By The Joining Vision and Action Resource Development Team
The Colorado Common Grant Application was released in 2008 with the goal of reducing the burden on grantseekers by having a template proposal that could be submitted to many foundations. However, the utopian dream that many of us had for simplifying grantwriting has faded.
Over the past 13 years, Colorado’s foundations have updated their grant applications to reflect changing priorities and needs, e.g., intentional promotion of racial equity, workplaces that support staff, the COVID-19-related financial realities that impact programming, etc.
But all of that tinkering with the common grant application—and without the coordination of foundations working to preserve its intent—has led to so many variations to a “common” application that submitting grant proposals has once again become an extremely time-consuming process.
Some of the most notable changes include A LOT of new questions related to how your nonprofit embraces and exemplifies topics related to diversity, equity and inclusiveness (DEI).
You may have seen that Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar) recently expanded its definition of “racial equity grantmaking” to better reflect the intent of funders and foster additional support. The new definition is now: “grantmaking explicitly awarded to benefit people of color broadly or to organizations that explicitly serve these populations. This grantmaking specifies a focus on people of color but may focus on any number of issues (e.g., arts, education, health) or use any number of approaches (e.g., service delivery, research, advocacy.)”
Here are a few examples of how Colorado’s foundations are asking about these important DEI-related topics:
- In what ways does the community you serve lead, direct and/or inform the design and implementation of your work and programs?
- Please describe what steps your organization is taking to ensure leadership at all levels of your organization is reflective of the community you serve.
- What percentage of your board and staff identifies as BIPOC?
- What efforts has your organization made to advance racial equity?
- Describe how the values and practices of DEI are integrated into the work of your organization and this program.
Financial management questions
Colorado foundations are also asking a lot more questions around program sustainability and how nonprofits manage their finances. For example:
- What is the long-term funding strategy for this proposed work?
- Describe your organization’s financial model.
- Identify any financial opportunities and challenges for the organization and/or proposed work.
- Describe partnerships and collaborations for obtaining additional funding for the project.
- Describe your agency’s overall fiscal controls and structure.
Questions about staff support
New (important!) questions are also popping up around how nonprofits treat staff, e.g., how you ensure staff wages are equitable, what your existing staff capacity is, how you provide staff with training opportunities, and what policies you follow to support staff well-being.
Colorado’s foundations are also asking new questions related to nonprofits’ current priorities and their accomplishments and proudest moments, as well as their program’s innovativeness and uniqueness.