COVID-19 Response Fund FAQs for Donors

How can I donate to the Response Fund?
You can give online at communityfoundation.org/covid19 or mail a check to the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, COVID-19 Response Fund, 333 Bridge Street, Springfield, MA 01103.

Can I restrict my donation to a specific grantee or need?
To ensure we make grants from the Fund as efficiently as possible and respond to needs of the community as they arise, we are not able to accept restrictions on gifts at this time.

Should I give to this Fund instead of making gifts to other organizations?
Please continue to give to organizations you regularly support and to those that need your help at this crucial time. This Fund was not created to be the only vehicle to support critical community activities during this crisis. Rather, it is working to help get more targeted resources into the community where it’s needed most. Now is the time to double down for our community as we gain greater awareness of the depth and scale of the long-term ramifications of the outbreak. We have relaunched ValleyGives to help you learn about and give to nonprofits in our community that are responding to or affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

When will you share who you Fund?
View the list of grantees on our website. We will continuously update this page as new grants are awarded from the COVID-19 Response Fund.

Is there a fee to contribute to the Response Fund?
No, there’s no fee to contribute—even for gifts by credit card—because the Community Foundation is covering those costs. In addition, the Community Foundation is absorbing the costs of staff time and operating expenses related to Response Fund management, grant distribution, and fundraising. One hundred percent of gifts will go to nonprofits in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties.

updated: 09/28/2020

Scholarships Program FAQs

Q: What is the process to apply for scholarships and loans?
A: We are pleased to offer a streamlined, online application for students who wish to apply for our scholarships and interest-free loans. Our user-friendly system submits your completed electronic common application to over 140 available scholarships.

Q: When do I submit my online application?
A. You must complete the online application between January 1 through March 31 each year. A copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR) for the upcoming academic year, as well as your most recent academic transcript, must be uploaded with the online application for completion.

If you’re a graduating high school senior, you can request a transcript through your school’s guidance offices. If you’re currently attending college, you can request a transcript through the college’s Registrar or Academic Records Office, or through your student portal.

Q: What if I don’t have internet access or a computer at home to submit the online application?
A: We recommend contacting a local library, community center, employment agency or senior center to determine if your are eligible to use the free or minimal cost public use computer terminals. If you’re unable to access a computer with internet service please contact us at scholar@communityfoundation.org or at (413) 732-2858 at least one week prior to the close of the application.

Q: Can I reapply each year?
A: Yes! We strongly encourage you to reapply each year! You must complete the online application every year in which you wish to be considered for scholarships or interest-free loans. Please keep in mind that receipt of an award for one academic year does not guarantee that an award will be granted in a subsequent year. Conversely, if you did not receive an award in a previous year, don’t be discouraged from reapplying in another year.

Q: What is a FAFSA and where is it available?
A: FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s the first step in determining a student’s eligibility for federal, state and sometimes college financial assistance. There is no charge to complete this document. Go to http://www.fafsa.gov to begin the process.

Q: What is a Student Aid Report (SAR)?
A:
Upon completion of the FAFSA, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is a document providing basic information about a student’s eligibility for federal student aid as well as the answers to other questions on the FAFSA. A student usually receives this document electronically. The SAR is several pages long. Be sure to provide us with the entire document (approximately six pages) and not just the confirmation page.

Q: Do I need to send an official copy of my transcript?
A:
You must upload your academic transcript with you application—meaning that a copy of an original is acceptable. However, the transcript must show the following:
1) Your name
2) Your college’s / school’s name
3) The website URL (if it is retrieved from a student portal)
4) All coursework you’re currently enrolled in, and all grades received in courses to date.
5) Your cumulative GPA (not just the GPA earned in a given semester).

In all cases, we reserve the right to request that an official transcript copy be submitted.

Q: Do I have to write an essay for the application?
A: Yes. All applicants are required to complete at least one short and one longer essay.

Your essay is vital to helping our selection committee select recipients because it allows them to learn more about you than just your grades, activities, and achievements. Your essay is your moment to shine, show your personality, share your goals passions, and compel our reviewers. We encourage you to take care in creating your essay, as it is your chance to “stand out” from other applicants.

Q: Are only those students who live in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties eligible for scholarships and interest-free loans?
A: Most of our scholarships and interest-free loans are limited to residents of Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties. We do offer a handful of scholarships for which students residing outside of the area are eligible. Your residency is determined from the address listed on your FAFSA. In addition, the interest-free Colgan Loan is limited to residents of Massachusetts who have resided in the state for a minimum of five years.

Q: Are part-time students eligible?
A: Yes. Unless otherwise noted in the scholarship or interest-free loan descriptions, full-time and part-time students pursuing higher education at an accredited institution in the U.S. are eligible for scholarships and/or loans.

Q: Are scholarships and loans available to graduate students?
A: Yes. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for scholarships and interest-free loans, unless otherwise noted in the description.

Q: Do I have to attend a college or university in Massachusetts?
A: No. Scholarships and interest-free loans are awarded to eligible students enrolled in accredited colleges and universities anywhere in the U.S., unless otherwise noted in the description for the scholarship or interest-free loan.

Q: How are recipients selected?
A: A committee of community volunteers selects recipients based on the specific criteria of the scholarship or interest-free loan. With the exception of a few awards, your financial need is strongly taken into consideration. Your academic history is also considered, as are your essays submitted with the application.

Q: When are decisions made, and when will I find out if I received an award?
A: Generally, we make decisions are made by the end of May, and we notify recipients by the end of June.

Q: What is the maximum amount of scholarships and interest-free loans I can receive from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts?
A: If you’re attending a four-year school, you can receive up to $8,000 in scholarships in any one award year. If you’re a community college student, and or attending other two-year schools, you can receive up to $4,000 in scholarships in any one award. Students attending both two and four year colleges are also eligible to receive one, $3,000 interest-free loan in a given award year.

Q: What expenses can scholarships cover?
A: Scholarships may be used to offset tuition, fees, room and board, and other items included as part of the cost for attending the institution. Some part and/or all of the award could be considered taxable income. We recommend checking with your college or tax accountant regarding this matter.

If you’re enrolled in less than six credits, scholarships are payable for tuition and fees only.

If you’re enrolled at a for-profit institution, scholarships payable for tuition only.

Q: Will a scholarship from the Community Foundation affect my financial aid package?
A: Financial aid packages may be adjusted to reflect scholarships other than those granted by the college. Usually a college or university will first use an outside scholarship to replace unmet need, or reduce the amount of loans or work study before adjusting grants or scholarships. However, policies vary at each college, and we strongly encourage you to check with the Financial Aid Office at your school.

Q: How do I receive my scholarship and/or interest-free loan award?
A:
Scholarships are paid directly to your college, and after your enrollment is verified for the semester. The full amount of your awarded scholarship is generally paid in the fall semester, however there are exceptions. If this is the case, we will notify you directly.

We will pay interest-free loans directly to you once we receive all the completed documents that accompany the award notification.

Q: What if I withdrawal or only attend one semester in an academic year?
A: We will address this situation will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Grant Program General FAQs

Q: Whom does the Foundation fund? 
A: Nonprofit, public benefit organizations with evidence of tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Q: What if an group is not a 501(c)(3) organization?
A:
Those group who are not 501(c)(3) organizations who are doing charitable work can seek funding for a project through a fiscal sponsor (The Community Foundation does not serve as a fiscal sponsor). These arrangements must be approved by the Foundation before funds can be requested. If a grant request is awarded, the 501(c)(3) organization serving as the fiscal sponsor must agree to the terms of the award and they will receive the funding. For more information on the Foundation’s requirements for organizations applying through a fiscal sponsor click here.

Note: The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts does not serve as a fiscal sponsor.

Q: What will not be funded by the Foundation’s competitive grant programs?
A:
While the breadth of our granting is significant we do have a list of ineligible activities that can be found here.

Q: What are the available grant programs?
A:
Currently the Foundation offers a COVID grantmaking as well as ValleyCreates grantmaking programs. Click here to view our Grants Program Overview. We also have a Scholarship and Loan program for individuals. Click here to learn more about this program.

Q: Can an organization request more than one grant in a calendar year?
A:
Yes.

Q: Can an organization submit more than one application to a particular grant program? 
A: Please contact a Program Officer to discuss before submitting a second application to a program.

Q: How do I submit an application? 
A: Please read the eligibility requirements for the grant carefully. Most grant programs require a phone conversation with the appropriate Program Officer to be eligible for consideration. Go to www.communityfoundation.org/grants/to locate the link to the online grant application.

Q: Can a paper application be submitted instead of those that are online?
A:
The Foundation has moved to an online application process. We can serve you better with the online process and do require an online application for all grant programs. To allow for any technical or computer issues, you may want to get started with the application early. We also recommend that when you set up your user name and password for the first time that you do it during our regular business hours in case you need assistance.

Q: I have more than one idea for a grant proposal, can I submit a draft?
A: The Foundation does not review drafts of proposals and incomplete applications are not accepted. Your initial phone conversation with a Program Officer is a great opportunity to seek input about your funding request. If you have questions after the initial phone conversation you may always email the Program Officer with follow-up or additional questions.

Q: What is the grant review process?
A:
Applications will be screened for eligibility and completeness by Foundation staff. Staff will work with our volunteer committees to determine which applications meet our programmatic intent and will move forward in the review process. Organizations under consideration will be offered either an in-person or telephone review meeting with a Foundation volunteer and/or staff. Final funding decisions will be determined by the Foundation’s Distribution Committee. All grants will also be approved by our Trustees. Please review the “Grant Process” of the program for which you are applying for more details.

Q: What is the process for the Foundation’s final grant report? 
A: The terms of all Foundation grant awards include the submission of a final grant report upon completion of a grant. This grant report, in most cases, will be generated electronically from a Foundation officer and will be accessible to the grantee through our grant portal. The project completion date was identified by the grantee in the original grant application.

One of the Foundation’s priorities is collecting measurable impact data on all our grant programs. Starting with our 2017 grant programs, grantees must submit a final grant report for any Foundation grant program. In order to be considered complete, the grantee must be able to report on the completion of the project’s activities and short term outcomes. A final grant expenditure report must also be submitted at that time.

Once the grant report is submitted a Foundation Program Officer will review it. The Program Officer either approves the grant report or contacts the grantee for additional or missing information. A grantee must have an “approved” designation, via email from the Foundation, dated at least 30 calendar days prior to the grant deadline of the desired grant program in order to be eligible to apply for a subsequent grant cycle. Timely submission of grant reports is strongly encouraged as program staff will need sufficient time to review and determine the status of your report.

Q: Do you provide multi-year funding? 
A: Most of our grant programs provide funding for one year (or less).

Q: How will I be contacted to learn the outcome of my application?
A:
Decision letters will be sent electronically by email.

Q: If our proposal does not get funded, can I learn why?
A:
We endeavor to be responsive to questions from applicants. If you have questions about your application or would like feedback please contact the appropriate Program Officer.

Q: Our 501(c)(3)organization is the fiscal sponsor for a group that plans on applying for a grant and our organization would like to apply for the same funding opportunity. Will you accept more than one application from our organization? 
A: Starting in 2018 we will consider more than one application from a 501(c)(3) organization provided that only one of the requests is for the 501(c)(3) organization and any additional request is in support of a fiscally sponsored project. Please note the following:

  1. Our funding is limited so when submitting more than one funding request from an organization you are reducing the odds of receiving funding, especially if both projects serve the same county.
  2. Organizations that are applying under a fiscal sponsor must complete our Fiscal Sponsor Agreement Form and submit required documentation 10 business days prior to the deadline of any grant competition.

Fundholder FAQs

Q: How can I see a history of my gifts and grants from my fund?
A: As a fundholder, you have 24/7 access to our online Donor Central platform that provides a review of gifts, grants, and balance.
If you have questions about Donor Central, please contact Kerri Tichy.

Q: Can I fundraise to add to my fund?
A: Yes. If you are raising money to add to a fund through events or other activities, please review our fundraising guidelines.

Q: How can I add to my fund?
A: We can accept your gift in many forms.

Q: How often does my fund need to make grants?
A: In order to fulfill our mission to provide support to our community, the Foundation requires that every endowed fund distribute annually, and every advised fund be active at least every three years. This can include outgoing grants, or incoming gifts. Please see our Inactive Funds policy for more information.

Q: Can my advised fund continue beyond my lifetime?
A: We would be honored to maintain your legacy by endowing your advised fund. You can define the specific issues in our region, named nonprofits, or scholarships that you’d like the fund to support. Endowed funds continue in perpetuity, distributing annual grants following the guidelines developed by you and the Foundation.

Q: Can I include the Foundation in my will?
A: Yes, we welcome bequests. We ask that you speak with us in advance so that we can better understand your intention and ensure that we will be able to fulfill it.

Other questions? Please call or email us at your convenience.
For questions about Donor Central, contact Kerri Tichy.
For all other questions, contact Nikai Fondon.

Reserve a Conference Room FAQs

Q: Can we bring our own laptop?
A:
Yes! We encourage guests to bring their own laptop, please be sure that an HDMI input is available to connect to the TV.

Q: Can we use the Community Foundation’s computer?
A:
Yes! The Foundation has a guest account for users to login for both TVs and projectors (Boardroom).

Q: Is there a price for using conference rooms?
A:
No! We do not charge a fee for the use of our office space, but we encourage you to make a donation to help support the Community Foundation. You can make a donation here.

Q: Where can my guests and I park?
A:
There are plenty of pay parking lots and garages around our offices, as well as on street parking (metered).

Q: When is the conference space available?
A:
Conference space is available by request Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, excluding holidays. Space is granted on a “first come, first serve basis.” Without a reservation, we cannot guarantee the room will be available on the date and time requested.

Q: Will any conference rooms work with a Mac?
A:
Yes, ONLY if your Mac has an HDMI port. Newer Macs will have Thunderbolt connections that require an adapter to HDMI (Not Provided).