Community Progress Fund Frequently Asked Questions

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

ZSR’s Community Progress Fund is intended to support organizations and projects that are trying to affect meaningful change in communities. ZSR leaves 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. 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 if I want to apply for a Collaborative Problem-Solving grants? 

In 2019, as part of our Collaborative Problem-Solving approach, ZSR made five grants to organizations across the state to build collaborative, inclusive and resourceful communities. The Foundation is committing time and resources to supporting these grantees and engaging in a learning agenda alongside of them. The Foundation will not have a Collaborative Problem-Solving grant cycle in Spring 2021. 

3. Are Community Progress Fund grants for individual organizations or are awards made by priority areas, similar to the priority areas used with the Foundation’s State-Level Systemic Change (SLSC) Strategy?

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 in July 2021; 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 our goal is to award a significant portion of grants to organizations that are run by and primarily serve people of color; therefore, ZSR strongly encourages proposals from these 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. If I request two years of support, and a grant is awarded, is it likely I will receive two years of funding?

While the answer to this may vary considerably based on the proposals received, in the first two grant cycles of the Community Progress fund, 46% of grants that were awarded were two-year grants.

9. 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 providing their nonprofit status, the organization's mission and the communities served. In addition, prospective applicants should complete questions that speak to need and momentum and how this particular proposal could 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.

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

A 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, but will conduct community visits with a select number of applicants once the LOIs have been reviewed. Organizations are encouraged to review the Rarely Funded List to see what Trustees are not likely to fund.

11. Can I apply for a Community Progress Fund grant while ZSR is considering other proposals I have submitted or that I intend to submit?

Yes, an organization can apply for other funding opportunities that ZSR has available.

12. What happens after I submit my Letter of Intent?

ZSR will begin accepting Letters of Intent (LOIs) on October 1, 2020. ZSR will review LOIs and contact select applicants who will move to the next phase of the process. This includes ZSR staff scheduling visits with these communities in Spring 2021 to learn more about their proposals. Grant decisions will be made in May 2021. The grant period for grants awarded will begin in July 2021.

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 noon on December 7, 2020. Grant amounts range from $20,000-$30,000 per year for up to two years. 

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

The Progress Fund allows communities to test ideas, expand promising efforts, or achieve greater impact. ZSR hopes that engaging with community members through the Progress Fund grant cycle will allow the Foundation to support communities and to better understand how different communities experience change, opportunity, and challenges in unique ways. Thus, the parameters for this approach are intentionally broad. In addition, ZSR desires to be accessible to areas of the state that have relatively higher needs and fewer resources, and to support and learn from those communities as described above. Consequently, preference will be given to those areas of the state.

16. How likely is it that my application will be funded?

In considering Progress Fund grant awards, ZSR makes funding decisions based not only on the quality of the projects proposed but also based on diversity and potential to add value and make a difference.  While great project proposals are certainly a determining factor in grant funding, ensuring that grants are inclusive of a range of important issues, populations, approaches, and communities across the state is another factor. The criteria for a successful grant will, in part, be determined by the cumulative group of proposals submitted. Based on the foregoing, and while the answer may vary considerably based on the number of Letters of Intent received annually, approximately 12% of the organizations that submitted LOIs were awarded grants during each of the first two years of the Progress Fund.

17. If my organization is awarded a grant, how likely is it that the grant will be two years in duration?

While the answer to this may vary considerably based on the proposals received, in the first two grant cycles of the Community Progress fund, 46% of grants that were awarded were two-year grants.

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

Please email Beth Priddy at bethp@zsr.org or call 743-333-4022.

19. 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 info@zsr.org with questions about the Community Progress Fund or call 336-725-7541 or 1-800-443-8319.

Updated October 22, 2020