leaders and an advisory board or steering committee that guides the project (and is separate from the sponsoring organization’s board of directors or staff). We also expect the project has a distinct name and brand from the sponsoring organization.

Should I disclose my connection to the Foundation?

Yes! We want to hear how you learned about the Community Learning Grants and how you are connected to the Foundation. We use that information only to thank those who spread the word about this grant opportunity. Access to Foundation leaders, staff, and partner funders does not affect the likelihood of receiving funding or exceptions.

We submitted a proposal. When will we hear from you?

You will receive a response within three weeks of proposal submission. It may be an invitation to further stages of the proposal process or we may reach out to inform you that your proposal will not be moving forward this year. If it has been more than three weeks, please reach out.

Our grant was approved! Now what?

We will be in touch with a grant agreement and then we’ll make our first payment. Over the coming months and years we will continue to work with you to deepen our relationship, better understand your work, and to share information and connections with you and a growing community of Group Health Foundation grantees. Among other things, that will include the following.

  • You’ll be asked to submit brief narrative reports and standard financial reports once per year. Photos and stories are encouraged!
  • You’ll be invited to meetings hosted by the Foundation from time to time—including one-on-one and group gatherings where we build connections, share information with one another, and tackle tricky issues together. The Foundation’s goal is always to make those meetings refreshing and rewarding. When we host, we pay for accommodations, travel stipends, and meals.
  • Throughout our relationship, we’ll ask that you keep the Foundation up to date on major developments (e.g., major staff transitions, changes to tax status, legal or communication issues, financial changes, major victories, etc.).