Community learning grants
Community Learning Grants
Community Learning Grants are one way we support organizations who reflect and work closely with their communities. Through these grants, we learn what health equity means for people throughout the state and how we can support the solutions that different organizations are creating to dismantle systemic barriers and foster community well-being.
We have a broad and inclusive definition of health, and we support organizations that are leading powerful work to improve health equity and advance community aspirations for a vibrant, healthy future in Washington. In 2021, the Foundation will prioritize organizations and fiscally sponsored projects that:
- Have been overlooked by—or have had limited access—to philanthropy and institutional funders. We are also interested in work that has not been supported by multiyear and flexible funding. “Newer” and “smaller” organizations are encouraged to apply, as are those whose communities have historically seen very little funding from philanthropy.
- Are founded, led, and governed by people who reflect their communities. We specifically assess if and how a group’s board, chief executive, and staff leadership—or volunteer leadership for those without paid staff—reflect the people the organization serves.
- Represent a place- and/or identity-based community who is most adversely impacted by health inequities. We seek to fund work by and for Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color; queer, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people; people with disabilities; immigrants and refugees; people living with low incomes; and especially people who hold several of these identities. Places may include tribal lands, small or medium-sized cities, unincorporated areas, and communities in rural settings.
- Are pursuing community-powered work. As long as it is toward a vision of health equity, the work could be organizing mutual aid, mobilizing people and organizations, developing leaders, reclaiming cultural practices, fostering connection, leading anti-racism efforts, and the many other ways communities express power.
- Are determined to change current structures that uphold the status quo of who has access to social, political, and economic power. We are interested in how organizations are working to challenge white supremacy and systems that have excluded or oppressed their communities.
The best way to understand who we fund is to review the list of our current Community Learning Grants recipients and learn their stories.
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 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.
In 2021, we are making up to $15 million in Community Learning Grants to about 70 to 80 organizations. The Foundation will be responsible for determining grant amounts, which will range from $150,000 to $225,000 in total funding, or $50,000 to $75,000 a year.
On April 13, 2021, and April 28, 2021, we held Community Learning Grants information sessions to share about the application process and answer questions. Watch the videos below or download the presentation using the link below.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 philanthropy or other funders. 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.
Contact us at email@example.com or 866.389.5532 to tell us what you need in order to submit an application. 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.
Frequently asked questions
Who is eligible?
Group Health Foundation supports organizations and fiscally sponsored projects whose work is rooted in one or more communities in 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. National and international organizations are not eligible for Community Learning Grants.
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 local governmental organizations. Community Learning Grants are not intended to support individuals (e.g., scholarships and fellowships), LLCs, partnerships, or similar businesses.
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 from communities most adversely impacted by health inequities: Black, Indigenous, and other people of color; persons with disabilities; queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming people; immigrants and refugees; people living with low incomes; and the many who hold several of these identities.
- Have significant and specific connection to communities experiencing health inequities, whether on tribal lands, small and medium-sized cities, unincorporated areas, or places in rural settings.
- 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.
You use the terms “cross-racial,” “multiracial,” and “multicultural” in your application. How do you define them?
Group Health Foundation seeks to learn as much as possible about the people, leaders, organizations, and communities of Washington. We ask grant applicants to provide information about their organizational and leadership identities that will help us assess progress toward our goals of supporting organizations who are committed to—and who practice—community-centered leadership.
Specifically, we ask about:
- where you work and who you serve;
- staff and leadership demographics, lived experiences, and identities; and
- how your organization describes itself (culturally specific, cross-racial, historically white-led, multi-racial/multi-cultural)
We invite you to review our Definitions Appendix in the application guidelines to clarify terms and to assist you in completing this portion of the application.
Can you be more specific about your geographic priorities, and which geographies are eligible to apply?
Organizations whose work impacts Washington and communities along its borders are eligible to apply. We prioritize communities that have been historically left out of decision-making and overlooked by philanthropic organizations and public institutions because we recognize that place and proximity impact communities’ access to resources, information, and power. We are committed to supporting rural, urban, and suburban communities, as well as unincorporated places throughout Washington. In the application, we ask how you describe the place you work—not according to definitions that we create, but according to how you define your community.
We are committed to being more equitable about where we direct funding, and will prioritize places and communities where we have overlooked and under-invested. Here is our total funding by geography to date:
- Large and medium-sized cities: 33 percent
- Rural: 22 percent
- Small and mid-size towns: 7 percent
- Suburban: 9 percent
- Statewide: 21 percent
- Beyond Washington: 8 percent
What types of activities are supported by these grants?
Community Learning Grants provide multiyear, 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.
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 to help organizations determine for themselves if an application is worth your time. The Foundation generally does not expect to support the following with Community Learning Grants:
- Organizations and fiscally sponsored projects that have significant financial assets and philanthropic revenue from foundations and private donors.
- 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), LLCs, partnerships, or similar businesses. Nor do they support organizations that do not primarily serve people in and immediately surrounding Washington.
Here are some examples of work that are unlikely to be funded through Community Learning Grants:
- Medicine and medical interventions
- Research projects and research institutions
- Schools and school-related clubs
- Sports and athletic teams
- Neighborhood associations or neighborhood beautification projects
Finally, our guiding philosophy is that our grants do not support organizations whose model is to do things to and for communities—that is, groups that are not created, led, governed, and operated by people who the organization is intended to serve.
My organization provides direct medical care and services. Are we eligible?
Generally, Community Learning Grants do not fund medical care or services. However, in some circumstances, we do support culturally specific public health services like promotoras.
Are independent chapters or affiliates of national organizations eligible to apply?
In limited circumstances, we welcome affiliates of culturally specific, multi-racial, and disability justice organizations working in Washington to apply. In such cases, we will seek evidence of the chapter’s local control, including programmatic independence and a reflective, in-state governance structure.
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?
If you have received a previous grant from the Foundation, or if you were declined for a grant, you are eligible to apply for a Community Learning Grant with two exceptions: current Community Learning Grants and Systems, Power, & Action recipients are not eligible to apply. Receiving a Community Learning grant does not preclude you from receiving other grants from the Foundation.
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.
Can we talk before I start the application process?
Given the small size of our team, we usually are not able to speak with applicants prior to a deadline. We do not review applications prior to submission. We expect to prioritize direct 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 on the proposal process, answers to frequently asked questions as we receive them, and other updates. If you have specific questions that aren’t answered here, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will respond to all inquiries as quickly as we can.
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. Please forgive any inconvenience if you have previously applied for a grant or submitted an Event Sponsorship application.
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 these definitions 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 these definitions 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.”
Can organizations submit a joint application—for example, as part of a collaboration?
We encourage organizations to apply individually. While we place a high value on grantees working together as partners, we also know that collaboration is strongest when organizations are independently strong, stable, and supported. The grant application includes a section where you are encouraged to identify the partners you work with most.
We have reviewed the application and do not have (or cannot collect) the demographic information requested. What do we do?
The data we collect from the application 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 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 and other organizations that “host” other organizations?
The Foundation will consider funding multiple fiscally sponsored projects from a single 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 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! But, it does not affect the likelihood of funding your application. 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.
We submitted a proposal. When will we hear from you?
We are preparing to receive and review more than 1,000 applications for funding during the open call for applications, which concludes on May 6, 2021. We expect to review all proposals by June 8, and to make decisions about grant funding shortly thereafter. Final decisions will be announced publicly in July. We will communicate with applicants throughout the review process.
What is required of grantees after funds have been awarded?
Over the coming months and years, we will continue to work with you to deepen our relationship, better understand your work, and 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 issues together. The Foundation’s goal is always to make those meetings worth your time. 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.).