Taproot Foundation: Chicago 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 in conducted in one of the foundation’s designated major metropolitan areas—and Chicago 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 valuable and unique 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, Chicago is on its list.

The types of in-kind consulting projects a nonprofit can apply for 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 they include Annual Reports and Key Messages & Brand Strategy. In Information Technology they include Salesforce Implementation and WordPress Websites. This is but a sampling; there are many project options in total. 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 are 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 Chicago area grantees include KAN-WIN for a Brochure Service Grant and Nicasa for a WordPress Website 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 Chicago page for more logistical details.

PEOPLE:

  • Liz Hamburg, President & CEO
  • Lindsay Firestone Gruber, Chief Program Officer