Grantseeking Tips for Approaching the Firedoll Foundation

There aren’t too many foundations that we’ve come across here at IP that are named after their founders’ pets. Sandor and Faye Straus, however, named their foundation after their two cats, Fireworks and Dolly. And although animal welfare isn’t part of this funder’s strategy, there are some excellent opportunities for Bay Area nonprofits. Here's what you need to know about Firedoll grantmaking.

Understand the Two Bay Area Funding Topics

Firedoll has five areas of funding: community development and entrepreneurship, immigrant issues and human rights, environmental conservation, survivors of traumatic brain injury, and peace in the Middle East. The first two of these are most relevant for Bay Area grantseekers. Firedoll looks for grantees that specifically serve Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

Grantseekers should also know that, as of this year, Firedoll is no longer accepting new environmental conservation inquiries. However, if you are an existing environmental grantee, you can still apply for a renewal.

The funder accepts traumatic brain injury requests throughout the year, and is partial to the programs in the state of California. This is the only open grant opportunity for groups in the Bay Area counties of San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma and San Mateo.

Know the Funding Restrictions

Firedoll’s list of what it doesn't fund is longer than what it does fund. Here are the restrictions on Firedoll’s “do not fund” list:

  • Individuals
  • Organizations with budgets less than $150,000 dollars
  • General support for first time applicants
  • Most Research
  • Education
  • Wild animal rescue and rehab
  • Climate Change
  • Pet rescue and rehab
  • Community leadership development
  • Youth development (other than aid for emancipated foster youth)
  • Internationally (except for Middle East Peace and an occasional grant in Environmental Conservation. The organization must be based in the U.S.)
  • In San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, or San Mateo County (except for Traumatic Brain Injury)
  • Films, videos, documentaries, books, websites, other media
  • San Francisco Bay restoration and conservation projects
  • Start-up or seed funding for organizations or projects new to Firedoll Foundation
  • Large-scope, long-term initiatives (we prefer discrete projects with concrete end-of-year deliverables)
  • Wordy, jargon-laced, over-packed proposal

Learn about Typical Grantees

Firedoll likes to fund projects that can be completed in a year or less, not long-term initiatives. It mostly supports project support, but occasionally offers capital campaign support and general operating support for existing grantees too.

Past local community development grantees include the East Oakland Community Project, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and Solar Richmond. The foundation typically awards fewer immigration and human rights grants, but these stay local too. Past grantees in this category include the East Bay Community Law Center, the International Institute of the Bay Area, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Approach the Application with Simplicity

Firedoll’s open solicitation period typically runs from January 1 to March 31, so you’ll likely have to wait until 2017 to apply for a new community development or immigration and human rights grant. Letters of inquiry should be emailed to or mailed to the foundation at 1460 Maria Lane, Suite 400, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.

In your proposal, avoid technical jargon and "foundation speak." Simple and clear language goes a long way with this funder. Most grants are between $5,000 and $25,000, and about $1.5 million to $2 million is awarded annually.

To learn more about this funder, see IP’s full profile, Firedoll Foundation: Bay Area Grants.