Community Progress Fund Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the definition of a Community Progress Fund?

As one of two community-based, place-based strategies, the Community Progress Fund is intended to support organizations and projects that are trying to affect meaningful change in communities. As ZSR launches this fund, we are leaving our definition of "progress" intentionally broad, so that we can learn more about what is happening in communities across the state. As we learn, our definition of "progress" may evolve. For now, the term is inclusive of moving an issue OR an organization forward in order to test an idea OR achieve greater impact. The projects need to demonstrate that there is already some level of momentum that an infusion of funds can help accelerate, test or grow. These grants will only be for one or two years, and each one will be for no more than $30,000 annually, so the projects need to be reasonable in scale relative to those parameters, and with the acknowledgement that ZSR will only support the proposal through this fund via a one-time grant.

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

Community Progress Fund grants differ from Collaborative Problem-Solving grants in several ways. 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. 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 proposal, idea or innovation together. Collaborative Problem-Solving grants range from $50,000 to $150,000 a year for up to four years.

3. Are Community Progress Fund grants for individual organizations or are awards made by priority areas?

ZSR's community-based funding is not awarded based on priority areas. Organizations are encouraged to submit a request that self-defines and demonstrates their own interpretation of “progress.”

4. Are there any parameters or preferences that would strengthen a Community Progress Fund grant request? 

Community Progress Fund grant recipients are required to: 

  • have 501(c)3 status or be government or religious entities; 
  • begin implementation of a proposal or idea immediately upon award of the grant; and 
  • have a proposal or idea that aligns with ZSR's core values. ZSR’s core values call for a commitment to Stewardship, Integrity, and Excellence, and could be embodied through one or more of the following values: Fairness and Justice, Dignity and Equity, Civic Participation, Sustainability, or Collaboration. 

Preference is given to: 

  • proposals from areas of the state that have relatively higher needs with fewer resources; 
  • proposals that have the greatest potential to impact a community with the $20,000-$30,000 grant award(s); and 
  • proposals that demonstrate strong potential for “progress.” 

Please note that ZSR strongly encourages applications from person of color-centered organizations. 

5. Are there projects that the Foundation would not fund?

With RARE exception, the Foundation would not make Community Progress grants for the purposes listed below.

  • Athletic events or teams 
  • Stand-alone, one-time or annual conferences, seminars, or symposiums  
  • Curriculum development 
  • Emergency medical service organizations 
  • Endowment funds 
  • Equipment or furniture purchases 
  • Fundraising events 
  • Initiatives promoting religious education or doctrine 
  • Land easements  
  • Medical research 
  • Operating expenses for schools 
  • Payments of debts 
  • Private business ventures 
  • Private or charter K-12 schools 
  • Scholarships 
  • Summer camps 
  • Volunteer fire departments 

The Foundation is legally prohibited from funding voter registration.

6. What happens if my proposal is more than $30,000 or what if I need less than $20,000? 

Grant awards for the Community Progress Fund range between $20,000 and $30,000 per year. Organizations should not apply for funds outside of this grant range amount.

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

Yes. Organizations are encouraged to apply for the amount of funding that they deem necessary in year one and in year two, as long as it falls within the $20,000-$30,000 range per year. 

8. What is the process for applying for a Community Progress Fund grant? 

Prospective applicants should complete a Letter of Intent (LOI), which is comprised of a brief questionnaire regarding their nonprofit status, organization's mission and communities served, along with a brief, one-page budget that demonstrates the allocation of $20,000-$30,000 per year, for up to two years. In addition, prospective applicants should complete a one-page narrative template to demonstrate need and momentum, and a statement about how this particular proposal or idea would generate meaningful “progress” in a community. ZSR will make all necessary forms and templates available on its website at the beginning of each grant cycle.

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

Yes, an organization can apply for both a Community Progress Fund grant and a Collaborative Problem-Solving 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.

10. Can I apply for a Community Progress Fund grant and/or a Collaborative Problem-Solving 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.

11. What should I do if I have questions about my proposal or idea? 

The Letter of Intent (LOI) process is intended to provide a streamlined method for potential applicants to submit an idea for review. ZSR staff will not participate in individual conversations with potential applicants during the LOI phase of the Community Progress Fund process. Organizations are encouraged to review the Rarely Funded List to see what Trustees are not likely to fund.

12. What happens if my Letter of Intent is accepted? 

If an organization's Letter of Intent is accepted, the organization will be invited to complete a more extensive application. In addition, Foundation staff will visit the organization on-site to learn more about the proposal and/or idea and the organization.

13. If my organization was awarded a Community Progress Fund grant, what is the earliest I can apply for another Community Progress Fund grant? 

Because Community Progress Funds are intended to be one-time investments, Progress Fund grantees (whether awarded one- or two-year grants) must take a two-year hiatus from the time the grant ends before they are eligible to be awarded another Progress Fund grant.

14. How many grant cycles are there for the Community Progress Fund? 

Community Progress Fund grant selections will occur once per year. The Letter of Intent deadline is December 3, 2018. For those invited to apply, the deadline is March 7, 2019. Grant amounts range from $20,000-$30,000 per year for up to two years. 

15. What kinds of applications are you looking to support? 

Through ZSR's Community Progress Fund, the Foundation is hoping to learn more about the many facets of North Carolina in the midst of an ever-changing landscape of local contexts, opportunities and challenges. Through its yearlong strategic assessment process and listening and learning tour, the Foundation heard a desire for ZSR to remain flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of North Carolina. As part of its commitment to being a learning organization, ZSR's Community Progress Fund seeks applications that will ultimately help it to understand what is happening in local communities across North Carolina, engage in meaningful learning with communities, and build relationships with new and existing partners.

16. What should I do if I am having difficulty submitting my Letter of Intent online? 

Please email Gloria Puckett at or call 336-725-7541, ext. 109.

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

Please note that submitting a Letter of Intent is the preliminary step in introducing a proposal
to ZSR. Therefore it is not necessary to contact a ZSR staff member. Email with questions about the Community Progress Fund or call 336-725-7541 or 1-800-443-8319.