Taproot Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The Taproot Foundation provides substantial in-kind service grants of professional consulting services to nonprofit organizations in the Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. metropolitan areas.

IP TAKE: The Taproot Foundation doesn’t give out money for you to get the work done; it does the work with you. Capacity building grant opportunities can be tough to come by. The foundation’s in-kind service grants present a unique opportunity to get that work accomplished with top consulting professionals in the field on a pro bono basis. Nonprofits working in a wide array of sectors can apply, so long as their work is conducted in one of the foundation’s designated major metropolitan areas—and the Bay Area is on that list.

PROFILE: The Taproot Foundation markets its Service Grants Program with the tagline “Advance Your Mission,” and that’s really what its unique, valuable program is all about.

Taproot’s own mission is to drive social change. Its Service Grants Program seeks to do this by offering a wide variety of capacity building pro bono services to nonprofits, affording the organizations to work with top-level consultants in a manner they might not otherwise be able to afford. (Taproot assesses the dollar value of the in-kind services at $45,000 and upward.)

The foundation is all about advancing your mission, but it’s quite flexible as to what your mission is. Taproot’s service grants will support nonprofits working in the Arts, Education (pre-K and K-12), the Environment, Health, and Social Services.

The more limiting requirement is geography; Taproot’s network of nonprofit consultants works in a select number of major metropolitan areas. Lucky for you, San Francisco and its environs is on the list. Taproot San Franciso began in 2001, and its Bay Area office has partnered with over 2,5000 professionals to help more than 500 nonprofits with pro bono services.  

The types of in-kind consulting projects it funds fall into four major categories: Strategy Management, Leadership Development & Strategic HR, Marketing, and Information Technology. But Taproot gets even more specific. Within each of these areas, a potential grantee applies for a specific project need. In Strategy Management, the options include Financial Analysis and Program Measurement. In Leadership Development & Strategic HR, they include Board Recruitment and Volunteer Management. In Marketing, options include Annual Reports and Key Messages & Brand Strategy. In Information Technology, they include Salesforce Implementation and WordPress Websites. This is but a sampling; The foundation’s website lists and describes them all in a highly organized fashion.

Some arenas are more competitive than others. Marketing and all of its sub-projects comprise the most popular application, and therefore the most competitive. Information Technology is the second-most popular area (with website services as the most popular project across the board). The foundation is especially excited these days about opportunities in its Leadership Development & Strategy HR possibilities, which is likely code for particularly encouraging applicants to apply in this area.

What types of nonprofit organizations are best suited to win won of these service grants? The answer lies in the Taproot Foundation’s wish for nonprofits to “do more with more.” Therefore, your organization (which must be a 501(c)(3)) must be well-positioned in terms of staff size and budget (the requirements vary a bit by city and project area). You must also be able to display significant organizational buy-in to the project at hand. In fact, the most rigorous aspect of the Taproot application might be its requirement that you identify at least six collaborators by name and title, and requires significant and thoughtful discussion regarding how your organization will implement and sustain the project once the pro bono team completes its work with you.

Past San Francisco area grantees include the Oakland Leaf Foundation for a Program Measurement Service Grant and Meals on Wheels Senior Outreach Services in Contra Costa County for an Annual Report Service Grant.

Taproot Service Grants accommodate year-round needs. Application deadlines occur on a quarterly basis, at the beginning of March, June, September, and December. Check out the foundation’s specific San Francisco area page for more logistical details.


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