Our application process is, of course, intended to provide an opportunity for organizations to request financial support from us. In doing this, we want for these organizations to be able to show us what their work is about, why it is important, how it is aligned with our own programmatic goals and objectives, and why we should be confident that it will be successful. We would like for organizations to be able to do this in an efficient, user-friendly way.
Note: Town Creek Foundation makes grants only to public charities classified as tax-exempt under section 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Overview of the Process
We have two grantmaking cycles a year. Each of these cycles begins with a letter of inquiry deadline and concludes with a board meeting, about three months later. The staff invites a certain number of the organizations that submit letters of inquiry to submit full proposals. The staff then reviews each of the full proposals that it receives. The proposal review typically includes one or more rounds of questions for the applicant as well as input from various relevant outside sources. The review may also include a site visit. The proposal reviews form the basis of the grant recommendations that the staff presents to the board in the Board docket. This docket also includes context and perspective on the challenges and opportunities represented by the proposed work. The Board reviews the docket and approves, rejects, or revises the staff’s recommendations. The staff then communicates these decisions to the applying organizations. Click here for a PDF summary.
Researching the Foundation
We would hope that most organizations would consult our website before approaching us about supporting their work. The website provides sufficient information for most organizations to make a good judgment about whether or not to submit a letter of inquiry. If after reviewing the website an organization is still uncertain as to whether or not to submit an LOI, it is not likely that a phone conversation with us will clarify matters, and the best course of action would be to submit.
Letter of Inquiry
The next step in the process is the submission of a letter of inquiry. Through this letter you are essentially requesting an invitation to submit a full proposal. The purpose of the letter of inquiry is to save time for applicants and to help us to budget our time efficiently. We do not want for applicants to expend the time and energy required to submit a full proposal if we are fairly certain that that proposal will be unsuccessful. At the same time, we want to be able to focus our limited administrative resources on managing the paperwork associated with proposals that have a reasonable chance of success. In general we discourage phone conversations to discuss the preparation of a letter of inquiry.
A successful Letter of Inquiry will persuade us of several things. First, it will persuade us that the work for which support is sought is sound, important, and well aligned with Town Creek’s programmatic and geographic priorities. Second, it will persuade us that the organization seeking support is capable of successfully carrying out that work. The more clearly and concretely the letter addresses these points, the better its chances for success.
We respond to letters of inquiry with short emailed letters either inviting a full proposal, or indicating that a full proposal will not be in order.
Generally speaking, we will not provide a specific reason for not inviting a full proposal. One or more of the following reasons can usually be assumed:
- The docket to which the letter is requesting entry is full. We limit the size of our dockets in the interest of ensuring that our small staff is able to provide careful scrutiny to each invited proposal. Consequently, we may stop inviting new proposals for a particular docket before the LOI deadline. If this is the only reason that we are not inviting a full proposal we will indicate so in our response, and we will suggest that the letter of inquiry be resubmitted for a subsequent grant cycle.
- We do not consider the purpose of the work to be sufficiently well aligned with our geographic and/or programmatic priorities.
- We are not persuaded of the viability of the work – e.g. we do not consider the strategy to be well conceived, or the tactics to be sound, or the underlying analysis of the problem to be correct.
- We are skeptical of the organization’s ability to successfully carry out the work.
- We are already funding work of a similar type, and the proposed work does not appear to complement or supplement the already funded work in an adequate way.
- Were we to fund the work we would only be likely to make a very small grant relative to the size of the organization or the size of the project and we would rather invest those resources in an organization or project in which they would have a more meaningful impact.
Organizations that have not been invited to submit a full proposal may resubmit a letter of inquiry in subsequent grant cycles. Unless something significant has changed in the work or in our priorities however, there is little reason to believe that a subsequent submission will be successful.
The application is an opportunity for an organization to lay out a clear, complete case for financial support. While we expect applicants to take the proposal seriously, we also encourage them to recognize that we consider the proposal to be the formal beginning of a conversation with them about their work. In inviting a full proposal we are committing ourselves to a dialogue, and in this dialogue, the proposal will not be the applicant’s last word.
We’ve tried to develop an application that efficiently gets to the issues that will matter in our evaluation. In this regard, we ask applicants to be particularly clear and precise about the outcomes that they expect their work to produce, the time frames in which those outcomes should occur, the amount of progress that they expect to make towards the achievement of those objectives during the grant period, and the way in which they will determine how much progress they have made once the grant period is over. Once we have invited an organization to submit a proposal, we will be happy to help that organization complete our application, should our assistance be desired.
Organizations should request the amount of money that they need and that they believe their proposal warrants. If we believe that we should support the work we will do so at a level that we consider appropriate. There is no penalty for asking for ‘too much’. Indeed, the greater risk is in an organization asking for too little and shortchanging itself.
Similarly with respect to multi-year support – Town Creek does not make multi-year grants often, but we do not penalize folks for asking, and we won’t make one unless you ask for one.
We process letters of inquiry and proposals on line through this website. This functionality is very useful for us because it enables us to easily capture and organize key information about your organization and your work. You can access the online submission process here.