Equity Grants Program

2018 Equity Grants Open Cycle

Please note that the 2018 Equity Grants Open Cycle is now closed. 

The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) strives to ensure that everyone across the Bay Area can thrive and reach their full potential. To achieve this, we work to advance racial and economic equity across the region in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties. We focus on just and fair inclusion. We see elevating the voice and power of communities of color and low-income communities as a key way this can be realized.

The Bay Area is a region with tremendous assets, full of creativity, vibrancy, and innovation. At the same time, the region also faces huge challenges, with high levels of poverty and rising inequality. Solving these problems and creating a better future will require shifting the status quo, at a large enough scale to make a difference.

For this reason, we are investing heavily in efforts with good potential to lead to broad, systemic change. This includes work to pass or implement policies, foster innovative approaches, or create and promote scalable models. We also will support service delivery in this grant cycle, when it plays a critical role in helping residents stay in their homes and maintain strong connections to their communities.

The Equity Grants Open Cycle is a key opportunity for us to learn from organizations across the Bay Area who are closely aligned with our vision, and who may or may not have received funding from TSFF in the past. As a community foundation, this program helps us stay abreast of current community needs and priorities, evolving political and economic dynamics, and the organizations working to move the needle toward a better future.

Funding Criteria

Given the foundation’s commitment to ensure that everyone can thrive and meet their full potential, TSFF is committed to fostering the full inclusion and success of people of color and low-income people.

Basic Eligibility

For basic funding eligibility, organizations must be tax exempt (a 501(c)3 or an organization using a 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor) and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Located in and serving residents in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, or San Mateo counties
  • Serving residents Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo counties, with strong connections to the communities served

Funding Criteria

TSFF seeks to fund organizations that:

Demonstrate Commitment to Equity

  • Address racial and economic inequity as core to their work
  • Are trusted and respected by the community they represent or seek to represent
  • Have leadership that is reflective of and responsive to the community, with strong leadership by people of color
  • Support people of color and low-income residents in at least one of the following ways:
    • Connect people of color and low-income individuals to resources and opportunities, including leadership opportunities
    • Engage and mobilize people of color and low-income individuals
  • Amplify community voice and power

Align with Equity Grants Open Cycle Funding Priorities

  • Align with People, Place, and/or Power pathway funding priorities:
    • People: Education, Work, and Criminal Justice
    • Place: Housing, Art and Culture, and Community Anchors
    • Power: Community Organizing, Civic Engagement, and Movement Building

Focus on Systemic Change and Measurable Impact

  • Demonstrate potential to achieve systemic change one or more of the following ways:
    • Influence leaders to create or implement policies or other large-scale changes to systems and institutions
    • Provide critically needed services, and meet at least one of the following criteria:
      • Stabilizes residents and community cultures, such as through housing-related legal services, community arts organizations, or community anchor organizations
      • Connects service provision to organizing and policy change efforts, whether that work is led by the service provider or by partner organizations
      • Fosters innovation to reimagine or disrupt the status quo
      • Creates or promotes a scalable model
    • Create or promote a scalable model with good potential to ultimately affect large numbers of people
    • Foster innovation, through new projects, programs, organizations, or coalitions that break with existing practices and fundamentally reimagine or disrupt the status quo in ways that lead to greater racial and economic equity
  • Measure organizational and project-specific progress and impact

Align with TSFF Geographic Priorities 

Focus efforts geographically in one of the following ways:

  • Focus on serving specific geographic communities, in areas that offer the greatest opportunity to advance TSFF goals. Neighborhoods and cities were selected based on high numbers of people of color and people with limited economic opportunity, and high risk of displacement and gentrification. Applicants should demonstrate that they:  1) create a welcoming space of refuge at a physical location in the community served, and 2) have capacity to mobilize to address urgent threats or opportunities when needed. Prioritized areas are:
    • Alameda County:
      • Oakland: Brookfield, Central East Oakland (including High St. to 106th Ave, and MacArthur Blvd. to the Estuary), Chinatown, Coliseum, Elmhurst, Fruitvale, San Antonio, Sobrante Park, or West Oakland neighborhoods
      • Other parts of Alameda County: Ashland, Cherryland, Jackson Triangle (in Hayward), or South Berkeley
    • Contra Costa County: Antioch, Bay Point, Brentwood, Monument Corridor (in Concord), North and South Richmond, Oakley, and Pittsburg
    • Marin: Canal neighborhood (in San Rafael), Marin City, and West Marin
    • San Francisco: Bayview, Chinatown, Excelsior, Mission, Potrero Hill, South of Market, Tenderloin, Visitacion Valley, and Western Addition neighborhoods
    • San Mateo: East Palo Alto, Pescadero, Redwood City, and San Gregorio
  • The foundation is clear that we are not a place-based funder because our funding is not restricted to specific cities; however, the Place pathway will prioritize applications whose work supports priority neighborhoods since they are aligned with the foundation’s racial and economic equity agenda.
  • Focus on multiple communities, a city or county, or the region, through policy change efforts that will affect multiple communities, a city or county, or the region.

Grant Types

Applicants can apply for general operating support or project support:

  • General operating support is unrestricted support. To be eligible, an organization must be able to demonstrate a strong commitment to equity in its internal structures and its goals and approaches. The organization must be locally-based, and in the foundation’s service areas: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, or San Mateo counties.
    • General operating support is unlikely to go to organizations that have never received funding from TSFF.
  • Project support is restricted to specific activities toward designated outcomes, to ensure that funds are being used to advance racial equity and economic inclusion.

A list of the 2017 Equity Grants shows an example of organizations and work chosen for funding last year.

Available Funding

TSFF believes it is important for all people living in the San Francisco Bay Area to be economically secure, rooted in vibrant communities, and engaged in civic life.  Community listening sessions held across the Bay area in recent years, and ongoing feedback from community leaders, have shaped this year’s Equity Grants Open Cycle focus areas. More detail on these priorities is can be found here.

We anticipate awarding approximately $11 million dollars through the 2018 Equity Grants Open Cycle.

Grant Size:

  • Grants will be made for one to two years, with few exceptions, and will not exceed $100,000 per year.
    • One-year grants are likely to range between $50,000-$75,000.
      • Organizations that have not received funding from TSFF in the past are more likely to receive funding for a one-year initial grant, and to receive grants closer to $50,000.
      • Smaller organizations with an annual budget less than $500,000 may receive smaller grants (under $50,000) for one year.
    • Two-year grants are likely to range between $50,000-$150,000 ($25,000-$75,000 per year).
  • Grants for $100,000 per year and/or grants for three years will go to only a very limited number of groups. These applications will be more likely to receive funding if the applicant can strongly demonstrate:
    • A proven track record of advancing racial and economic equity
    • An organizational mission aligned with TSFF’s commitment to a bold equity agenda that advances greater racial and economic inclusion
    • An annual organizational budget exceeding $500,000
    • A prior funding history with TSFF

Lobbying:  TSFF supports lobbying, recognizing that this 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 grant application regarding lobbying activities and, if applicable, complete the supplemental lobbying budget sheet.

Indirect Costs: TSFF is aware that all organizations have costs that they need to pay to keep their organizations running.  We encourage organizations 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 20% of grant funding on indirect costs.
  • If your organization has indirect costs more than 20%, include these in your grant application budget and our staff will contact you to get a better understanding of your rationale for your indirect costs.

Not Eligible for Funding

The Equity Grants Open Cycle will NOT fund:

  • Event sponsorships
  • Funding for capital campaigns or improvements, including design, labor, and material expenses
  • Organizations that already have general operating support from TSFF through June 2019
  • Scholarships
  • Research or medical research
  • Contributions to political candidates
  • Grants to individuals

In addition, the following examples are not a good fit for the program:

  • Organizations that are unable to demonstrate a strong internal and external commitment to racial and economic equity
  • Projects that do not demonstrate significant involvement and leadership from communities of focus

How to Apply

Application Steps

The 2018 Equity Grants Open Cycle is now closed. 


Two-Stage Application and Review Process

  • In stage one, each application will be reviewed by three or more staff members. The strongest applications will proceed to the second stage for additional review. Organizations will be notified whether they can submit a stage two proposal in late June. A PDF of the stage one application can be found here for your reference.
  • Stage two applications, for those organizations invited to apply, will be due in mid-July. Every stage two applicant will be assigned a single point of contact at TSFF to streamline communications, and will have their application reviewed by multiple TSFF reviewers.

Award Announcements

  • Awards will be announced in October 2018.  



You can read responses to frequently asked questions to help guide your application process. This page will be updated as new questions are asked and new responses are available.

Please contact us at programs@sff.org with any additional questions about this year’s guidelines, funding priorities, or application process.