Collaborative Problem-Solving Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the definition of a Collaborative Problem-Solving grant?

Collaborative Problem-Solving grants are intended to support efforts that bring people together, within and across communities, to work towards a common goal. Proposals can be at various stages of the collaborative problem-solving process. Collaborative Problem-Solving grants support communities that use collaborative problem-solving processes that lead to inclusive, equitable and sustainable solutions, including increasing understanding of an issue, generating ideas, and/or testing and implementing inclusive, equitable and sustainable solutions to community challenges and opportunities. 

2. What differentiates Collaborative Problem-Solving grants from Community Progress Fund grants? 

Collaborative Problem-Solving grants differ from Community Progress Fund grants in several ways. Collaborative Problem-Solving Proposal Summaries must demonstrate authentic collaboration, which ZSR defines as a true joint effort, with clear, collective purpose, with partners willing to share ownership and decision-making as they pursue a project, ideas or innovation together. Collaborative Problem-Solving grants range from $50,000 to $150,000 a year for up to four years. Community Progress Fund Letters of Intent (LOIs) can be submitted by a single organization and do not necessarily require collaboration from other individuals or organizations. Community Progress Fund grants are time-limited investments, ranging from $20,000 to $30,000 per year, for up to two years.

3.  What does ZSR mean by collaborative?

Prospective applications should demonstrate authentic collaboration, which ZSR defines as a true joint effort, with clear, collective purpose, with partners willing to share ownership and decision-making as they pursue a project, ideas or innovation together. 

4. How does ZSR define community?

Through the Collaborative Problem-Solving approach, ZSR defines community as place-based (specific to a geographic location). Applicants might also further define community to include a community of common interest or a racial/cultural identity group within a specific geographic location. 

5. Are Collaborative Problem-Solving grants made by issue area?

ZSR's Collaborative Problem-Solving grants do not prioritize awards based on issue areas. Instead, the only two requirements are that projects must be place-based and collaborative. Proposals can be at various stages of the collaborative problem-solving process. ZSR will place a low priority on projects focused on identifying needs; rather, ZSR is interested in supporting communities that use collaborative problem-solving processes that lead inclusive, equitable and sustainable solutions, including increasing understanding of an issue, generating ideas, and/or testing and implementing inclusive solutions to community challenges and opportunities.

6. What are the parameters or preferences that would strengthen a Collaborative Problem-Solving grant request?

All applications are required to be place-based and collaborative. The Foundation will consider whether the request is:

  1. Inclusive by meaningfully engaging key stakeholders;
  2. Collaborative by demonstrating a true joint effort, with clear, collective purpose, with partners willing to share ownership and decision-making as they pursue an innovation together;
  3. Resourceful by making the most of what a community already has, including whether it can be sustained after initial funding from ZSR. 

Preference would be given to efforts that: 

  • Are cross-sector (public/private/nonprofit/academic); 
  • Work across local government jurisdictions (municipality/municipality, municipality/county, or county/county); 
  • Build on a community's existing assets (human, natural, or financial); 
  • Use a racial equity lens; and/or 
  • Bring people together across identity or ideological differences or both.

7. How will I know whether my application is competitive in comparison to other applications from across NC?

ZSR will assess the competitiveness of an application based on the context in which the community is working, along with a number of factors including, but not limited to: geography, population size, existing infrastructure, demographics. The Foundation recognizes that rural areas have historically been under resourced; therefore, success/outcomes will likely look different than applications from urban areas. ZSR encourages applications from any and all communities in NC and will invest in a diverse portfolio of geographic communities.

8. Is there anything the Foundation will not fund?

With rare exception, the Foundation will not make grants for activities in the following areas: 

Stand-alone Research

  • Academic research for the primary purpose of publication
  • Conferences, seminars, or symposiums
  • Overhead and indirect costs for projects of colleges and universities
  • Curriculum development
  • Medical research

Types of organizations

  • 501(c)4 and 501(c)5 organizations
  • Private businesses
  • Athletic Teams
  • Private and charter K-12 schools

Capital

  • Building projects or renovations (including construction materials and labor costs)
  • Computer hardware or software purchase (where it is the principal purpose of the grant) 
  • Endowment funds 
  • Equipment or furniture purchases (where it is the principal purpose of the grant)
  • Fundraising events 
  • Land purchases
  • Payments of debts

Purposes

  • Ongoing operating support for individual organizations not part of a collaborative initiative
  • Initiatives promoting religious education or doctrine
  • Ongoing operating expenses for schools
  • Academic Scholarships

The Foundation is legally prohibited from funding voter registration.

9. Can I apply for different amounts in year one and year two?

Through the Collaborative Problem-Solving approach, the Foundation will provide grants ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 per year for up to four years. Organizations are encouraged to apply for the amount of funding, in years one, two, three, and four, that they believe will accomplish the success/outcome metrics that they set forth in the grant request.

10. What is the process for applying for a Collaborative Problem-Solving grant?

Prospective applicants will be asked to submit a Collaborative Proposal Summary (Summary), including:

  1. A brief description of the partners and history of collaboration;
  2. The community-based issue that the collaborative is trying to address; and
  3. A brief description of the proposed strategy and plan.

Based on a review of the Summaries, ZSR will invite a limited number of groups to submit full applications. ZSR will conduct further due diligence through an on-site visit to gain a better understanding of the issue that the group is attempting to address and the nature of the collaboration.

11. Can I apply for both a Collaborative Problem-Solving grant and Community Progress Fund grant in the same funding cycle?

Yes, an organization can apply for both a Collaborative Problem-Solving grant and Community Progress Fund grant in the same funding cycle if the organization’s work meets the criteria of each grant opportunity. If this is the case, the organization must go through each process separately. To do so, the organization would need to submit a Proposal Summary by clicking the “Submit a Proposal Summary” button and taking an eligibility quiz to confirm that the organization’s proposed work would fit the criteria of a Collaborative Problem-Solving grant. The organization would also need to submit a Letter of Intent by clicking the “Submit a Letter of Intent” button and taking an eligibility quiz to confirm that the organization’s proposed work would fit the criteria of a Community Progress Fund grant.

12. Can I apply for a Collaborative Problem-Solving grant and/or Community Progress Fund grant while ZSR is considering other proposals I have submitted or that I intend to submit?

Yes, an organization can be considered for other funding opportunities that ZSR has available, and can also apply for the Collaborative Problem-Solving grant and/or Community Progress Fund grant.

13. Why is ZSR funding a limited number of Collaborative Problem-Solving grants in 2019?

ZSR is limiting its Collaborative Problem-Solving grant awards to better understand what is happening in communities and to learn how we can best support communities as they strive to seek inclusive and equitable solutions. The Foundation will reassess this grantmaking process and ZSR’s engagement with communities after initial grants are awarded. Consequently, the Foundation may alter the design of this approach in future years. 

14. What if I want to apply for general operating support?

With rare exception, Collaborative Problem-Solving grants will be for project support.

15. What happens if the effort the collaborative initially intended to work on shifts over the course of the grant timeframe?

ZSR has structured its process to meet mutually agreed upon benchmarks with communities in order to ensure there is flexibility and the opportunity to make mid-course corrections if needed. 

16. Does ZSR look more favorably on funding planning or implementation grants?

There is significant community engagement work that happens between identifying a community problem and implementing a solution, especially if there is a desire to authentically engage the community, make the most of existing assets, and work collaboratively with other organizations along the way. To this end, ZSR will review a grant request that is at any stage of the collaborative problem-solving process.

17. What should I do if I am having difficulty submitting my Proposal Summary online? 

Please email Gloria Puckett at gloriap@zsr.org or call 336-725-7541, ext. 109.

18. What if I have general questions about applying for a grant?

Please note that submitting a Proposal Summary is the preliminary step in introducing a proposal to ZSR. Email info@zsr.org with questions about the Collaborative Problem-Solving approach or call 336-725-7541 or 1-800-443-8319.