Open Door Grants | City of Ideas

Posted 04/17/2017 by Orlando C. Watkins, Vice President for Programs

As we entered the final quarter of the first year review process for our Open Door Grants program, I find myself reflecting back at what a tremendous experience it’s been. As a Foundation, we’ve had the opportunity to connect with organizations we’ve never worked with before, and reconnect with organizations that we haven’t worked with since establishing our impact areas in 2009. We’ve supported pilot efforts as well as long-standing programs and organizations with decades of success under their belts. And, given the recent shifts in the federal landscape, I am especially proud that we were able to show up for and support organizations that work to protect and support immigrants and other marginalized communities.

One of those grantees said that, “In the current political environment, we need more than ever to advance policies that protect and defend immigrant and refugee families and workers and work … to create a welcoming environment for all residents. We all need to help build a robust Greater Boston and statewide capability to train and empower local organizations to meet the needs of their communities. Partners like the Boston Foundation show the critical role that philanthropies can play in responding to urgent community need and supporting long term social change."

We intentionally designed Open Door Grants to respond to the ideas and needs expressed by our community to complement the majority of our discretionary grant making which is distributed through a set of focused strategies proactively identified by the Foundation. We also thought that Open Door Grants could be a great way for us to get close to and learn from the wisdom and ideas that exist in Greater Boston’s communities, and I think it’s proven to be just that. In our first three quarters alone, we’ve been able to support 63 organizations with $1.7 million, and our current portfolio of grantees is wonderfully diverse, having organization budgets ranging from $55,000 to $164 million; hailing from Boston proper to the North Shore to Metrowest; and representing such varied issues as youth development, senior services, mental health and the environment.

Now, while there’s been a lot of excitement internally and externally about our ability to do all of this through the Open Door Grants program, I recognize that the effort has also met with some disappointment.  With requests for Open Door Grants in the first three quarters totaling $18 million from a total of 441 organizations, we were only able to say yes to 14% of the applications we received.  Clearly, demand far exceeded our available resources, which necessitated our making some tough decisions.

As a former fundraiser myself, I know how disappointing it is to learn that your proposal wasn’t funded.  It’s clear to me that so many of you are not only doing great work, but also put a lot of thought, energy and time into conveying that work in your proposals.  Please know that we continue to be committed to staying connected to and providing this funding opportunity for organizations that do strong work outside of the scope of our impact areas and crosscutting strategies. So if you submitted an eligible application for our Open Grants program and didn’t receive funding in our inaugural year, please consider applying again. We anticipate that this will continue to be a highly competitive process, so funding isn’t guaranteed even with a second consecutive application; however we are committed to maintaining a diverse portfolio that is responsive to the community’s stated needs and we hope you’ll continue to give us the opportunity to learn about your work and provide support in the ways that we can. Thank you for all that you do.