Chelsea Collaborative food distribution

Safety Net Grants

Please email or call 617-338-4508 with questions.

The Safety Net Grants program is designed to support social service organizations that respond to essential needs for marginalized communities and vulnerable residents in Greater Boston.

Built upon our now-closed Open Door Grants program, Safety Net Grants provide an opportunity to provide much-needed general operating funds to nonprofits addressing critical, immediate and essential needs for people throughout the region.

Safety Net Grants are $50,000, two-year general operating support grants, paid in two equal annual installments of $25,000. Essential needs are defined as resources that restore health, wellness, safety and belonging for individuals or families in crisis. They can include, but are not limited to:

  • Childcare assistance
  • Direct cash assistance
  • Food security
  • Health care access
  • Legal support
  • Mental health support
  • Rental and housing assistance
  • Support for survivors of trauma
  • Transportation and mobility support

Grants are offered twice each year - once in the spring and once in the fall. Information on the program is available via the Quick Links box, or elsewhere on the page below. If you have specific questions, please send an e-mail to or call 617-338-4508.

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Safety Net Grants Information Session

This session offered potential applicants to the Safety Net Grants program a chance to learn more about the eligibility requirements, application process and selection criteria.

View a recording of the webinar


Who Is Eligible?

Eligible Organizations primarily serve communities historically excluded from institutional philanthropy in Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk counties with a focus on the communities of greatest need as defined by the supplemental poverty measure (SPM). An eligible applicant would also meet the following criteria:

  • Has not submitted an application within the past 12 months;
  • Has a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit designation from the IRS or operates under the fiscal sponsorship of a tax-exempt nonprofit;         
  • Aligns with Our New Pathway, the strategic vision for The Boston Foundation;
  • Does not discriminate in the hiring of staff or the provision of services on the basis of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, national origin or disability;
  • Responds to an essential need by providing resources that restore health, wellness, safety and belonging for individuals or families in crisis 

We are especially interested in organizations that are:

  • Smaller and have been historically excluded from philanthropic support
  • BIPOC-led and/or whose leadership reflects the demographic composition and lived experiences of the communities they serve;
  • Meeting the needs of seniors and people with physical disabilities;
  • Providing food, fuel and shelter support

If you applied for the Safety Net Grants February 15th deadline, you are not eligible to apply for the upcoming September 26th deadline.


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. Parent Teacher Associations and tuition-based schools (including K-12 and post-secondary schools and universities) are also not eligible for this funding.


How to Apply:

Applications closed: September 26, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. EST

We anticipate that the Safety Net Grants program will be very competitive with demand far outpacing available resources. While we have worked to streamline the application process, we value the time commitment it takes to submit a request. We recommend taking a short eligibility quiz to determine whether this is the right opportunity for your organization.

To preview the narrative questions and/or draft responses, download a Word Document copy of the application and download an Excel of the Demographics Form.  

Experiencing a technical difficulty with the online applicant portal? Check out our Smart Simple Login Guide for guidance.

The Safety Net Grants team strives to be conscious of accessibility in technology. If you have difficulty accessing our application or need accommodations to complete the application, we encourage you to reach out to us directly at

Who is Involved in Making a Funding Decision?

The Safety Net Grants team uses a version of participatory grantmaking—the practice of centering affected communities in grant-making decisions by giving them the power to decide which organizations to fund. We use a mixture of staff and community reviewers to guide our decision making process and final grant decisions are approved by our board. Community reviewers represent a diverse group of nonprofit leaders in Greater Boston and are responsible for the final grant recommendations for the program. Staff at the Boston Foundation participate in the prescreen round of grant making. The goal is to deepen this practice over the next several rounds.