Safety Net Grants: FAQs and Funding Considerations

Frequently Asked Questions


We have narrowed the focus of the Safety Net Grants program to provide timely investment in organizations responding to immediate essential needs in marginalized communities. While the Open Door Grants Program introduced new nonprofits to the Foundation, the high volume of applicants meant it was also a competitive opportunity. The resulting high denial rates indicated the program needed improvement to limit the burden on potential applicants and achieve greater impact. We will still have an open application process but with a more limited focus. 

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
  • Disability assistance
  • Food security
  • Health care access
  • Legal support
  • Mental health support
  • Rental and housing assistance
  • Support for survivors of trauma

We are prioritizing organizations that are meeting the needs of seniors and people with physical disabilities and providing food, fuel and shelter support.

We are prioritizing organizations in Boston, Chelsea, Lynn, Randolph, and Salem because they are the cities with the highest percentage of SNAP cases in our catchment area.

Yes, but proposals for funding should serve communities primarily located within our catchment area. If your organization has statewide or national reach, we encourage you to focus your application on your work in the Boston Foundation’s catchment area specifically. 

A pre-conversation is not necessary to apply for a Safety Net Grant; however, if you have questions, please email and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.

An eligible organization has a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit designation from the IRS or operates under the fiscal sponsorship of a tax-exempt nonprofit. If applying under a fiscal sponsor, your organization is responsible for having that relationship in place before applying and will be asked to attach a fiscal sponsorship letter with your application submission.

Absolutely. The Foundation encourages collaboration. One organization should submit the application as the lead organization on behalf of the collaborative partners. Should you have any questions about how to represent both organizations on the application, please reach out to and our team can help provide guidance.


The Safety Net Grants program will accept one application from an organization per 12-month period. Organizations that act as fiscal sponsors are welcome to fiscally sponsor multiple applications and are also permitted to submit their own application once every 12 months. Should you have any questions regarding when your organization is eligible to re-submit an application for funding, please email and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.

Unfortunately, we are not able to review draft applications before they are submitted. While we understand the value of receiving early feedback about an application, due to capacity constraints we are not able to offer this assistance to all applicants. However, if you need assistance with the application, you are welcome to reach out to us via email (at and we are happy to help resolve any questions.

The organization demographics profile helps us learn about the individuals who work and volunteer with your organization. Demographic data is just one element of our grant review; please see our funding considerations or other key criteria in evaluating applications. The Demographics Form, admittedly imperfect, was heavily informed by the GuideStar and D5 Coalition framework, which was a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy and an opportunity to use data to inform our grantmaking. Please feel free to learn more about the D5 Coalition framework at this link -

We encourage you to view the demographics portion of the application as a tool for sharing whatever data you are able to share, not a survey where you must answer every question, as we understand not every organization currently collects all of this information. You will also have space on the application to share more about your organization’s connection to and reflection of the community served in the Organization Demographics narrative questions.

The Safety Net Grants team is unable to directly and proactively solicit TBF donors in regard to grant proposals. Should a member of our Donor Services team approach us with a donor interested in your area of work, we would then be able to share your application. Our teams continue to collaborate on additional opportunities to elevate applications to our donor community.

Review Process and Applicant Notifications

BIPOC-led organizations are organizations whose mission statement and/or programs aim to serve predominantly BIPOC communities and having one or more of the following:

  • Executive Director or Senior Leadership (decision makers) identifies as BIPOC
  • At least 51% of the board of directors identifies as BIPOC
  • At least 51% of the staff and volunteers are BIPOC

This funding considerations document  outlines some of the considerations undertaken when reviewing applications. In utilizing a racial equity lens in our grantmaking Safety Net Grants are 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. We aim to maintain a diverse funding portfolio and also consider a variety of additional factors when determining which applicants are selected for investment—including but not limited to: budget size, geographic area served, service population, and mission.

Please note funding considerations have been updated from previous years, if you have applied previously, please refer to this updated version.

Site visits are not a part of our review process—this is largely due to our team's capacity and inability to grant site visits to every applicant. That being said, a member of our grant review team may reach out to you via email or phone call should they have questions regarding your application.

Applicants who submitted a proposal for the September 2023 deadline will be notified in January 2024 via email.

Funding Considerations

We anticipate that the Safety Net Grants program will be very competitive with demand far outpacing available resources. In addition to the criteria listed below, the Foundation also considers the following: geographic area served, service population, budget size and mission, and alignment with field of interest funding, among other factors.

  • Aligns with Our New Pathway, the strategic vision for The Boston Foundation
  • Clear mission and vision that guide the organization;
  • Strong staff and board leadership, that is diverse and representative (demographic composition and lived experience) of the community they serve;
  • Deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (internally and externally);
  • Strong emphasis on incorporating learnings from a measurement/assessment plan; and
  • Strong collaboration/partnerships with community and community-based organizations

  • The grant size will have a meaningful impact on the organization's effectiveness and ability to meet its mission;
  • Authentically serves populations and communities historically excluded from institutions and/or systems;
  • Clear correlation between annual goals and organization’s ability to address the defined challenge or opportunity unfolding in their community; and
  • Clear vision of success and a way to measure success on a scale that is appropriate to its learning goals and relative to its resources

  • 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

*BIPOC-led organizations are organizations whose mission statement and/or programs aim to serve predominantly BIPOC communities and having one or more of the following:

  • Executive Director or Senior Leadership (decision makers) identifies as BIPOC
  • At least 51% of the board of directors identifies as BIPOC
  • At least 51% of the staff and volunteers are BIPOC

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.

Please visit the Safety Net Grants page to learn more and access an application form.