grants program guidelines

Since 1986, ECF’s responsive grants invest broadly across the community and in both long-established and new organizations and community groups that seek to improve Evanston. Reflecting ECF’s principles from its new strategic plan, the grant guidelines emphasize a commitment to equity, explicitly building on the Foundation’s long commitment to making the community better for all.

The application process opens in late November; the first step is to submit a Letter of Inquiry.

Guideline sections: strategic goals, eligibility requirements, types of grants, areas of interest, process and funding parameters, letter of inquiry, full proposal requirements, evaluation criteria

strategic goals

We make investments in organizations and projects that advance the following strategic goals:
• An Evanston that is inclusive and equitable for all
• An empowered and engaged community that collaborates across sectors to define problems and work on solutions
• A thriving nonprofit sector

eligibility qualifications

• Any group or organization providing services to Evanston residents may apply for a grant. All proposals must address issues, concerns or opportunities in the Evanston community.
• Applicants must either be 501(c)(3) organizations, schools, government entities or they must have a fiscal sponsor that qualifies as a tax-exempt organization under Sec. 501(c)(3) of the IRS.
• Applicants must be able to demonstrate inclusive practices leading to diversity of their boards, staff and constituents.
• Applicants must seek diverse funding sources and have a plan to sustain their program beyond the term of the grant.

types of grants

Capacity building: organizational initiatives that focus on building infrastructure to support an organization’s long-term growth and development to better fulfill its mission (e.g. strategic plans, racial equity audits and training, board and/or staff development, technology upgrades, revenue-generating staff positions).

Program: continuing improvements to proven programs or projects that strengthen an organization’s ability to fulfill its mission and show long-term impact, new initiatives, pilot projects, bridge funding, and capstone funding. We encourage collaboration.

funding areas

We request proposals that address one or more of the Foundation’s three external strategic goals, as listed above, representing any aspect of the Evanston community including, but not limited to: arts and culture, basic human needs, community development, early childhood education/early learning, education, environment, family support/counseling, health, housing, seniors, workforce development, or youth. We have particular interest in work that advances the long-term sustainability of organizations and community efforts.                

process and funding parameters

• Request amount may be between $5,000 -$20,000. Last year, the average grant was $13,000. Grant awards may partially or fully fund a proposal request.

• Grants are typically made for one year (July 1 to June 30). In some cases, a grant supporting a project that was funded in the previous year may be made in a second or third consecutive year if the applicant proposes enhancements to the project.
• Current and former grantees and/or previous applicants to any ECF grants program are eligible and encouraged to apply.
• We do not fund general operations; endowments; fundraising events or sponsorship of events; appeals for religious purposes (though faith-based organizations may apply for projects benefitting the general community); or individuals. We are unlikely to fund capital campaigns or one-time conferences, performances or events.


letter of inquiry

•    The first step is to submit a brief Letter of Inquiry by January 15, 2019 at 11:59pm. Access the complete guidelines for submitting a Letter of Inquiry for program and capacity building grant requests.

full proposal requirements

After review, selected organizations will be invited February 11 to submit a full proposal (see requirements) by February 20 at 11:59pm. Proposals are submitted online using GLM. Grantees will be chosen and informed in late May.

evaluation criteria

Each proposal submitted to ECF is carefully screened and reviewed by a committee made up of community representatives and board members. Proposals are assessed according to the following criteria:

1. ECF Strategic Plan: To what degree does the grant request further ECF’s strategic goals?
• Equity: An Evanston that is inclusive and equitable for all
• Collaboration: An empowered and engaged community that collaborates across sectors to define problems and work on solutions. Proposals will be rated according to how well the roles and responsibilities among all collaborative partners are articulated and the strength of documentation supporting the collaboration/partnership.
• Thriving Nonprofit Sector: Build organizations’ infrastructure in support of long-term growth, sustainability, and better mission fulfillment

2. Sustainability: To what degree is the project likely to be sustainable and “live on” beyond the grant period? How does the organization intend to continue the funded program/project after the Foundation’s support ends? Does the organization have philanthropic support from its Board or leadership?

3. Long-term Impact: To what degree will the investment strengthen the capacity of the organization to achieve long-term results? (capacity building) To what degree will the project have a long-term impact on Evanston? (program)

4. Organization Suitability: Capacity Building: Will it advance their ability to extend their mission? Program: How well does the organization demonstrate an understanding of the challenge and opportunity in Evanston, specifically the current Evanston resources available and the population served? Does the organization demonstrate their capacity and qualification to undertake this work? Is the organization making steps towards a leadership reflective of the demographics it serves? How does this proposed program fit within their mission?

5. Goals, Measurement Plan, Timeline: Are there specific and realistic goals, a basis on which to track progress and measure success, and a reasonable timeframe?

6. Clear and Realistic Methods and Budget: Is it clear how this grant will be implemented? Is the implementation plan realistic? If applicable, does the proposal address the recruitment of participants and strategies to break down barriers of participation for underrepresented communities? If applicable, has the organization selected a suitable vendor? Is the project budget appropriate to the goals? Does the organization have a solid plan to fund the remainder of the project?