Frequently Asked Questions

What do you mean by “lower-income” and “high-achieving?”

Families earning less than the median U.S. family income, adjusted for family size, are “lower-income” by our definition. In 2012, the median annual income for a family of three was approximately $51,000. Your organization may define “lower-income” differently, perhaps by qualification for Free/Reduced Price Meals or some other standard. In the Letter of Intent, we ask you to estimate the percentage of lower-income youth served and to explain the basis or source for your estimate. We are most interested in programs in which a large percentage of the population served (more than 50%) is lower-income.

Similarly, when we are considering proposals for out-of-school-time enrichment programs, we are most interested in programs that serve predominantly high achievers, i.e., the focus of the organization or program is to help students who already exceed grade-level expectations develop their full potential. We believe that these “advanced learners” may not be sufficiently challenged during the school day, and the emphasis in schools on minimum standards is hurting students who can achieve far more. Our general guideline is that at least 2/3 of the population served exceeds grade-level expectations (as measured by a nationally normed test or scaled state test), and/or exhibits superior aptitude (scoring in the 7th stanine or higher). Your organization may not have these sorts of test scores to quantify the achievement and aptitude of the students you serve. If that is case, please explain in the Letter of Intent how you determine that you are serving students who have met minimum standards and who have the potential to achieve much more.

For arts enrichment programs, we are looking for programs that develop the skills of students who have demonstrated talent in the arts – in this area, “high-achieving” is more about achievement in the arts than in academics.



Featured Grantee:  Young Playwrights Theater

What do you mean by “intensive” and “long-term” out-of-school time programs?

We believe that programs are most likely to make a lasting impact on participants if they are both intensive and long-term. Programs that provide at least 100 hours per year of youth enrichment with a trained professional are considered “intensive” by our definition. We define “long-term” more loosely, but generally our preference is for programs that are long enough to identify students’ individual strengths, interests and needs; provide opportunities to develop students’ skills over time; foster meaningful relationships between students and staff; and link students to other organizations that can help the student continue to develop after the program is over. We do not generally fund one-time events or activities for organizations, even if they are aligned with our mission.

What do you mean by “capacity building?"

We define capacity building as activities that allow an organization to provide more, higher quality and/or more sustainable services, such as research, assessment, expansion, innovations/pilot programs, and resource development. In other words, one of the outcomes of the grant-in addition to service delivery-is some sort of tangible, long-term benefit to the organization requesting the grant. The Foundation looks for proposals that have some “permanent” characteristics to them, rather than proposals that simply ask for partial funding of this year’s on-going expense budget. The Foundation’s permanence test can obviously be satisfied by proposals requesting funding for capital equipment; however, the Foundation’s interpretation of “permanence” is much broader than that and relates more to the overall effect of the grant rather than to the specifics of what is purchased with the grant money.  The best way to understand how the Foundation looks at this issue is to consider the following question: If the Foundation approves your grant, next year would a new submission of the same proposal still (theoretically) make sense? Said another way: the next year would you be back to square one looking for the same sort of money to fund the same sort of project again just to keep it alive? If so, then your proposal probably doesn’t meet the Foundation’s criteria for delivering permanent benefits to the requesting organization.

Given this “what happens next year” test, it is easy to see that many types of proposals can meet the criteria. For example, curriculum development meets the test. Sending an organization’s personnel to “train the trainer” classes (so that they might in turn train additional personnel) might meet the test. Creating fund raising tools meets the test. As a special case, on-going program expenses may meet the test in the case of new programs that need to be bootstrapped — the Foundation understands that the first year or two of funding can be the most difficult to obtain but that after a program has established a track record it can seek funding from a much wider audience. This “bootstrap” case isn’t really an exception to the capacity building guideline, since the Foundation’s grant is in fact making a long-term impact on the organization’s ability to provide expanded and/or more sustainable services in the future. Thus, the “capacity building” criteria can be satisfied in many ways. The true determining factor of whether a grant would be considered a permanent benefit to the organization comes from applying the “what will be different next year?” test.

How do you evaluate whether religious organizations qualify?

The Foundation will only fund programs at religious organizations if the program contains no bias to any particular religion and is open to the entire community without regard to belief.

We are very strict on this point. We accept proposals from religious organizations but please understand that you have a high burden of proof to meet on this point. We use two different tests to assess whether a proposal from a religious organization meets our criteria. We call the first test the Atheism test. Simply put: would an atheist be comfortable and welcome in the program? If your program is “open” but you define “open” as “open to anyone with Judeo-Christian beliefs” then you will fail this test and will not be funded.

The second test we call the population-served test. The types of proposals we fund are usually outreach programs or other forms of support that the organization provides to the general community at large (i.e., not just members of the organization, but the entire, general, community). The distribution of religious practices in the population served must mirror the distribution in the general population.

The best way to understand the population-served test is to look at the example of private schools at religious organizations. In theory, many of them are “open to the entire community without regard to belief.” However, in practice, that is almost never true; people self-select according to the religious alignment of the organization. Thus, in spite of any formal EEOC or similar non-discriminatory language that you may have in your documents, if the reality of your program is that the religious makeup of the students that will be served by the program differs significantly from the religious distribution found in the general population then we will not fund the program. It does not matter if the program itself is not about religion and it does not matter if the organization does not explicitly discriminate on religion for admission into the program. Our test is based on the reality of the population served, not the theoretical policy statements.

In spite of these two relatively high hurdles, we have funded grant proposals from religious organizations and look forward to continuing to fund more. As long as the program passes our tests, we will consider it equally with proposals from other organizations.

I'm not sure how much funding to request? What is the average grant size?

Capacity Building Grants range from $10,000 – $25,000. Typically, the grant period is one year. However, if the project requires a longer grant period (e.g., the project is an 18-month research project), the funds may be expended over a longer period of time.

Does the Foundation make multi-year grants or general operating grants?

We do not generally make multi-year or recurring commitments to an organization the first time we make a grant. Our typical “first contact” grant will be for a capacity building project that meets all of our criteria as outlined in these guidelines. However, if a Capacity Building Grant has worked extraordinarily well, we may approach your organization to discuss the possibility of a longer term partnership. The Foundation expects to continue supporting roughly 4-7 organizations for Partner grants – these are larger, multi-year, general operating grants that are initiated by the Foundation.

Please note that the hurdles for becoming a Partner organization are quite high, and the process starts with your execution of a great capacity building project with extraordinary outcomes that are aligned with our mission.

I'm not sure if we are considered part of the Foundation's geographic focus. How is this determined?

The Foundation uses three tests to determine whether something is within our geographic area. The primary test is that we must be able to drive to the location in a “reasonable” amount of time. The second test is that the location must not be closer to some other major city. For example, in Texas we will look at projects south of Austin up until the point that the area might more reasonably be considered as “outside of San Antonio” instead of “outside of Austin.” Finally, we will look at the audience served by the proposal – the target audience needs to be in those same geographic areas. We would not, for example, fund an Austin-based organization that is focused on providing education in South America.

The further an organization is from our geographic centers, the stronger the proposal will need to be. When faced with the need to prioritize against a limited budget, we favor making grants “closer to home” and will only go to the edges of our geographic limits for something that is highly compelling.