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May & Stanley Smith Charitable Trust

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Common Grantseeker Questions


Listed below are answers to the most common questions received from grantseekers.

Is there a deadline for submitting a grant request?
There are no deadlines to submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) via the Trust’s online grants portal. An LOI can be submitted at any time.

How long does it take for a decision on my application?
Decisions regarding LOIs to the Trust can take up to six weeks and decisions regarding proposals can take between three and five months.

How frequently are grants awarded?
The Trustees meet quarterly to review funding requests and make grant decisions.

When is the Trustees' next meeting date?
Though the Trustees meet quarterly, the Trust does not publish the dates of the meetings.

Should I try to get my request in before the next meeting date?
LOIs are accepted at any time, and the amount of time it takes to evaluate an LOI varies greatly depending on the organization and nature of the request, so there is no advantage or disadvantage as to when it is submitted. Applicants can expect to hear from the Trust within six weeks of submitting an LOI as to whether or not they will be invited to submit a full proposal.

Can I mail, fax, or email an LOI or grant request?
No. The Trust only accepts grant requests via the online grants portal.

What should I do if I am having trouble using the online grants portal or logging into my account?
Please contact the Grants Associate at grants@smithct.org.

Can I set up a meeting with someone from the Trust prior to submitting an LOI?
Due to the volume of requests received, its large geographic footprint, and a desire to treat all unsolicited applications equally, staff is unable to grant requests for introductory meetings. An organization is expected to fully describe and make the case for its project or organization in its online Letter of Inquiry (LOI). Staff members are available to assist organizations that have questions by telephone or email.

I noticed that some of the Trust’s prior grants do not match its current guidelines. If my organization in not eligible according to the current guidelines, can we still apply for a grant?
No. The Trust strictly follows its current grantmaking guidelines, as described on this website. The Trust’s guidelines changed significantly in January 2014 to match the Trust’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, which was updated for 2019-2023. The Trust’s grantmaking prior to 2014 followed different guidelines. Note that Letters of Inquiry are not accepted for Discretionary grants.

What size grant should I request?
There are many factors that influence the Trustees’ decision on grant size including the size of grants awarded by other foundations. An applicant should request an amount that is appropriate for the proposed project or activities of the organization. For more information, see the Type, Size, and Duration of Grants section on the Grantseekers page, and review the list of Recent Grants for examples of typical Trust grants.

How does the Trust define government funding?
The Trust defines government funding as all direct or indirect funding received by an organization from government sources, whether in the form of grants; contracts from federal, state, and/or local government agencies, including public school districts, arts councils, and Regional Centers; or government funds received indirectly through medical or social service reimbursement programs, such as programs administered by Medicaid, Medicare, or a Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. The Trust rarely awards grants to organizations receiving more than 70% of revenue from government sources.

If my organization receives significant government funding, but the program for which we’re seeking funding receives no government funding, can we still submit a Letter of Inquiry?
The Trust measures government funding at the organization level, not the program level. The Trust rarely awards grants to organizations receiving more than 70% of revenue from government sources. The most competitive requests are those from organizations that receive broad support from a variety of sources, including other foundation and corporate funders. If your organization meets all of the Trust’s other eligibility and alignment guidelines, but more than 70% of its income comes from government sources, please contact the Program Officer for the relevant program area before proceeding with an LOI.

When is a new organization considered by the Trust to be beyond the start-up phase?
When an organization has secured funds from a broad base of diversified funding sources – including institutional donors, individuals, and local entities – and has been implementing a program that has demonstrated consistent, positive results for at least two consecutive years, it is more likely to be viewed by the Trust as an established organization that has moved beyond its start-up phase.

Is the Trust interested in funding a new program that an organization has never implemented before?
Typically, the Trust prefers to fund an organization’s well-established programs, those which it has demonstrated experience implementing to achieve sustained, positive results. However, the Trust encourages creative approaches, especially those based in, or refined to take advantage of, new research findings or practical evidence. Therefore, the Trust will consider requests for new programs from organizations that are able to demonstrate the expertise to support a new program and past success in implementing similar programs.

My organization’s programs inspire participants to explore their spiritual nature, but do not promote a specific religion. May we apply for funding?
Yes. The Trust will consider requests that fit within its funding guidelines from religious or faith-based organizations, provided that services offered are inclusive, nondiscriminatory, do not promote specific religious doctrine, and do not involve proselytizing or require participation in religious activities.

I see that there are several characteristics listed in the Alignment section that describe the most strongly-aligned requests. If my organization has most of these characteristics, but not all of them, may we still submit an LOI?
The Trust’s alignment criteria are listed to help applicants understand the many factors used by the Trust to evaluate funding requests, and should help grantseekers determine if a funding request is well-suited to the Trust’s interests. The strongest requests directly align with one or more of the strategies identified in the relevant Trust program area, and demonstrate all or nearly all of the characteristics listed in the alignment section. The more characteristics an application has and the greater an applicant’s strength in each of these areas, the more likely its application will be successful. We encourage organizations that have questions about their alignment with the Trust’s grantmaking priorities to contact the Program Officer for the program area to which they are interested in applying.

Our organization provides services to a broad range of disadvantaged and at-risk individuals. Among our participants, some individuals fall within your focus populations: elders, foster youth, veterans, and adults with disabilities. Will an application from our organization be competitive?
An organization whose work benefits a variety of populations is more likely to be competitive if it has a specific program focused directly on one of the Trust’s four Program Areas, with at least two years of measurable outcomes related to the strategies identified in the relevant Program Area. If an organization’s general programming serves a large percentage of individuals that fall within a Trust focus population, an LOI should specify the number and percentage of the Trust focus population served, describe how programming responds to the unique needs of the population, and identify outcomes for the population.

My organization fits all the Alignment criteria and most of the Eligibility criteria, however we only serve individuals outside of the Trust’s geographic service area. Can we request permission to submit a Letter of Inquiry?
No. In order to apply for funding, an applicant must meet all the Eligibility requirements.

Should my organization submit a Letter of Inquiry if we do not meet the Trust’s guidelines?
No. We encourage organizations to use resources wisely and focus fundraising efforts on funders with which their programs are aligned.

What are the chances of receiving a grant?
A large number of worthy organizations approach the Trust for support. The process is highly competitive. Even if an LOI fits within the Trust’s guidelines and has many of the characteristics listed in the Alignment section of the Trust's website, it may not be funded. Fewer than 10% of the grants awarded by the Trust each year result from an unsolicited request.

If my organization has been denied funding in the past, can we submit a new Letter of Inquiry (LOI)?
Organizations are eligible to submit only one LOI to the Trust in a calendar year; therefore, an organization must wait until at least the next calendar year to submit a new LOI. If an organization’s most recent request has been denied, we strongly recommend reviewing the Trust’s grantmaking priorities and alignment criteria before putting the effort into submitting a new LOI. Unless an organization’s programs or circumstances have changed significantly, it is unlikely that a new request will be funded.

Does the Trust make grants to individuals?
No. The Trust only makes grants to tax-exempt organizations that qualify as public charities.

Does the Trust make grants to organizations that work with a Fiscal Sponsor?
The Trust makes grants to nonprofit organizations that are tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code and not classified as a private foundation under Section 509(a) of the Code, and to non-U.S. organizations that can demonstrate that they would meet the requirements for such status. Organizations can also submit applications through a sponsoring organization if the sponsor has 501(c)(3) status, is not a private foundation under 509(a), and provides written authorization confirming its willingness to act as the fiscal sponsor. For more information and guidelines for applying through a fiscal sponsor, please click here.

How does a non-U.S. organization demonstrate that it meets the requirements to be treated as equivalent to a nonprofit organization that is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code and not classified as a private foundation under Section 509(a) of the Code?
A foreign charitable organization may submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI) to the Trust through our online application system, as long as the organization and program meet the Trust’s guidelines. If a proposal is invited, staff will request an Affidavit and Schedule of Financial Support from the foreign organization to determine whether or not it can be treated as equivalent to a U.S. public charity.

Can you suggest other funding sources?
The Foundation Center maintains a comprehensive listing of U.S. foundations and their areas of interest: https://foundationcenter.org/

If I have a question that is not answered here, what should I do?
If the answer to your question cannot be found here or in the other sections of this website email grants@smithct.org, or call our office at 415-332-0166.