San Francisco Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: As one of the largest community foundations in the nation, The San Francisco Foundation funds a broad range of non-profit organizations in the Bay Area. Your organization must be in Marin, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, or Alameda counties to be eligible for a grant.

IP TAKE: Keep the San Francisco Foundation in mind regardless of the nonprofit industry you work in. The foundation likes to spread its funds around evenly throughout its program areas, and you'll only be competing against your neighboring counties instead of the whole country.

PROFILE: Don't let the name fool you. The San Francisco Foundation is an active funder of non-profit organizations throughout the entire Bay Area, recently with around $1.3 million in assets available for grantseekers in the region. In mid-2016, the foundation revamped its grantmaking strategy to focus on racial and economic equality.

Serving San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, and San Mateo counties, the foundation focuses its funding on five areas: community development, community health, education, arts & culture, and environmental projects. In recent years, the San Francisco Foundation has made a push in its education and arts programs to support organizations that benefit full-service community schools. Education grant proposals should focus on early childhood programs and ways to increase parental involvement.

The environmental program's framework has focused on responding to climate change in the Bay Area, increasing access to fresh foods, protecting clean water, providing access to nature, and ensuring a fossil fuel-free future. 

The core projects of the arts program are the Bay Area Documentary Film Fund and the Art Awards program, which covers everything from literature to film/video and playwriting. One of the biggest core projects is the Artistic Hubs Cohort Work, which you can read more about on the foundation's website and is led by program officer, Tere Romo. This program supports fifteen arts organizations that deliver high quality arts programming, provides a voice for social justice issues, and serves as artistic hubs and/or neighborhood cultural anchors within the Bay Area region. Otherwise, the foundation's art program focuses on cultural hubs, art in schools, next generation artists, and amplification of underrepresented voices.

The community development program is all about recession recovery, job training, and employable skill building. Foreclosure prevention and providing quality affordable housing are also key topics. If you're running a health organization, considering basing your health proposal onrecession recovery or disaster preparedness. However, the foundation will consider proposals that improve access to healthcare, prevention, and healthy policy too. 

Typically, The San Francisco Foundation's program department provides grants of $10,000 to $60,000. On very rare occassions, the Foundation will award grants over the $60,000 threshold. 

In addition, the foundation's donors also give out grants through donor-advised funds, and those vary in size. The foundation's grantmaking is a bit all over the place, which, if you think about it, pretty much means the foundation is open to just about any worthy cause.

However, keep in mind that this foundation does have a savvy business sense. The San Francisco Foundation once made headlines because of its $120 million investment gain. By incorporating a diversifying strategy, the foundation saw a 13.3% gain on the long-term portfolio and a 14.4% return on its endowment portfolio investments. “The difference between us and other organizations, is that they were very risky when the markets recovered and lost a lot of money,” explained CFO Monica Pressley. “We had a long-term view with focus on impact. So when markets recovered, we did not change our investment allocation during that time.”

The San Francisco Foundation makes itself accessible to nonprofits and community organizations. After revamping its grantmaking strategy, it took some time off from funding to assess the possibilities. Check the Grantseekers page for the most current information about applications and deadlines.

The application process is conducted online, and the best way to stay informed about upcoming grantseeker deadlines is by signing up for the foundation's e-newsletter. General inquiries can be directed to info@sff.org or 415-733-8500.

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