A Change in Approach for a Challenging Time

TBF’s Open Door Grants program is evolving to fit sector needs and community priorities

August 4, 2020

By Lauren McDermott, Manager, Open Door Grants

Over the past four years, the Open Door Grants (ODG) program has supported a strong and diverse portfolio of 267 Greater Boston nonprofits whose work addresses the most critical challenges and biggest opportunities facing our community. As we enter our fifth year of grantmaking, we are attuned to the heightened need in our region, as a global health crisis bears down on the nation and as the long-standing harm of institutional racism and acts of racist violence are being actively grappled with on a broader scale. 

Through our COVID-19 Response Fund we witnessed the resiliency, dedication and adaptability of nonprofit staff and leadership and our trust in them has only grown deeper; they have the expertise to leverage grant dollars to drive solutions in community. Prompted by lessons and nonprofit feedback from the Response Fund and our drive to remain responsive to the sector’s evolving needs, we implemented several timely programmatic changes to this year’s ODG application: 

  • Funding priorities and considerations have been further defined. To increase our transparency to potential applicants on their likelihood of support, we have further defined our priorities. Given that our grantmaking is responsive, these priorities will not remain stagnant over time, but will be defined and shaped by evolving community needs and input. As specific communities are disproportionality experiencing the impacts of COVID-19 and immense racial violence, we are prioritizing organizations serving and building power in the following communities: immigrants (including undocumented); BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) individuals and communities; elders; individuals with disabilities; survivors of domestic abuse; and incarcerated and returning citizens. In utilizing a racial equity lens in our grantmaking, ODG is also especially focused on supporting organizations whose leadership reflects the communities they serve, and organizations engaged in diversity, equity and inclusion practices, programs and/or initiatives. Please visit our website and our updated funding considerations to learn more about our eligibility requirements and the specific criteria reviewers are using to evaluate funding requests.  

  • ODG support is now available in the form of $25,000 general operating support (GOS) grants. Historically, ODG applicants had to decide how much money to apply for and whether to apply for GOS or project support grants, which were to be used only for specified new initiatives or growth. While the grant awards ranged from $10,000 to $50,000, the average was between $21,000 and $26,000, with most grantees receiving less than the total amount they’d requested.  Learning from the nonprofits we worked with that this two-pronged approach can be confusing and frustrating, we switched to a set grant size and set support type in order to clarify and streamline the application. Importantly, GOS enables grantees to be as responsive, creative and innovative as possible to address the evolving needs of their organizations and the communities they serve. 

  • New grantee commitments are two-year funding commitments. In the past, awards were made for one year with approximately 28 percent of grantees receiving a second year of support. This year new grant commitments will be made for two years, with a total investment of $50,000, paid in two equal annual installments of $25,000. A two-year commitment allows additional time and space to strengthen our relationship with grantees and eases the burden of reapplying. This change is for new grant commitments only. If you have received ODG support in the last 12 months and are currently in your first year of funding, we will be offering an abbreviated application to apply for a second year of funding. We will be able to support approximately 50 percent of renewal requests this year. 
  • We are deepening and expanding Community Directed Grantmaking. Community Directed Grantmaking is the practice of sharing grantmaking responsibility with community members outside of the Boston Foundation staff and board. For the most recent (May 2020) round of ODG we partnered with a subset of Boston Neighborhood Fellows and alums to pilot and advance this practice. The fellows were responsible for distributing nearly a third of funds for the round. Our ambition is to deepen and expand this practice over the next several rounds with the ultimate goal to have community inform all ODG grantmaking. 

Although our Open Door Grants program has changed in numerous ways, what remains the same is our commitment to be open and responsive, and dedicated to improving the process for applicants and grantees. As I work from my sofa in Allston and my colleague, Avni, from hers in Kenmore, we are still here to answer your questions, listen to your feedback and work to streamline and improve our grantmaking practice.

The next deadline for ODG is September 10, 2020. Want to learn more? Visit our website and FAQ page, read through our funding considerations, or drop us a line at opendoor@tbf.org