Capacity Grant FAQ

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Q: Are there priorities the Community Foundation has in regards to capacity building/ organizational effectivenes approaches?

A: In general successful capacity-building projects:

  • must address issues that affect the organization as a whole (rather than a single department or program)
  • have clearly identified and prioritized capacity category/categories from the CFWM Capacity Framework
  • are appropriate to the organization’s current life cycle
  • are important to the organization’s transition to support medium or long-term success in relation to its mission
  • can demonstrate an organization’s readiness and ability to embark on the project
  • have the ability to meaningful track and document change and impact resulting from the project


Q: Will the Community Foundation consider Capacity Grant applications from organizations that do not have a physical presence in the three counties of the Pioneer Valley?

A: Capacity Grants are intended to help organizations based in and serving the three counties of the Pioneer Valley. CFWM’s primary objective is to support a vibrant ecosystem of local organizations. Organizations with their main office in the Pioneer Valley will receive preference.

However, organizations that do not have their main office location within the three counties – Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden – may apply if they serve residents of the region and have a physical presence in the Pioneer Valley. Such an organization may request funding for the organization only  for capacity building activities related to its local physical presence and in proportion to its level of services offered in the region. (Example: a statewide group with an office in Holyoke with 10% of its overall clients being in Western Massachusetts, may request support for a database of donors; 10% of the total cost may be requested assuming 10% of all donor names.

Q: Will the Community Foundation consider Capacity Grant applications from groups that are fiscally sponsored by a 501(c)3 organization?

A: Fiscally sponsored groups are not eligible for a Capacity Grant.  Please note, fiscally sponsored organizations may be eligible for other grant programs and opportunities offered by the Foundation.

Q: Can an organization apply for a Capacity Grant if it is currently/recently a grant recipient of the Community Foundation?

A: Organizations are eligible to apply for one competitive grant per calendar year (2019) from either our Capacity, Capital or Mission grant programs. Additionally, regardless of when a previous grant has been awarded, all grantees will need to submit required final reporting AND get written approval from CFWM of that report by August 6, 2019 in order to be eligible to apply for a Capacity Grant. Usually, this final reporting consists of 1) a final report and 2) a final financial report indicating that the awarded funds have been expended. 

Q: Will the Community Foundation consider Capacity Grant applications from a group rather than a single applicant?

A: At this time, Capacity Grants are only being accepted from a single organizational applicant for activities focused on that organization.


Q: Can a Capacity Grant application request funding for more than 1 capacity category listed in the CFWM Framework?

A: The Community Foundation recognizes that there are relationships and inter-dependencies that exist among the four capacity categories (leadership, management, operations and adaptive) and the specific capacity activities. The Foundation will consider applications from an organization that requests funding for multiple (up to 3) capacity activities only if an explicit relationship is identified and explained in the proposal regarding how, when taken together, organizational effectiveness will be advanced.

Q. Can funding be sought to enhance the capacity of a program the organization has?

A: No. Capacity Grant funding is focused on the entire organization and its effectiveness. This is different than enhancing the programmatic capacity of a particular program. Example: an organization might be running a program that is not well known in the community. Expanding community presence about that program to expand the use of the program services is not eligible. However, if that same organization undertakes a more comprehensive effort to expand its community presence about the entire organization, this is eligible for funding. The issue is organizational capacity versus programmatic capacity.

Q. Can the grant pay for existing staff to do a project?

A: This depends. The grant will not pay for a current full-time employee to take on a project since conceptually that does not add capacity to the organization; this could shift responsibilities but not add capacity. However, if a staff person is part-time, the grant would pay for a time-limited, project-based increase in hours for the part-time position. This would enable the organization to use the extra time to move from point “A” to point “B” for a capacity activity. Please note that a part-time position can not be funded to take on a current staff person’s responsibilities so that the second person can undertake a capacity-related project.

Q. Would the grant pay for a development person to help our organization raise more money and possibly pay for the position after the grant ends?

A: No. Practically speaking, this means that the organization is taking on a new commitment for a staffing expense with no guarantee it can pay for it after the grant ends. 

Q: What if some of the activities in my proposal begin prior to January 1, 2020?

A: CFWM cannot fund projects retroactively. Without question, a project that begins or involves activities before Jan. 1, 2020 is not eligible. In most cases, a proposed set of activities should begin on or after Jan. 1, 2020. If your project is complex and has distinct phases, it is possible to fund activities in a phase that begins after Jan. 1, 2020. Please contact the program officer for further clarification prior to applying.

Q: What specific activities can be funded with the Capacity Grant?

A: Examples of common funded activities include but are not limited to:

  • strategic planning and/or business planning
  • organizational assessments
  • board and staff development, mentoring/coaching
  • succession planning and transition planning
  • fundraising assessment and planning for financial sustainability
  • marketing and communications planning
  • financial management and improvement
  • human resources and training for general skills and knowledge
  • volunteer management/systems
  • feasibility assessment and implementation of mergers and strategic alliancea
  • technology assessments and planning
  • some hardware and software acquisitions that are tansformative to the organization’s effectiveness (upgrades that would be considered normal and necessary for operations and purchases that CFWM determines are capital items are not eligible)

Q: What are activities are not funded by the Capacity Grant?

A: In addition to activities that are ineligible for all CFWM grants, specific activities that are not eligible for a Capacity Grant include:

  • The hiring of permanent staff (a commitment of employment beyond the grant end date).
  • Use of funds to underwrite salaries for staff without any corresponding increase in hours to reflect additional temporary activities. Full time staff salaries may not be supported by
    these grant funds, even if there is a shift in focus for staff person’s activities.
  • Funding feasibility studies for capital campaigns.
  • Activities that do not begin after January 2020.
  • Purchase of large computer infrastructure that Foundation terms to be a capital expense.

Q: Will the Community Foundation fund general operating support?

A: The Community Foundation Grants Program does not provide grants for general operating support.


Q: As part of an organization’s proposal, it is asking for funding for a consultant. Does the applicant need bids from possible consultants or do the names of consultants need to be identified in the proposal?

A: Applicants that are proposing to use a consultant must demonstrate in writing that they will be able to secure appropriate services within three months of receiving grant award notification. [while helpful, bids or contracts are not required.]