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 project 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.

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 project or idea immediately upon award of the grant; and 
  • have a project 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 project 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 project 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 project 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. What should I do if I have questions about my project 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.

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

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

11. 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 project and/or idea and the organization.

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

The intent of the Community Progress Fund is to support new or existing projects in local communities through time-limited investments by providing funds to help a project or idea generate progress in a community over the course of one to two years. Because these are one-time investments made by the Foundation, organizations cannot apply for funding for the same project. However, organizations applying for a different project may reapply after a two-year hiatus. 

13. 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 February 28, 2019. Grant amounts range from $20,000-$30,000 per year for up to two years. 

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

With rare exceptions, Community Progress Fund grants will be for project support. 

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 if I have general questions about applying for a grant? 

Please contact or call 336-725-7541 or 1-800-443-8319.