Open Door Grants Guidelines

Responding to the ideas and needs of the community

We encourage new and existing nonprofit organizations in Greater Boston that are not currently 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.

PLEASE NOTE! The Open Door Grants program is not currently accepting applications as it upgrades its application forms.

Please explore these pages now to see whether your organization should apply for an Open Door Grant, and visit this page again in late May 2019 to access the new application.

To learn more about the program, review the guidelines below. You can also explore our Open Door Grants FAQs, or watch a webinar and Q and A session from January 10 with Open Door Grants staff.

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 are 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
  • Has a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit designation from the IRS or operates under the fiscal sponsorship of a tax-exempt nonprofit (Your organization is responsible for having that relationship in place before submitting an 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: Open Door Grants are especially focused on organizations serving and building power in communities historically excluded from institutional philanthropy and whose leadership reflects the communities they serve. Examples include, but are not limited to: communities of color; the LGBTQIA community; immigrants and refugees; people with disabilities; poor or low-income people; youth and seniors. Organizations that work on behalf of seniors or individuals with physical disabilities are especially encouraged to apply for an Open Door Grant as the Foundation has funding specifically designated for these purposes.

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.


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.

Have a few more questions about our Open Door Grants? Visit our FAQ page to learn more!

I'm Eligible! How Do I Apply?

  1. Complete an online narrative application (next available in May 2019). If your organization received an Open Door Grant and you wish to apply for a second year of support for the same program or work, please see the Renewals section below.
  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.

Tips to Avoid Technical Difficulties: While the Boston Foundation website performs best in Firefox or Chrome, please use Internet Explorer to fill out the forms. 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, please send us an email and a member of our team can assist you.


The Foundation considers applications biannually for Open Door Grants. The upcoming application dates are listed below.

Application Deadline

Applicants Notified (via email)

February 1, 2019

Mid- June 2019

We do not accept more than one application per 12 month period.

Original Application Submitted

New Eligible Application Deadline

August 1, 2018

TBD after August 1, 2019

February 1, 2019

February 1, 2020

If you have any questions regarding when your organization is eligible to resubmit an application for funding, please email us and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.

How will our Application be Evaluated?

All applications are reviewed holistically. Generally, we take into account many funding considerations when reviewing applications. In addition to those criteria, the Foundation aims to maintain a diverse funding portfolio and considers a variety of other factors such as commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, budget size, geographic area served, service population and mission when determining which applicants are selected for investment.

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 she/he/they have additional questions about your application.

How Likely Are We to Be Funded?

Due to the open and responsive nature of Open Door Grants, the program is very competitive. Demand far outpaces available resources. In the first two years of the program, 21% of applicants received a grant. You can learn more about our staff’s reflections on the program’s previous year of grant making by reading our blog post.

Renewal Funding

Open Door Grants are provided for one year of support at a time. We will, however, consider a second-year application if an organization is 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. Approximately 25% of grantees who apply for renewal funding receive a second year of support. Please note that you may only apply for renewal funding if your organization is applying for the same project/work as your original funded application. 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?

Current grantees who have been supported for only one year may reapply for support 12 months after their initial application. To apply for a second year of funding, please

  • Complete the online renewal application form, which will be available in May, 2019.
  • Confirm that select fields in your Giving Common profile are up to date, by e-mailing Giving Common staff.

If you applied for an Open Door Grant between June 2017 and March 2018, please reference the below eligibility guidelines to learn the best date to reapply. If you have any questions regarding when your organization is eligible to apply for a second year of funding, please email us and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.

Year 1 Application Submitted

Renewal Application Deadline

June 1, 2017

August 1, 2018

September 1, 2017

August 1, 2018

December 1, 2017

February 1, 2019

March 1, 2018

February 1, 2019

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