Grant Proposal Guidelines
The proposal should set forth the material terms of the grant, including the amount requested; grant activities and objectives; significance of the project to the organization, its constituents, and the field; the budget; and precise timeframe. Please be prepared to work closely with program staff in revising and refining the proposal, often through multiple drafts, before it is finalized.
The Foundation’s Board of Trustees considers grants recommended by program staff at quarterly meetings. These meetings generally occur in March, June, September, and December of each year. Grantees are encouraged to submit draft proposals to program staff at least three and a half months prior to the Board meeting to ensure adequate time for review and revision. The Foundation also considers a limited number of grants of modest amounts between Board meetings.
In cases where a grant award is conditioned on the execution of an intellectual property agreement, determination by counsel that the organization is the equivalent of a US public charity, or submission of other documents, the Foundation will not make payment on the award unless and until all conditions have been met. The Foundation reserves the right to rescind a conditional grant when conditions have not been satisfied in a timely manner.
Draft proposals are to be submitted through email as MS Word and Excel documents. PDF files may be used for supporting materials, such as endorsement letters and financial statements. When a proposal is accepted by program staff for recommendation to the Board of Trustees, staff will request a single unbound hard copy, with all relevant signatures; hard copies of the final proposal should not be submitted until requested. Staff will also require a searchable PDF of the final version of the proposal.
Proposal Information Sheet
A summary “Proposal Information Sheet.”
A cover letter on institutional letterhead should accompany the final proposal and match the date of the Proposal Information Sheet. It should contain:
- name and address of the program officer;
- signature of the principal investigator;
- brief project summary and title;
- amount of funding sought;
- anticipated grant period (in months);
- anticipated start and end dates of the project;
- complete contact information (email, telephone, fax, and mailing address) for the principal investigator and/or project leader;
- complete contact information (email, telephone, fax, and mailing address) for the chief executive officer of the institution; and
- the names and contact information of any collaborating institutions and individuals.
A signed and dated letter of endorsement on institutional letterhead from the chief executive officer of the organization, submitted with the final proposal, that refers to: the proposed grant and project title, budget and timeframe, and the date and substance of the principal investigator’s cover letter submitting the proposal. Please note that the date of the endorsement letter should be the same as, or later than, the date of the final proposal. An endorsement letter is not required when the chief executive is the principal investigator.
Grantees should consult the relevant program area for additional narrative requirements. While the substance and form of narratives will vary based on the proposed project, all narratives should provide the following information (please note, the Foundation expects concision and few, if any, superlatives in proposal narratives):
- a clear and concise description of the project, including amounts and sources of other financial support;
- the reason for the project, including an explanation of why it is important to the organization, its constituencies, and the field in which it operates, expected benefits and outcomes, and the extent to which such activities are being addressed by other organizations in the field;
- a schedule of major activities, including the anticipated start and end dates for the project and the division of responsibilities for the planned activities;
- a statement indicating that the organization will provide the Foundation with interim and final reports according to the schedule specified in the Foundation’s award letter, identifying the person(s) who will have responsibility for reporting, and describing the criteria to be used in assessing the progress and success of the project;
- an account, where appropriate, of how the organization will ensure the longer-term sustainability of project results and/or institutional changes supported by Foundation funding;
- the full names, roles, and titles of key project participants;
- a description of legal and operational relationships with other organizations, subcontractors, consultants, administering agents, or collaborators on the project (see also the Foundation’s “Guidelines for Grants Involving Consultants and/or Subcontractors”);
- a brief statement detailing the organization’s investment strategy, describing how grant funds will be invested and the methods the organization will use to calculate interest or income earned and apply it to the purpose of the grant. If the organization cannot legally invest grant funds in interest- or income-generating instruments, please provide an explanation; and
- a description of any financial difficulties or deficits the grantee has experienced in the last two years.
The budget component of the grant proposal includes a budget spreadsheet and the corresponding budget narrative. The Foundation requires that budget spreadsheets be submitted using the Foundation’s “Budget and Financial Report” template. Brief instructions for completing the Foundation’s template are also available here. Please note the following regarding the budget spreadsheet:
- Expenses should be separated by clearly defined major categories—for example, personnel, fringe benefits, travel, meetings, equipment, supplies, contractors and consultants, subgrants, and other major categories appropriate to the project;
- Major categories should be accompanied by detailed subcategories of anticipated component costs. For instance, the major category for personnel should include subcategory listings of participating staff;
- If the proposed project timeframe is for more than one year, the budget for each reporting period should be listed in a separate dated column, with the period covered by the report clearly shown. There should be no gaps between budget periods; and
- Proposals for collaborative projects should include a consolidated budget, showing separate entries for each participating institution.
If the proposal is accepted, annual reporting must follow the same expense categories set forth in the proposal for line-to-line comparisons.
The budget narrative should describe and justify the cost assumptions for each category and line item in the budget spreadsheet. The budget narrative should not introduce new features of the project beyond what is presented in the project description. Budget categories may vary according to the particular project. Examples include:
- Personnel – List all personnel costs, excluding fringe benefits, for each requested staff position. This section should include all positions and their base salary (including, if applicable, the FTE percentage allocation.)
- Fringe Benefits – List all benefit costs related to personnel involved with the project, including pension contributions, insurance, and other benefits provided to the employees.
- Travel and Meetings – This section should describe all costs directly related to the major activities of the grant and the source for these estimates, including expenses for all modes of transportation, lodging, meals, mileage reimbursements, and per diem payments.
- Equipment and Supplies – This section should include an itemized list of equipment and supplies to be purchased along with cost and depreciation assumptions, as well as anticipated shipping, licensing, maintenance, and insurance costs.
- Contractors and Consultants – The budget narrative should describe all existing agreements and those expected to be made or negotiated with external entities, including both consulting firms and individuals who are employed through fixed fees. It should include a description of the work to be performed, whether the amount is based on a fixed price or an hourly per diem, whether it includes travel and other additional expenses, and whether the contract is confirmed or projected.
- Sub-grants – If applicable, the budget narrative should identify grant funds anticipated for use by other organizations. Please also include the names of subgrantees, a description of the work to be performed by each, and the amount of allocated funds.
- Additional Support – If the proposal requests only partial funding for the grant activities, the budget narrative should include a listing of all other funding sources, the corresponding amounts and percentage of the total budget, and whether the funding is committed or potential. This section should also describe contingency plans if full project funding does not become available.
- Investment Income – The Foundation requires that all awarded funds be managed prudently. In addition, for spendable grants larger than $100,000 and with a duration greater than one year, the Foundation also requires that grant funds be invested, that such investment be prudent given the intended use of the grant, and that any income earned be applied toward the charitable purposes of the grant. The budget narrative should include a description of how unspent grant funds will be invested, including the overall investment strategy and asset allocation, and how income will be calculated and allocated within the grant budget.
Provide an appendix or attachment to the proposal that includes:
- brief biographies of the principal investigator and/or project leader and other key staff;
- a list of members of the organization’s Board of Trustees or Directors, submitted as a Word document;
- an affidavit of supporting organization status, available from the Foundation, for prospective grantees classified as supporting organizations under section 509(a)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; and
- any additional information requested by program staff.
The Foundation aims to maximize the use and sustainability of technology, digitized content, and related intellectual property that are created as part of the project. If the project has any aspects pertaining to the digitization of works, or the creation of digital technology, software, and/or digital databases, please provide a separate description of this work entitled “Intellectual Property.” The description should give a detailed account of the intellectual property to be created, any rights and/or permissions that the grantee will need to secure, and how the organization will ensure the long-term sustainability of the digital and/or software products.
Based on the proposal, the Foundation may require your organization to enter into an intellectual property agreement as a condition of the grant, pursuant to the Foundation’s “Policy on Intellectual Property.” For such projects, the Foundation will not release any grant funds unless and until the grantee has agreed to the terms of the Foundation’s intellectual property agreement.
A non-US institution applying for a grant from the Foundation that does not have a 501(c)(3) ruling from the IRS should be prepared to demonstrate its legal ability to receive Foundation funds, either through determination by counsel that it is the equivalent of a US public charity or by other means of qualification. Program staff will inform prospective foreign grantees of the procedures governing such grants, including in many cases the completion of a “Foreign Organization Questionnaire.”
In addition, the Foundation requires foreign grantees to use the special “Budget and Financial Report for Non-US Institutions” in proposals, budgeting all amounts in local currency and showing the total requested sum in US dollars. Where indicated, the prospective grantee should cite the exchange rate used, the corresponding date, and the source. The exchange rate used should correspond closely with the date of submission of the final proposal. Foreign grantees may refer to rates available at www.oanda.com.
Proposals for endowment funds should address in writing the following questions:
- Is there an Investment Committee? If so, list its members.
- How would the endowment funds be invested and with whom?
- What are the methods and assumptions used for calculating income earned and allocating to the purpose of the grant?
- What is the current asset allocation of the institution’s endowment (i.e., public equities, alternatives, fixed income, real estate, cash, other)?
- What are the average annualized investment returns for the most recent one-, three-, five-, and ten-year periods?
- What is the endowment spending policy?
- What are the fees associated with management of the endowment?
In addition, an appendix should include current financial statements (for organizations with endowments of less than $100 million.) Investment and management of endowment funds must be prudent, consistent with the purposes of the grant, and compliant with relevant Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA) statutes and other laws.
To evaluate a proposal for a matching grant, the Foundation requires a description of the organization’s strategies for meeting the conditions of the match, details of the prospective donor base, and the intended uses of matching revenue. The narrative should also state that the organization will observe the Foundation’s criteria for satisfactory evidence of matching contributions. Requests for matching payments, submitted on the Foundation's “Matching Funds Request Form,” should contain the following information and materials:
For contributions of $5,000 or more
- copies of all canceled donor checks, bank statements showing the transfer of funds by wire or receipt of credit card payments, and/or signed documentation verifying the transfer of securities and their market value at the time of transfer; and
- clear evidence that a donor’s intent is to meet the Foundation’s match, either by the donor’s indication on the check, a letter from the donor demonstrating the intent, or, in the case of an unrestricted donation, a designation from the grantee’s governing board, or senior official, that the donation is to meet the Foundation’s matching requirements.
For contributions of less than $5,000
- a list of all such donations, including name of donor, form of donation (i.e., check, wire, credit card, security, etc.), date of donation, and amount of donation, with a signed statement from a senior authorized official restricting all donations on the list to the Foundation match. In such cases, the Foundation does not require canceled checks, evidence of wire or credit card payment, or separate documentation verifying the transfer of securities.
Matching funds must be newly received gifts. The policy of the Foundation with respect to matching funds is that they be in hand, in the form of cash or securities at their fair market value at the time of transfer; pledges will not qualify. If the Foundation awards a matching grant, it will pay matching funds in installment amounts specified in the Foundation’s award letter. Ratios governing matching awards observe the following logic:
- Two-to-one: The Foundation matches every two dollars raised by the organization with one dollar of its own.
- Three-to-two: The Foundation matches every three dollars raised by the organization with two dollars of its own.
- One-to-two: The Foundation matches every one dollar raised by the organization with two dollars of its own.
In consultation with program staff, an organization wishing to propose a matching grant should choose the matching option that best reflects organizational needs and prospects for raising funds.
Click here to download a full copy of the “Grant Proposal Guidelines.”