Ongoing FAQs on Our Equity Strategy

We hope to continue the conversation on our new strategy for racial and economic inclusion in the Bay Area. Please contact with any questions you may have. In the subject line of your email, please indicate which pathway your question is related to: People, Place or Power. If undecided, or if you have a general question about grantmaking at The San Francisco Foundation, please use General, Undecided, or Multiple Pathways.

We will update this page with queries that we receive. Please view the FAQ’s at the end of this page for additional information or visit the Grantmaking page. 


November, 2016 Grant Guidelines Webinar

View slides from our Grant Guidelines Webinar or listen to the full webinar below and learn more about the Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building, our program guidelines and the open grant cycle for our core equity grantmaking.



Who Can Apply?

Can organizations based outside of the Bay Area apply if they’re engaged in a project in a Bay Area county?
Yes, as long as you are working in one of the five counties the San Francisco Foundation serves: Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and East Bay, Alameda and Contra Costa.

If an organization doesn’t have a previous funding relationship with the foundation, will their application be considered only after all current and past grantees are considered?
Priority will not be given to current or past grantees of The San Francisco Foundation.

Are public agencies eligible to apply in the open cycle?
Yes, public agencies are eligible to apply, provided they have either a 501(c)(3) or a fiscal sponsor that will allow them to be eligible.

If you’re an organization with multiple locations, which one should you use?
Use the location of your central office for submitting based on the rolling deadlines that we are providing.

Can multiple groups with the same fiscal sponsor apply multiple times?
Yes. Multiple projects under the same fiscal sponsor can apply.

Can organizations with budgets under $1 million apply for People, Place, and Power grants, or are they in some other separate pot?
Yes. There are no budget thresholds for applications to the Open Cycle.

If you’re an active grantee currently, can you still apply?
Yes. We encourage both current grantees, as well as those who are new to the foundation to apply to the Open Cycle or the Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building.

Can collaboratives of organizations can apply together?
Yes. Collaboratives are encouraged to apply. We are asking that one organization take the lead on behalf of the collaborative. This organization must have independent 501(c)(3) status (cannot be fiscally sponsored). When entering the application information, the collaborative should be listed as the grantee, and the lead organization should be listed in the field for “fiscal sponsor”. In the short purpose, reference that the application is for support of a collaborative. If encouraged to submit a stage two/full application, the system will request a Letter of Resolution from grant requests which include a Fiscal Sponsor; please use the waiver request option to confirm that your application is on behalf of a collaborative so that you can submit your application.

Can organizations applying on behalf of collaboratives submit a second application for their individual organization?
Yes. Second applications are allowable from organizations that submit an application as the lead of a collaborative. However, the system will block a second submission for an organization with the same name. Therefore, please follow the above instructions when submitting on behalf of a collaborative, so that your individual application is accepted.

Can separate operating departments of a county agency submit multiple applications? 
Government agencies can submit multiple applications on behalf of separate departments and/or government agencies, but not multiple applications from the same departments/agency, e.g: a public health department and child services department from the same county agency may each submit an application, but the public health department may not submit more than one application.

The Application Process

My organization was not encouraged to submit a stage two application. What was your selection process?
Thank you again for responding to our open call for the 2017 Equity Grants Program; and for submitting an application. This was the first open competitive cycle under the strategic shift at the foundation to focus on racial and economic equity. Given the strong nonprofits and community-based organizations in the Bay Area and serving the region, we received more than 950 applications for this open cycle, with more than $128 million in total requests from the five Bay Area counties that we serve. Our staff engaged in an extensive, collaborative four-stage review process. Each application was evaluated against our equity strategies as outlined in our Pathway grant guidelines.

We hope you stay connected and we appreciate your feedback as we continue to shape our grant making process. If you have additional comments or questions, please submit your comments to and specify the nature of your query in the subject line.

How can I provide feedback about the Equity Grants Program open cycle?
We welcome your feedback. The Equity Grants Program was created to advance our agenda of greater racial and economic equity. We offered one door to a suite of grant opportunities centered on our People, Place, and Power pathways. This was the first open competitive cycle as part of our new equity agenda. We hope you stay connected and we appreciate your feedback as we continue to shape our grant making process. Unfortunately, given the volume of applications, our staff are unable to respond to specific inquiries about your application until July 2017.

Please submit your feedback, questions, or comments to and specify “Feedback” in the subject line.

If we have different projects, can we submit an application focused on each?
Organizations are allowed to submit only one application per organization. The application can span different projects. If you are the chair of a coalition or  a member of a coalition, you can be included in other proposals.

After this first stage, will some organizations be asked to submit full proposals?
Yes. Following the submission of Stage One, an internal review team will be encouraging selected organizations to submit full applications.

Do general support requests have to go through this same process?
Yes. All requests go through the same process.

Can you apply for $100,000 per year, for three years, for a total of $300,000?

Regarding completing the “People Served” table in the application, how do I best indicate percentages of people who fit more than one category? 
We are aware of the constraints of the People Served table in requiring the data to add up to 100%, given how people identify with multiple categories/identities. Within the Foundation’s goal of expanding racial and economic inclusion in the Bay Area, we are asking for this data to track how we’re doing in serving those communities most in need of support. At this time, we are less concerned with exact percentages than with understanding who organizations are serving. To this end, we recommend that applicants enter best estimates, or outright placeholder percentages, in relevant categories so that we understand who your organization serves, rather than how many. Additionally, include details in the narrative field provided for this information: Other Information on Geographic Region Served and/or People Served.

Could you please provide details on the amounts for the multi-year and single year grants?
The grant amounts run from $30,000 to $100,000 per year, and organizations can apply for 1 to 3 years. So organizations can apply for up to a total of $300,000 for 3 years.

How early can we submit our applications? Do we have to wait until the January deadline?
No. There will be staggered deadlines based on which county your headquarters is located in, but we would be happy to take your application as soon after we open in January as you would like to submit.

If an organization applies for a multi-year grant, is it possible that you might only fund the project for just one year?
Yes. We anticipate a lot of requests for multi-year funding, and we want to be intentional in terms of the supporting multi-year projects as well as meeting some immediate and shorter term goals for the current year.

Terms & Definitions

How does The San Francisco Foundation define the types of support that are offered?

Core Support, also known as General or Operating Support: Grants for organizations for day-to-day operating costs or to further the general purpose or work of an organization, rather than for a specific purpose or project. Also referred to as unrestricted grants.

Project or Program Support: Grants for specific purposes or projects, rather than for day-to-day operating costs or to further the general purpose or work of an organization.

Capacity Building, also known as Technical Assistance: Grants for operational or management assistance. It can include fundraising assistance, budgeting and financial planning, program planning.

“Opportunity Youth” is currently a category on the “People Served” table in the Stage One application. How does the Foundation define Opportunity Youth?
Opportunity Youth – sometimes referred to as “disconnected youth” – are defined as people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor working.

How does The San Francisco Foundation define Low-Wage Workers?
TSFF uses the following definition, which is a widely used metric: A low wage worker is someone who has earned less than two thirds of the median hourly wage for full time workers. California’s median hourly wage for full time workers was $20.44 in 2014 and two-thirds of that wage is $13.63. The term not only connotes a worker paid 2/3 less than the median wage, but also a job offering little upward mobility, little in the way of benefits, and which may have an irregular schedule. For more information, see UC Berkeley Labor Center.

What Kind of Work Is Funded?

Will media projects be considered?
Yes. We’re looking at communication strategies that target and advance our racial and economic agenda and help change the narrative, and build a collective vision for the future.

Can the proposed work impact state policy?
Yes, particularly the work that is tied to some of the priorities across the pathways.

Will the grants primarily be to support core operations or to support specific projects?
Across the requests for either core or project support, we will be looking for outcomes tied to our equity agenda for greater economic and racial inclusion across the region.

Under the school climate category, do you require a program to have been in the schools for some time or can it be a relatively new program being introduced in the schools?
It can be a relatively new program, though we will look for evidence of support from the school in terms of the potential for success. Innovative ideas are welcome. but we’re also looking for proven and demonstrated models that can really remove the systemic barriers in the education system.

Will you be prioritizing new pilot projects and will you also be supporting existing programs, provided they are innovative and impactful?
We definitely will be open to receiving applications for both new pilot projects as well as supporting existing programs that have innovative and impactful approaches.

If your organization runs programs in different counties, should we submit a different application for each county?
No. Submit one application on behalf of your organization from the county where it is headquartered.

For basic skills and vocational education and jobs, mentorship and placement, is there a specific age group that this funding is targeting?
We are really looking at opportunity youth, ages 18-24. The populations that we are seeking to serve in this upcoming cycle are immigrants and re-entry and low-wage workers.

What is the criteria for a proposal from a nonprofit in terms of providing local jobs or goods or services in a particular neighborhood?
We would look primarily at the capacity of the organization, the financial capabilities, and what kind of outcomes have to be achieved. We would also look at many people are being served and how are they being served.

Will we be considering health, mental health or any other kinds of direct health services as part of the open cycle?
No. We will not be funding direct services in the Open Cycle.

Will you be supporting housing for the chronically homeless?
We will not be funding direct services to the chronically homeless. But we’ll be funding resources for housing, which includes the chronically homeless. For instance, we supported the housing bond in Alameda County, which has to set aside its 20% of the housing bond for folks earning less than 20% of AMI, which includes chronically homeless.

On the teleconferences and webinars, you spoke about priority populations and focusing  the Equity Grants toward groups most at risk, however LGBTQ people and/or people with disabilities were not identified specifically. Given The San Francisco Foundation’s history of funding these populations, will you be accepting applications from organizations working to serve LGBTQ and or people with disabilities?
As part of our racial and economic equity agenda, TSFF encourages organizations that work on intersectional issues that impact LGTBQ communities, especially LGBTQ youth, women of color, people with disabilities, and others that face barriers to opportunity to apply to the Equity Grants Open Cycle.

Equity Pathways

Do you need to apply to one pathway or can you apply to all the pathways?
Though your work may cross pathways, or you may have multiple projects that align with several equity pathway goals, we ask that organizations only submit one application and describe how your work aligns. If your organization serves as a fiscal sponsor or the lead to a coalition, you may submit an additional application(s). Your organization may also be included in another group’s proposal as a sub-contractor.

With a priority strategy in the Place pathway being to stabilize existing, affordable housing, does that include housing owned by low-income African Americans who are at particular risk of losing their homes, or is it priority-only, nonprofit-owned rental housing?
We cannot award grants to individuals. We can only fund nonprofits. Whether or not that nonprofit might be focused on supporting housing owned by low-income African Americans, would depend on the non-profit’s mission.

Do community efforts to bridge racial strife fit into the Place pathway?
Yes. We realize that it is by uniting together that we can become a stronger force. An example is a recent grant we awarded to an anti-displacement coalition in San Francisco that includes Asians, African Americans, Latinos, gays, straights and some seniors.

Under the education equity goal, are you focused on any level of education, elementary versus high school, or does it run the gamut?
It runs the gamut. We’ll be looking at early education, as we know how important that is to addressing barriers that are preventing students from learning early.

Would direct legal services for immigrants fall under the People category?
Yes. While there will be one door for people to apply to and come through, and we are looking for projects that will advance all three of our pathways, this would be something in the People pathway that we would absolutely consider. This is especially important in this time after the election, where we know that there will be an increased need for legal services and education with immigrant communities.

What about performing arts? 
Arts and Culture is squarely in our pipeline for both Place and Power in terms of how the Arts help to shape, build and change narratives.

If a project revolves around environment, education and seeks to impact low-income people and people of color, will the foundation be willing to fund that? And if so, through which pathway?
Yes. Historically, we have had separate funding areas, including environment and education. We have re-structured, our work into the three interrelated pathways that we are referring to as People, Place, and Power. We encourage organizations focused on the environment and education to submit applications focused on the specific issue areas, but to make sure that programs or projects are aligned with the goals of the new pathways. Guidelines will be posted the week of December 5th.

Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building

Can you apply for both Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building and the open cycle?
Yes. The Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building will be an ongoing grant-making program.

If you apply to Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building, will that jeopardize you in terms of putting in an application in the open cycle?

Do we have a sense of how many grants will be allocated on the Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building?
We don’t have an identified number of grants we’re looking to award. We will continue to issue grants until we run out of funds.

FAITHS Program

Can organizations that have applied to the Equity Grant Program are eligible to apply to FAITHS
Yes, the application process is now open, with a submission deadline of October 3, 2017. Additional details and guidelines can be found on the FAITHS page.

Equity Grants Webinar

Is the PowerPoint available on the website?
The recording of the webinar can be accessed at the top of this page. The slides can be accessed here. If you have questions that aren’t answered, either in the webinar or the PowerPoint or in the Frequently Asked Questions, you can continue to send them to us at


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