What We Fund

The Community Foundation’s guidelines state that it generally will not fund “annual operating expenses” through the Community Enrichment Grants program. How does the Community Foundation define “annual operating expenses”?

Annual operating expenses include:

  • Payroll expenses (including salaries and benefits).
  • Overhead expenses (including rent/mortgage, utilities, maintenance, insurance).
  • Fundraising, administrative, and management costs.

Remember, although our Community Enrichment Grants will not typically cover operating expenses, any unrestricted grant from any of our donor-advised funds can certainly cover operating expenses.

Will the Community Foundation make Community Enrichment Grants to cover marketing expenses?

We consider regular, ongoing organizational marketing costs (e.g., website maintenance, newsletter, annual report) to be an annual operating expense, which is typically not funded through our Community Enrichment Grants program. However, our Community Enrichment Grants can cover new marketing initiatives (e.g., a new or redesigned website, a new brochure), including new marketing initiatives for a new organization or a new project.

Will the Community Foundation make grants for capital expenses?

Yes. The Community Foundation will make Community Enrichment Grants for assets with a life span of one year or more, including phone systems, computer hardware, furniture, buildings, land, and vehicles, if those assets are necessary to fulfill an organization’s charitable mission. However, we will generally not award grants for capital improvements to a building, piece of land, or other asset that the organization does not own.

Will the Community Foundation fund the direct costs of an on-going, established program?

We will sometimes award Community Enrichment Grants for the direct costs of an on-going, established program, but only for direct project expenses (i.e., excluding annual operating expenses such as payroll, overhead, etc., see above). That said, the Community Foundation unfortunately cannot underwrite all of the vital, on-going charitable projects in our community, and therefore on-going projects are usually not our highest funding priority. The Community Foundation will usually prioritize new projects over on-going, established projects because we wish to encourage organizations to find long-term, sustainable funding sources for on-going projects.

Your Community Enrichment Guidelines now state an interest in both project grants and capacity-building grants. Have your priorities changed? Are you using different procedures or criteria for capacity-building grants?

Our grant priorities have not changed. In fact, we’ve been awarding “capacity-building” grants for years, without really calling it that, funding things like phone systems, computers, strategic planning facilitators, new websites, and new facility/office space. What has changed is that we are trying to be more explicit and transparent in our readiness to consider proposals for these types of critical nonprofit needs. All of that said, our grants criteria are unchanged, and we will continue to prioritize requests for new, collaborative, and/or innovative projects, as well as programs and organizations that benefit a broad segment of the community, address urgent gaps or unmet needs, attract funding from other sources, and/or promote an organization’s financial sustainability. Please also note that we do not fund annual operating expenses.

My organization received a grant from the Community Foundation within the past 12 months. Can I reapply for a new grant?

Unless special circumstances apply, the Outer Banks Community Foundation generally will not consider new Community Enrichment Grants to organizations that have a current, outstanding Community Enrichment Grant with us. If your organization received a Community Enrichment Grant in the last twelve months and fully closed the grant (i.e., received all payments and completed your final grant report), you may apply again, but priority may be given to qualified projects that did not receive a grant in the past year (12 months). Any donor-advised grants you receive will not affect your eligibility for a Community Enrichment Grant.

Do your Community Enrichment Grant guidelines also pertain to your Special Field-of-Interest Grants?

Not necessarily. Although our Special Field-of-Interest Grants Program uses the same application, reimbursement process, and final report as our Community Enrichment Grants, some of our Community Enrichment funding priorities and restrictions do not apply to our Special Field-of-Interest Grants. Please contact our staff for more information.

 

Project Budget

How much should I request from the Community Foundation?

The amount of your grant request should depend entirely on the financial need of your particular project or program. The Community Foundation often awards partial funding, and sometimes awards more if the need exists. We have also occasionally awarded multi-year grants. To get a better sense for our typical award amounts, you may wish to peruse the list of recent Community Enrichment Grant awards on this website.

Is it important to seek other sources of funding for my project?

Yes. The Community Foundation will prioritize projects that show other sources of funding. This will lend additional credibility to your request and shows us that your organization — and the larger community — is committed to your project. If your project will have ongoing costs, we particularly want to see how your organization plans to sustain that project in the future. Unfortunately the Community Foundation cannot support all of the important projects in our community, so we often prefer to award seed grants that will eventually inspire other donors to contribute.

 

EZ App

What is this new EZ App?

We recognize that applying for a grant costs your nonprofit time, and often money. So, in an effort to save precious nonprofit resources, we are now offering a shorter, simpler, easier grant application — the EZ App — for small and straightforward grant requests. Our goal is to continue to evaluate applications at a level commensurate with the request, while saving our applicants some time and money that can be better spent on accomplishing their charitable mission.

In what ways is the EZ App shorter and easier than the traditional application?

The EZ App has fewer narrative questions. For example, we don’t ask for your personnel qualifications in the EZ App, nor do we ask for your plans to sustain your project. The narrative questions that are included have much shorter word limits, because we want to encourage you to keep your answers concise. Most significantly, we don’t require any new attachments to your proposal. This means you don’t have to include a balance sheet, revenue/expense statement, board list, organizational budget, or 990 to your EZ App.

What projects and organizations are eligible to use the EZ App?

If your organization is requesting $5,000 or less, and your organization has received — and successfully completed — a Community Enrichment Grant from us within the past three years (36 months), you may be eligible to use the EZ App. However, before you can access the EZ App, your request must first be preapproved for the EZ App by our staff, and not all grant projects will be eligible. Therefore, we urge you to call the Community Foundation staff before starting your application to see if you might be eligible.

Why is the EZ App only offered to recent grantees?

We have made a commitment to our donors to assess all applicants in adequate detail to ensure that our grant recipients are the best possible stewards of community largesse. Therefore, if we’ve never worked with your nonprofit before, or if it’s been a few years since we’ve reviewed your organization’s financial statements, we may ask for the opportunity to do so, via the full-blown traditional application, in order to consider your funding request.

My request is less than $5,000, and my organization is a recent grantee. Why weren’t we approved for the EZ App?

We can only offer the EZ App for straightforward requests that unequivocally meet all our basic eligibility criteria. Therefore, if your request is at all untraditional, we will request the longer application. Also, if our board had any unanswered questions about your organization or your financials last time you applied, or if your organization did not wholly complete your last grant project, we may also request the full application. This is to give us the opportunity to get to know your organization better.

What is the timeframe for EZ App grants? What are the deadlines, and when are grants awarded?

The EZ App works on the same timeframe as the longer application. In other words, the application deadline is the same, the review period is the same, and the notification timeline is the same.

My organization was approved for the EZ App. Does that mean we have a better chance of getting the grant?

Your chances of getting the grant are the same, whether you’re using the EZ App or the traditional application. EZ App approval simply means that you can use the shorter application.

My organization used the EZ App last time we applied. Can we use it again if we have another small request?

Possibly, but we ask you to please contact the Community Foundation staff before every new proposal. Even if your nonprofit used the EZ App last time, there may be any number of reasons why we’d need your organization to complete a full application this time. For example, if it’s been a few years since we’ve reviewed your organization’s financial statements, we may ask for the opportunity to do so this time, via the full-blown traditional application.

 

Application Attachments

Should I attach brochures, newspaper articles, or other pieces of information to my proposal?

If you have additional items that you think will strengthen your proposal, you may attach up to four additional documents to the application. Please do not send attachments by email.

My organization is part of a larger “umbrella” nonprofit organization or governmental agency. Should I attach financial and other information from my local entity, or from my umbrella organization?

If your organization is a local office, chapter, project, etc. of a larger entity, try to include as much information as possible from your local entity. This includes your local budget, your local board list, and your local revenue/expense statement. If these are not available for your local entity, it is perfectly acceptable to attach the information from the larger entity. Some attachments (e.g., your 990) are probably only available for your larger entity.

Do I need to submit our 501c3 letter and bylaws with each grant request?

Not any longer! With our new application, once you create a user name and password for your organization, the basic information from your application will be saved in your profile. The next time you apply for a grant or submit a final report, you will be given the option to review and update those attachments if necessary (for example, if your board amended your bylaws). However, you DO need to attach your board list, 990, organizational budget, project budget, revenue/expense statement, and balance sheet to each and every proposal you submit, as those documents usually change on a regular basis. Please also note that we are no longer accepting articles of incorporation in place of bylaws.

My organization is small and/or new, and we don’t have an organizational budget, balance sheet, and/or revenue/expense statement. What should we do?

We understand that in our community, some of the most important charitable work is being done by small and/or all-volunteer groups. We encourage nonprofits of all sizes to use an organizational budget and maintain financial records to help make best use of precious resources. This will also demonstrate to potential donors that your organization is well-run and will make good use of their funds.

There are seemingly infinite resources on the internet to help you learn the basics of nonprofit financial management. We also recommend the nonprofit classes offered by the NC Center for Nonprofits, Duke University’s Nonprofit Management Program, and the Tidewater Community College’s Academy for Nonprofit Excellence. (Many of these classes are offered as webinars and self-paced online courses!)

If your organization does not already have a budget, you may download our budget template, enter your anticipated revenues and expenses for one fiscal year, and upload the completed form into your application.

In place of a balance sheet and/or revenue/expense statement, you may attach your organization’s most recent audit, 990, or 990-EZ. We cannot accept a 990-N receipt in place of these statements.

If your organization truly cannot provide one of the required financial statements, you may upload instead a letter from your CEO explaining why these statements are not available, and your organization’s plans for managing its funds in the future.

What should I do if my organization does not complete a full 990?

We accept both the full 990 and the 990-EZ form. If your organization’s annual gross receipts are less than $50,000, and your organization chooses to file a 990-N (e-postcard) in place of a regular 990 or 990-EZ, you may upload the receipt you receive from the IRS for your 990-N, in place of a regular 990 form.

Should I attach letters of support for my project?

If your project is a collaboration with other entities, letters of support from your partners may strengthen your proposal. We always encourage nonprofits to submit letters of support from the school system for projects involving the schools.

Is there a size limit for attachments?

Yes. Each file attachment must be 20MB in size or smaller.

Is there a preferred file format for attachments?

Yes, we strongly prefer PDF documents for all attachments, particularly in place of Excel spreadsheets. However, all file formats are accepted.

 

Decision Process

Who reviews grant applications, and how are the awards decided?

After a review by staff, our grants committee discusses all Community Enrichment Grant applications in depth and makes funding recommendations to the full board. All final funding decisions are made by the entire board.

If the board or grants committee has questions about the project, will I be given a chance to answer them?

If we have any questions about your project, a staff member will contact your organization to ask for clarification.

May I make a presentation to the grants committee or full board about my project?

We usually do not ask applicants to make presentations to our grants committee or full board. However, our staff may contact you to set up a meeting or site visit.

May I contact Community Foundation board members to discuss my grant proposal?

We ask that you do not. We ask that you limit your communications about your project to the staff.

How do I find out if my grant request was approved?

Our board usually meets in early March, June, September, and December, and approves grants at that time. Our staff will contact you soon after the meeting. There is no need to contact us; we’ll call you as soon as we have a decision.

 

After a Grant Award

How and when are payments made for approved grants?

Our usual procedure is to reimburse your organization for your incurred expenses, as outlined in your proposed budget. Your organization must submit a request for payment, including copies of all invoices and receipts, and the Community Foundation will send a check for the exact funds that were spent, up to the amount of the grant that was approved. We make grant payments once every two weeks. Click here for our procedures for grant reimbursement.

If the funds are needed in advance, is it possible for the grant award to be paid early?

Possibly. If your organization has an extraordinary circumstance, the Community Foundation may be able to make payment in advance. We urge you to explain this need in your grant application. Documentation of expenses paid with grant funds will be required.

Is my organization required to publicize our Community Enrichment Grant award?

Yes, please! If your organization is awarded a Community Enrichment Grant, we do ask that you publicize the award so that our donors will know how their gifts are being used. We also hope this brings positive publicity to your organization. Your publicity can include (but is not limited to) a photo and/or press release to the newspapers, a photo and announcement on your website or Facebook page, recognition in any printed materials related to your grant project (such as a book, concert program, or playbill), a sign or plaque if applicable, and/or oral recognition at related events.

The Community Foundation may also publicize your grant through our own print or online publications, and we invite you to send us high-resolution photographs related to your grant for those purposes. However, any publicity we do at the Community Foundation does not replace the publicity that your organization is asked to do.

Members of our staff and/or board are available for photographs or other recognition opportunities. Please contact the Community Foundation office to make arrangements.

What about a final report?

Following your final grant payment, we will ask you to complete our online grant final report form. This brief form will ask you about your success in achieving your project goals and the impact you made in our community. We will also ask you to report on your publicity efforts. Please submit this report at the completion of your project, or after your one-year grant period, or whenever you have good information to share about the impact of your grant. There is no set deadline; however, unless special circumstances apply, we will usually require your organization to complete a final grant report before your organization can receive another Community Enrichment Grant from us.

 

Lastly…

What are your top three tips to grant applicants?

1. Call the Community Foundation staff before you start writing your proposal. After learning more about your project, we can offer you specific advice on how to strengthen your particular proposal. We may even be able to approve you for our new EZ App, which will save you considerable time. We recommend that you contact staff at least one week before the grant application deadline.

2. Read our grants criteria carefully, and identify which criteria are addressed by your project. (For example: Is your project innovative? Does it address an urgent community need? Will it involve a broad segment of our population?) Highlight those criteria in your narrative, and be as specific as you can, particularly about how your project will benefit our community, and how many people will benefit.

3. Draft your narrative in Word or another word processing program, and then copy and paste your text into the online application form. That way, you can easily check your spelling and grammar in your word processing program, and you’ll have a copy of your work if your internet connection is lost.

And how can we give you feedback?

The Community Foundation invites your feedback on our grants program. We welcome comments from any nonprofit in any stage of the grants process; whether you have received a grant, just applied for a grant, been declined, or are even just considering applying, we want to hear from you. To submit your feedback anonymously, please use our online questionnaire. Your comments, concerns, praise, and criticism will help us become a better grant-maker for our community. This survey will be open indefinitely, and you can respond multiple times, now and/or in the future. If you would rather give us feedback directly, please call our staff any time at 252-261-8839.

 

Is your question not answered here? Please contact us; we are happy to help!