Grantmaking Frequently Asked Questions
We aim to keep our grantmaking clear and transparent.
Our grantmaking process is designed to streamline grant awards and deepen our focus on creating greater equity in our region. This process applies to grants awarded through GCF’s Requests for Proposals and Concentrated Investments. Funding from our donor advised funds and our grantmaking affiliates may differ from GCF’s grantmaking processes.
For detailed information on our grant programs, please refer to our Grant Guidelines.
Frequently Asked Questions About GCF Grantmaking
We typically support organizations that are a certified tax-exempt 501(c)3 public charity, a unit of government or government agency. These organizations must be based in or benefit our eight-county service area: Hamilton, Warren, Butler and Clermont counties in Ohio, Campbell, Boone and Kenton counties in Kentucky and Dearborn County in Indiana.
GCF offers a centralized inquiry portal to help organizations determine their alignment to our funding sources. This simple form is intended to provide nonprofits an outlet for clear and comprehensive guidance from GCF staff on potential support -- monetary and non-monetary -- within GCF and beyond.
Program Officers are available to further discuss any feedback provided via the inquiry or request for proposal process.
We are always seeking out key partners for our concentrated investments in housing stability, economic mobility and racial justice. If your work aligns with one of these areas, start the conversation with us by submitting your project idea through our inquiry form.
We will always consider an organization's request through any of our grantmaking processes. However, we will most likely not fund the same program or project in multiple RFP cycles. Additionally, RFPs may specify that organizations may not receive funding two years in a row.
If you’d like to join our email list for updates on our grantmaking, please email email@example.com with your contact information. You are also encouraged to monitor our website and social media platforms, which are updated regularly with ongoing work and opportunities.
As of 2021, GCF has transitioned two of our Request for Proposals to cycles that allow awarded grantees to renew their grant award for an additional year. Applications are accepted when the cycle is open and consideration for renewal occurs at the time of the first year follow up report. Please refer to the specific RFP for which you are applying for more detail. Our concentrated investments are typically multi-year grants.
Grant size varies based on the funding opportunity. Our mini-grant programs, Summertime Kids and Learning Links, typically offer $1,000 grants. Regular RFP cycle grants range from $10,000 to $50,000 and the grant size is confirmed when the RFP is published. Concentrated investment grants do not tend to exceed $100,000 per year.
As a community foundation, GCF is legally restricted from funding individuals, including restrictions on scholarships and political campaigns for individual candidates.
Individual schools are invited to apply to our mini-grant programs, Summertime Kids and Learning Links. GCF does not make grants to individual schools for regular operating costs or capital projects.
GCF does not provide help in writing grant proposals. However, there are several groups that offer in-depth grant writing workshops and training for nonprofits, including the the Grants Resource Center at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, The Cincinnati Area Foundation Directory, The Foundation Center and Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations (OANO). You are welcome to reach out to a program officer for feedback after submitting your project idea through the inquiry or proposal through a RFP.
As a community foundation, GCF is legally restricted from funding:
- Individuals, including scholarships
- Nonprofits that are not a (501(c)3) public charity, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that funds will be used towards public good
- Political campaigns for individual candidates
GCF does not typically provide funding for the following purposes, entities or activities:
- Nonprofits conducting work outside of our 8-county service area
- Re-granting funds for scholarships
- Production of books, films or videos
- Programs with the sole purpose of re-granting the funds
- Units of government or government agencies
- Lobbying efforts
- Religious organizations that require religious activity for participation
- Playgrounds, sports teams or sports activities
- Regular operating or capital projects for:
- Individual public, private or parochial schools or universities (including student clubs, school bands, booster clubs, PTAs, etc.) outside of our small grants programs (Learning Links and Summertime Kids)
- Nursing or retirement homes
- Routine computer software/hardware updates
- Endowment, capital or annual campaigns
- Leasehold improvements
- Debt retirement or funding of an activity after completion
- Requests that are primarily travel or fees for staff development
- “Emergencies” that don’t affect vulnerable people’s basic human needs
GCF defines a funding emergency as an immediate need for funding to avoid total stop of services of basic needs to vulnerable people. Emergency requests should be sent via email to a Program Officer and include a clear description of the need, the amount of funding required and context related to the urgency of request. Typically, emergency grants are made to standing GCF partners.
Four main characteristics that GCF looks for in an organization submitting a grant proposal are:
- Established and fiscally sound organization. To a limited extent, GCF may consider requests for start-up funding. Groups requesting funding for a new organization must clearly define the need for a new organization and must present a sound business plan that explains how the organization will sustain itself
- Strong governance
- Demonstrated organizational capacity and track record
- Sound short-term and long-range plans
The main things that GCF looks for in a successful grant proposal are:
- Clear alignment to GCF’s Community Impact Strategy and/or specified RFP
- Clear demonstration of community need
- Organizational health and readiness, including leadership and finances
- Clear, feasible and sustainable project plan
- Collaboration, coordination and alignment within and across nonprofit sectors
- Support of best practices, innovation and data-driven decision making
- Commitment to inclusion and reducing racial and ethnic disparities
- Continuous improvement; measuring and demonstrating results and learnings
Donors that have set up donor advised funds at GCF make grants to nonprofit organizations based on their own areas of interest and typically do not accept requests from nonprofit organizations. GCF is committed to connecting the nonprofit community with our donors by lifting up requests through our inquiry or RFPs that match our donor's interest.
Application detail for our grantmaking affiliates can be found on their respective websites.
A good resource for both individuals and nonprofit organizations in the Greater Cincinnati area is the Grants Resource Center of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The Grants Resource Center does not provide funding, but has directories, guides and other resources to help grantseekers identify appropriate funders and develop targeted proposals.
Additionally, referral to other community funders is sometimes made in response to an inquiry submission if we know of resources in the community that are aligned to the proposed work.
If you need help setting up a profile on Foundant, our online grants management system, we suggest reviewing these "help" documents:
- Applicant Tutorial
- Video 1 – Site Access & Account Creation
Video 2 – Applying for Funding
Video 3 – Your Applicant Dashboard
Apply for a Grant
If you need a contact added to an already established organization or changes made to your individual account, please email the Community Strategies Coordinator.
Typically, GCF does not sponsor events through our grantmaking process. Sponsorship opportunities can be submitted through our inquiry portal, as a means to present the idea to GCF staff, or sent to our marketing department at firstname.lastname@example.org.