Open Door Grants Guidelines

Responding to the expressed ideas and needs of the community

We encourage new and existing nonprofit organizations in Greater Boston that are not directly aligned with the strategies, goals and approaches pursued in the Foundation’s five impact areas to pursue Open Door Grants for support of their efforts to meet existing needs or test new ideas and innovations that address the most critical challenges and biggest opportunities facing our community.

Program Overview + Eligibility


What Can I Apply For?

  • General operating support or project support (including capacity-building projects)
  • Grant funding ranging from $10,000 to $50,000
  • Grants will be made for one year at a time and for up to two years in a row, with a renewal application required for those seeking a second year of funding

Who Is Eligible?

An eligible applicant would be an existing or new organization that:

  • Is not in direct conflict with the strategies, goals and approaches pursued by the Foundation’s five impact areas (For example, given the focus of the Structural Reform strategy of the Foundation’s Education impact area, proposals that aim to limit or block charter schools will not be considered for a grant.)
  • Has a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit designation from the IRS or operates under the fiscal sponsorship of a tax-exempt nonprofit (You are responsible for having that relationship in place before submitting your application.)
  • Primarily serves the people of the cities and towns in the Foundation’s catchment area, with the exception of regional, statewide or national public policy efforts that may benefit a substantial portion of the people in the Foundation’s catchment area
  • Aligns with the Foundation’s Values Statement, which seeks to broaden participation; foster collaboration; and heal racial, ethnic and community divisions
  • Does not discriminate in the hiring of staff or the provision of services on the basis of race, religion, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, age, national origin or disability
  • Has not submitted an application within the past 12 months

Note: If your organization does work on behalf of seniors or individuals with physical disabilities, you are especially encouraged to apply for an Open Door Grant as the Foundation has funds specifically designated for these purposes.

The Foundation encourages collaboration! Joint programs with fellow nonprofit organizations are also eligible. One organization should submit the application as the lead organization on behalf of the collaborative partners.

The Boston Foundation does not make grants for capital construction costs, endowments, medical or academic research, scholarships, sectarian or religious purposes, or to support candidates for political office. Private non-operating foundations, 501(c)(4) organizations, and Section 501(a)(3) Type III Non-functionally Integrated organizations are not eligible to apply. In addition, grants are not made to individual persons or individual schools. Schools must apply through their school districts and districts may submit one application every 12 months.

I'm Eligible! How Do I Apply?

  1. Complete an online narrative application. (If your organization received an Open Door Grant (ODG) and you wish to apply for a second year of support for the same program or work, you must submit a request within 18 months of the date your last application was funded.) 
  2. Complete select fields within a Giving Common profile. To request a profile for the first time, please submit a Giving Common profile request form. To confirm that select fields in your existing profile are up to date, please e-mail Giving Common staff. Applications will not be considered without having completed the select fields by the ODG application deadline. 
  3. While the Boston Foundation website performs best in Firefox or Chrome, please use Internet Explorer for the forms. (We are working on a system that will enable the forms to work with other Internet browsers; for now, stick with Explorer when completing our online applications or reports.) Be sure to close your Internet browser between sessions or it will open a new, blank form rather than your saved form. In order to return to an in-progress application, scroll to the bottom of the screen and select “save and return later.” If you have saved an online application form previously, you can access your account again. This should bring you to the main application portal with a full listing of your saved applications. If you encounter technical difficulties, email and a member of our team can assist you

A pre-conversation is not necessary to apply for an Open Door Grant; however, if you have questions please email us and a member of our grants management staff will be happy to assist you.

When constructing your application budget, the Foundation encourages you to apply for the true costs associated with your application, including overhead and/or administrative costs.

View the Open Door Grants FAQs.

The Foundation accepts applications regularly for Open Door Grants. The next upcoming deadline is March 1, 2018. Deadlines for the remainder of 2018 will be announced in late Spring 2018.

Evaluation + Results

All applications are reviewed holistically. This page outlines some of the considerations undertaken when reviewing applications. In addition to these criteria, the Foundation aims to maintain a diverse funding portfolio and considers a variety of other factors such as budget size, geographic area served, service population and mission when determining which applicants are selected for investment. For more detail, see our outline of funding considerations.

A site visit or meeting is not required for consideration; however, a member of our grant review team may reach out to your organization to request a phone call in the event s/he has additional questions about your application.

How and When Do Applicants Learn Results?

We notify all applicants via email following the board meeting dates listed below.

Application Deadline              Applicants Notified (via email)
December 1                               March 2018
March 1                                       July 2018

Deadlines for the remainder of 2018 will be announced in late Spring 2018.

How Likely Are We to Be Funded?

As Vice President for Programs Orlando Watkins notes in a blog post reflecting on the first year of the program, "Demand far exceeded our available resources, which necessitated our making some tough decisions." In fact, in the inaugural year of the Program, though we supported 78 organizations with $2 million, only 17 percent of grant requests were funded. The infographic to the right outlines some features of the Year 1 grant portfolio.


Open Door Grants are provided for one year of support at a time. We will, however, consider a second-year application if you are awarded a grant. The limit for consecutive annual support is two years; after which an organization must wait 12 months following the completion of their second year grant period before applying again for additional support. Organizations whose applications are denied funding must also wait 12 months before applying again for Open Door Grants. There is no limit to the total number of Open Door Grants an organization can receive.

How Does a Current Grantee Apply for a Second Year of Funding?

To apply for a second year of funding, please complete the online renewal application form. Please note that you may only use this application form if your organization has received an Open Door Grant within the last 18 months and you are applying for the same project/work as your original funded application. Please also confirm that select fields in your Giving Common profile are up to date, by e-mailing Giving Common staff.

If you still have questions after reading this page and its links, email and a member of our staff can assist you.