Questions that come up during the grant application process. If you have questions that aren’t covered here, on our eligibility page, or grant programs page, you can call MRG Grants Program 503-234-2338 in Portland, or 1-800-489-6743 toll free.Expand All | Collapse All
There will not be an open general fund grantmaking cycle in the Spring of 2017, but we will have additional resources available in early May to be responsive to organizer’s needs and requests.
Please refer to the Types of Grants page for detailed information about our grant programs.
In general, yes. For example, you may apply for a Critical Response grant at any time, which may be at the same time as you are applying for a General Fund grant.
However, you cannot apply for more than one type of General Fund grant at a time. For example, you cannot apply for both a Community grant and a Resources for Organizing grant at the same time.
We welcome general support proposals that cover general operating expenses. You can apply for either general operating support or for support of a specific project – whichever fits your group’s needs best.
MRG awards 17 General Fund grants each cycle (34 each year), totaling $225,000 awarded per cycle.
For Community grants: Maximum/largest grant is $12,000 and average grant is $9,000.
For Leadership grants: Maximum/largest grant is $25,000 and average is $19,000.
For Resources for Organizing grants: Maximum grant is determined by organizational size. For groups with budgets under $100,000 , the maximum grant is $12,000. For groups with budgets between $100,000 and $500,000, the maximum grant is $25,000.
MRG Grantmaking decisions are made by a volunteer committee of community organizers. The Grantmaking Committee is made up of people who are directly involved in developing genuine solutions to the complex social justice issues facing their communities and the state.
This is radically different from traditional philanthropy. Grassroots control of funding ensures that funding is directed where it is needed most. Our model also means that community organizers learn valuable skills by volunteering for MRG.
The Grantmaking Committee assesses each proposal and determines finalists based on MRG’s funding criteria. Grantmakers also conducts site visits with semi-finalists and makes final funding recommendations to MRG’s Board of Directors.
Fall semi-finalists are notified by early November and grantees are announced in mid December. Spring semi-finalists are notified by early May, and grantees are announced mid June.
Grantees will receive an award letter and contract by mail. Once we receive your signed contract, you can anticipate your check mailed within two weeks of that date.
Your problem statement needs to be compelling, urgent, and relevant to the funder. Start by explaining the problem or injustice that your community is facing, why your issue is time-sensitive, and what will happen if it doesn’t get addressed.
Remember your audience: the foundation. Each foundation has specific criteria and funding guidelines. Do your homework: learn as much about them as possible. You’ll need to explain exactly how the issue is significant and relevant to the funder and a strong fit with their priorities.
Example: If your audience is a social justice foundation, you need to explain your analysis of the root cause of the problem and how your group goes about addressing it directly. If you are applying for a grant from MRG, don’t assume that grant makers already understand your issue area. Write as though the reader is just getting to know your group and its work.
When you’re writing about your solution to the problem, you want to inspire the grant maker and give them a reason to say, “I want to help make this happen!”
Lay out your game plan: explain your vision (what you want things to look like when your work is done); your overall strategy for achieving your vision, goals, and objectives (what are the benchmarks or the specific accomplishments you must make); and your timeline.
If you apply for a grant from MRG, you’ll submit an action plan, which is one format that can be used to tell the specifics of your goals, activities, outcomes, and timeline. While you’re getting ready to do that, think about the information you’ll need to give our grant makers a broad overview of your work as well as the specific steps you’ll take to accomplish your goals.
You want to appeal to the reader’s logical side– the part that wants to know if your group has its act together.
What gives your group credibility? Have you had past successes? Have you been effective in other projects and campaigns, and have you thought through how this particular plan is effective? Does your budget make sense and cover all the costs of your work?
What makes your group unique? What sets your group apart from others who might also care about this issue, and how do you work with them?
Your budget and financial statements tell grantmakers how realistic you are about your capacity to raise money. Grantmakers look at your budget and financial statements and compare it to your fundraising plans. They look for a solid fundraising plan that will meet your budget, and for a plan that is realistic based on your past financial experience.
Example: If your budget for this year is twice as much as last year and you don’t have a solid fundraising plan to match up with your budget, your overall proposal is not going to look achievable to the grantmakers.
Example: If you are a new, grassroots group with hopes to raise $200,000 in your first year and your fundraising plan heavily relies on foundations that have never funded you before, your plans will come across as unrealistic and it is unlikely that your proposal will be funded.
You have to make sure that your fundraising plans are solid and realistic or you won’t get funded.
Foundations want to invest in groups that are stable and going to be around long enough to carry out the work described in the proposal. Your budget and past year’s financial information are key to our understanding of your organizational stability.
Example: Having a diversity of funding sources and a broad base of individual donors is a key indicator of financial stability and community support. Grantmakers look closely at:
- The percent of your budget that you raise from individuals
- The amount of your budget that is already committed (or at least has been received in the past) and how much is speculative
- How many different funding sources you have
Another key indicator of financial stability is your financial history. Grantmakers look at whether you have any debt, outstanding expenses, or uncollected income and compare that to how much surplus or reserves you have saved up. Many foundations look for groups to have at least three months worth of operating expenses saved up in reserve.
At MRG, we recognize that our grantees operate quite effectively on shoestring budgets and don’t have much cushion. If you aren’t in the most stable of financial situations, make sure your group is taking appropriate steps towards financial stability and that you are striving for a diversity of funding sources.
Foundations like to fund groups that have thought through what they will need to do their work well. Grantmakers look at your budget to confirm that your income and expenses are reasonable and consistent with the work you described in your narrative. If your budget is missing key line items, grantmakers will question how well you have thought through your organizing plans.
Example: If your narrative proposes to radically increase your outreach and organizing work, but you haven’t budgeted for a comparable increase in staff expenses, the overall picture is unrealistic.
Example: If you are a statewide group organizing low-income parents, grantmakers expect to see meeting expenses like food, childcare and travel included in the budget.
Make sure that the expenses you list in your budget complement the scenarios you’ve presented in the proposal narrative.
Here at MRG our grantmakers are all volunteers who are all involved in social change work in their own communities. They may be familiar with your issue or group, but chances are, it is not the primary issue they work on.
Have someone who isn’t already familiar with your work read over your draft and tell you if there are any parts they don’t understand. Have them look for acronyms that aren’t spelled out, or unfamiliar words or phrases. Check to see if they understand the problem you are addressing and your approach to solving it. Then, make changes based on their feedback.
Even for returning grantees, keep in mind that we always have new grantmakers joining the committee. So if you applied a year ago, at least a third of the committee is newer and has never read a proposal from your group.
You need to know what your organizing plans are before you start writing your proposal.
We’ve had to turn down tons of great groups because they didn’t tell us what they were planning to do in the coming year. Remember that your plans need to be for work that will happen after funding would start.
So, if you are applying in the Fall Cycle, your work plan needs to be for the upcoming calendar year (January – December). If you are applying in the Spring Cycle, you need to tell us what you will be doing for the next 12 months, starting in July.
It’s shocking how often groups don’t provide us with all the information we need to make good decisions because they don’t answer every part of each question.
Example: When we ask for accomplishments and history, and you include your group’s history but not its accomplishments, grantmakers won’t know how effective your group is, and why you’re the best group to take on this issue.
Likewise, when we ask for a problem statement, and you skip the part of the question about root causes, our grantmakers won’t have the same sense of urgency about your issue.
Once you have drafted your proposal, have a key leader review it and make sure you’ve covered each question… including all the subquestions. Make changes as appropriate.
We don’t accept late proposals. Your proposal has to either be in our office before 5 PM on the posted deadline, or postmarked on or before that date.
We’ve had to cut groups because they didn’t get their grant proposal postmarked correctly. If you put your proposal in the mail on Friday and the mailbox you choose doesn’t get picked up until Saturday, the completed application will be postmarked on Saturday – after the deadline. Make sure that you are getting it in the mail so that it’s postmarked on or before the deadline.
Please make sure that you answer all the questions, that your budget falls within our guidelines, and that you get your application in before the deadline.