2017 Equity Grants Program

PLEASE NOTE: The Equity Grants Program is no longer accepting new applications. If you have submitted an application, please review the next steps and dates in the process below. 

Learn about the 2017 equity grants.

Organizations should submit only one application to the Equity Grants Program during the January Open Cycle. Though your work may cross pathways, or you may have multiple projects, we ask that organizations only submit one application and describe how your work aligns.

The San Francisco Foundation makes grants to most types of organizations that are in good standing with the IRS and are exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. We also make grants to government and public agencies, as well as to independent projects that have a qualified tax-exempt fiscal sponsor.

Projects must substantially benefit residents in at least one of the five Bay Area counties we serve: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo. If your organization is based outside these five counties, the total number of local constituents benefiting from service must be competitive with local organizations.

Summary of 2017 Equity Grants Program cycle:

  • Step 1:  Understand the program guidelines for the People, Place, and Power pathways.
  • Step 2:  Read the basic criteria for the Equity Grants Program.
  • Step 3:  Review the PDF version of the application before completing the first stage of your online grant application. Note: If your organization’s legal name starts with “The,” submit your application by the deadline for organizations with names between N-Z.
  • Step 4:  Submit any questions about the guidelines or application to programs@sff.org. In the subject line, please specify the pathway (People, Place, or Power) or indicate general inquiry.
  • Step 5: Review the open cycle timeline submission deadlines. Note: If your organization’s legal name starts with “The,” submit your application by the deadline for organizations with names between N-Z.
  • Step 6: Submit stage one of your online grant application.

Basic Criteria for Equity Grants Program

The Equity Grants Program is not accepting new applications at this time. The following describes the criteria used for 2017 Equity Grants Program process.

  1. Alignment with Equity Agenda: Aligns with the foundation’s racial and economic equity agenda, goals, and strategies in the People, Place, and Power pathways.
  2. People Served: Serves and/or engages communities that are predominantly low-income people or communities of color in the foundation’s service area.
  3. Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion: Exhibits a commitment to achieving racial equity within the organization by employing people of color at all levels within the organization and showing a commitment to leadership development, as described in our Diversity Policy.
  4. Level of Impact: Given the depth and breadth of racial and economic challenges in the Bay Area, priority will be given to policy and systems change efforts that hold great promise for benefiting many diverse communities throughout the region, using various ways to reach a scale of impact. Efforts may include: policy advocacy, organizing, coalition building, and public/private partnerships.
  5. Strategic Learning and Evaluation: Has an established culture of learning with the capacity to track qualitative and quantitative impacts of efforts to achieve population impacts; and has the ability to measure results in terms of systemic change and policy wins at the local and/or regional level.

Other Grant Considerations:

Diversity Policy

The Foundation has a strong conviction that diversity benefits everyone and is not only compatible with but also promotes excellence. The San Francisco Foundation grantmaking policy reflects a belief that organizational performance is greatly enhanced when people with different backgrounds and perspectives are engaged in an organization’s activities and decision-making process. The full text of the policy is available on our Diversity page.

Investing in Innovation

We are interested in investing in innovation to seed new projects, programs, organizations, and coalitions that break with existing practices in driving towards the outcomes of our People, Place and Power pathways. Applicants should articulate how the innovation fundamentally reimagines and/or disrupts the status quo to address racial and economic inequities in the region. Organizations with operating budgets of any amount are eligible and encouraged to apply.


The San Francisco Foundation supports lobbying as it is a valuable tool to change the political landscape in the Bay Area. We want to get a full understanding of the lobbying grants we make, so please read the instructions in the application regarding the questions on lobbying activities and, if applicable, complete the supplemental lobbying budget sheet available in the Required Documents section.

Indirect Costs

The San Francisco Foundation is aware that all organizations have costs that they need to pay in order to keep their organizations running. We encourage organizations we grant to to consider these indirect costs and use a reasonable portion of grant funding to cover them. We do not normally expect organizations to spend more than 15% of grant funding on indirect costs. However, if your organization has indirect costs in excess of 15%, include these in your project budget and our staff will contact you to get a better understanding of your rationale for your indirect costs.

What We Don’t Fund

Capital campaigns or improvements
Grants to individuals
Medical Research
Event sponsorships
Political Campaign Contributions

For more information on our Equity Grants Program, contact programs@sff.org. In the subject line, please specify the pathway (People, Place, or Power) or indicate general inquiry.