What's The San Francisco Foundation Looking for in New “Advancing Equity” Grantees?

This past summer, we covered how the San Francisco Foundation’s first round of equity-focused grants played out. Emerging topics of interest were workforce development, affordable housing, cultural identity, and civic engagement. 

To close out 2016, TSFF announced its new guidelines for grants to advance equity. This refinement happened after much work throughout the year to formally establish TSFF’s equity agenda and commitment to social justice. Since the Equity Grants Program opened up new applications on January 3, we thought we’d better take a closer look at what’s changing.

People, Places, or Power

These are still the three themes of TSFF equity grantmaking. So nonprofits looking for grants will definitely want to review what people, places, and power mean to TSFF—then pitch an idea that is centered on innovation to seed new projects, programs, organizations, and coalitions. TSFF is an edgy, progressive funder, and the more directly your work confronts the underlying structures that sustain racial and economic inequities the better. That's the whole point of this new grantmaking shift. 

Policy and Advocacy

Related, TSFF is really looking to galvanize new policy and advocacy efforts with these grants. Although these types of efforts can be more difficult to quantify in terms of effectiveness, they often hold the key to making change on a systemic level. TSFF is looking to back efforts that can produce lasting change, especially in terms of who gets heard in the corridors of power. These are not grants to support direct service organizations to keep doing what they're doing. This money aims to shake things up. 

Diversity and Inclusion

It makes sense that a grantmaking program with an exclusive equity focus would make a big deal about diversity and inclusion. As TSFF states: “The San Francisco Foundation grantmaking policy reflects a belief that organizational performance is greatly enhanced when people with different backgrounds and perspectives are engaged in an organization’s activities and decision-making process.” Your nonprofit better show diversity within the organization at all levels (as opposed to among junior or admin staff, as is so often the case.) More broadly, keep in mind that empowering people who've historically been marginalized is a key goal here, as opposed to simply "helping" them. 

Five Bay Area Counties

The “Bay Area” means different things to different people. Sometimes it’s defined as a nine-county region, but for TSFF’s equity purposes, we’re looking at a five-county area. The counties in focus are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo. Organizations located outside these five counties may only apply if most of the people they serve are located inside the five counties. Only organizations with operating budgets under $1 million can apply, which is kind of surprising, given that quite a few community and organizing groups are smaller than that—and sure could use TSFF's help to get bigger. 

New Deadlines

Submission deadlines for the new TSFF opportunity fall between January 24 and February 7 depending on your county and where your organization’s name falls in the alphabet. Chosen applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal in early March, with that deadline closing in late March. For application links and access information, check out TSFF’s How to Apply page and Grant Resources page.