Grantseeker FAQs

Our goal at Madison Community Foundation is to help you have all the information and resources you need to make your Community Impact grant application as strong as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions about Madison Community Foundation's competitive grantmaking program

Please visit the Apply for a Grant page for an overview of our seven focus areas, grant cycle timeline, types of grants, grant criteria, eligibility, scope of funding and templates and documents. If you would like see what projects have been funded in the past, visit the Recent Grants page. We also suggest you spend some time on the Nonprofit Resources page, where you can read more about outcomes, measurements, evaluation reporting and more.

Is my organization eligible for a grant?

Nonprofit organizations, exempt from Federal income taxes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or governmental bodies, including schools and municipalities, are eligible to apply. If an organization does not have its own 501(c)(3) designation, Madison Community Foundation will accept proposals from nonprofits that are working under the formal designation of a fiscal sponsor that does have its own 501(c)(3) letter.

What will not be funded by Community Impact grants?

  • Individuals
  • Endowments not held by MCF
  • Debt retirement
  • Lobbying
  • Annual campaigns
  • Scholarships
  • Organizations for religious purposes
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Health care services, including mental health
  • Ongoing maintenance and operations
  • Short-term events and celebrations
  • Simultaneous requests from the same organization
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Sports & recreation, except in the case of those using sports programming for academic purposes

Can an individual apply for a grant?

Community Impact grants are made to qualifying charitable organizations, not to individuals. MCF does have separate scholarship funds available for students that are awarded directly to the educational institution on behalf of the student.

We have a local community foundation. Can we apply?

Communities with local education or community foundations that are unaffiliated with MCF are eligible to apply. However, they are required to submit a letter of support from the local foundation indicating their investment in the project and belief in its impact on the community as part of the application process.

What if our organization serves a geographic region larger than Dane County?

To be eligible for a grant, organizations must reside and projects must take place within the borders of Dane County. If the activities will benefit residents both inside and outside Dane County, we recommend that you limit your funding request to the amount that will impact those within our county. The exception is endowment challenge grants. These have no geographic limitation. However, the resulting endowment fund must be held at MCF.

How often can an organization submit grants?

An organization can submit once per cycle. If you have an ongoing grant, you must have finished your project and submitted your evaluation before reapplying for new funds. Repeat grant applicants who are in good standing with MCF and propose a new project that fits within the focus areas are welcome to submit subsequent proposals. However, when having to choose between projects, an applicant that has not been funded regularly may have an edge over one that has.

Does MCF read draft proposals?

When time allows, staff will offer feedback on draft proposals. Due to the volume of proposals received, we often respond to one-page abstracts or letters of inquiry. Applicants are encouraged to discuss their projects with Tom Linfield at (608) 232-1763 or tlinfield@madisongives.org.

I have questions about my capital grant application.

Speak with Tom Linfield before you apply. Although MCF has assisted with many capital projects, we are rarely the first or last money into the projects. We prefer to provide funding once the campaign is established so that the grant funds can help you leverage additional gifts.

How much money can I apply for?

This is determined on a case-by-case basis and depends on the scope of your project as well as the availability of funds. Visit the Recent Grants page to get a sense of MCF’s funding levels.

How many years of funding may we request?

One-year projects are generally recommended. On occasion, multi-year requests are funded. These should be discussed with MCF staff prior to applying.

Do we need to have other funding sources?

Other funding sources are critical. MCF is rarely the sole funder of any project. Referencing other funding sources in your grant application indicates your organization’s strategic planning for the sustainability of the initiative beyond the grant cycle. MCF does not typically fund more than one third of a given project.

Those seeking capital funding are expected to be one-third to one-half completed with their campaign before applying for funds Those seeking an endowment challenge grant who hold some of their endowment funds at MCF and some endowment funds elsewhere are encouraged to apply for the challenge match at the end of their campaign to raise the final dollars.

What are measurable outcomes?

Outcome measurement is a cornerstone of grantmaking. You are required to include measurable outcomes in your Letter of Inquiry and Grant Application. You will also be required to report on them as part of your Grant Evaluation Report. Please visit the Measuring Outcomes page for detailed information.

Could my project be awarded less money than we applied for?

Yes. MCF often receives far more requests than the available funding allows. In some instances, thoughtful review of a grant proposal may lead the Grantmaking Committee to recommend funding a specific portion of a grant application or to conclude that the need can be met through partial funding.

What percentage of proposals are funded?

About 25% of proposals are funded.

Who decides which applicants are awarded grants?

Grants applications are reviewed by staff and a Grantmaking Committee composed of Board members and a diverse group of community leaders. The Grantmaking Committee makes recommendations to the Board of Governors, which makes the final grant decisions.

What if I have an urgent project?

In rare instances, MCF will expedite grant processing for a project that has an urgent need and is closely aligned with MCF’s strategic goals. Please contact Tom Linfield to discuss your circumstances before submitting an urgent request.

How can I learn more about evaluation reporting?

Speak with Tom Linfield for more detailed information. The Grant Evaluation Report is a requirement of all grant recipients.

For more information, visit Nonprofit Resources