What’s New with Open Door Grants at the Boston Foundation

Our Open Door Grants (ODG) team fields all manner of questions from applicants who want to learn about the grant program:

“Are we eligible?”

“How do we make our grant application more compelling?”

“Can we apply collaboratively?”

“What are my odds of getting a grant?”

However, the biggest questions we’ve received over the last few months are:

“Where is the online application?”

“Have you posted the new deadlines yet?”

As some of you may know, we removed the ODG application and deadlines from the website in March to make some slight changes as we enter the third year of grant making. Now with plans in place, we’d like to explain our thinking over the last few months of planning and share next year’s most relevant ODG programmatic changes.

The new deadlines for ODG are August 1, 2018, and February 1, 2019. We are moving from a quarterly cycle to a biannual cycle (twice per year). We certainly understand the benefits of the previous quarterly process: More frequent deadlines tend to better align with nonprofits’ evolving and real-time needs, so we didn’t make this decision lightly. We adjusted the timeline to continue to give each of the 400–500 applications we receive annually the time and attention it deserves during review. This change also gives our team the ability to streamline the grant-making process and make sure it runs as smoothly as possible for applicants and staff alike. We didn’t want this change to mean that applicants would need to wait considerably longer to learn about the status of their grant application: The total time from application deadline to decision will be about four and a half months, just a couple of weeks longer than in previous years.

The application is back online and only slightly different from the original version. We’ve received good feedback from organizations about the application’s ease of use and did not wish to make many changes to it moving forward. Applicants report that on average the application takes 5–12 hours to complete and 93% of applicants say that this effort to apply is appropriate for the amount of grant funding that’s available. One area where we have made some slight adjustments is the section in which we ask about applicants’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). In line with the Foundation’s vision statement and recent public convenings on this issue, we also wanted the application to allow applicants more space and specific opportunities to talk about their DEI efforts related to leadership and talent, programmatic work, operations and other domains.

Individualized feedback will continue to be available for every applicant. One of Open Door Grant’s biggest goals is to remain as open and responsive as possible to every applicant. ODG remains very competitive: Of the 432 applicants last year, only 21% received support. Given these statistics, we feel it is important to be transparent about how your application was evaluated and about the positive or constructive feedback that was generated as your proposal was reviewed. In previous years we’ve included written feedback directly within an applicant’s grant notification; moving forward, organizations will instead have the opportunity to request a conversation with our staff to speak directly about any positive and/or constructive feedback. 

We are excited to embark upon another year of grant making and to support incredible work across our region. Most of all, we look forward to staying connected! We will be featuring the work of Open Door Grant recipients far more prominently in the coming year so that you can learn more about the incredible work they are doing to bring about greater justice, opportunity and impact in our region.

Want to learn more? Visit the Open Door Grants FAQ, attend an upcoming info session, or drop us a line at opendoor@tbf.org