By Sara Watson and Cybil Guess
Austin Community Foundation offers Central Texas nonprofits several ways to apply for and receive funding. From grant cycles to DAF fundraising, we’re here to give you a glimpse into the various opportunities available to your organization, along with tips for how to make the most of each one.
Connecting with Donor Advised Fundholders
A donor advised fund (DAF) acts as a one-way bank account in which donors can dedicate funds for charitable giving and receive immediate tax benefits, while retaining the freedom to grow and grant out the deposited funds over time. As of August 2023, ACF has 592 donor advised funds, and last year our fundholders donated more than $22 million to Central Texas nonprofits.
According to the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, 70% of nonprofits surveyed received one or more gifts from a DAF in the past three years, and nonprofits that explicitly solicited for DAF gifts received DAF gifts at a higher rate (87%) than nonprofits that hadn’t. While ACF can only disclose what a donor has consented to share, nonprofits can typically take note of the individual(s) behind a DAF gift and apply individual donor stewardship strategies to cultivate a relationship.
Apply for a Community Grant
Our Community Grants program accepts applications year-round and is designed to help nonprofits fund a specific program or project. Proposals are considered on a quarterly basis, and nonprofits can apply once per 12-month period. Our eight impact areas are designed to capture a wide spectrum of projects, and we allow applicants to select up to two impact areas when categorizing their proposal.
A unique benefit of this grant opportunity is that nonprofits can customize their application timeline. With this in mind, organizations interested in applying should account for a 4-5 month application processing timeline. This includes time for ACF staff to review all proposals for eligibility and financial viability, plus time for fundholders to review all eligible requests and make funding decisions. Since this is a project-specific grant opportunity, it’s important to apply at least 4-5 months before your project or program is slated to begin.
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when applying for a Community Grant:
- Request the amount you need, not less. Our average request is $25,000, but requests range from $1,000 to $75,000. Your budget should match your narrative to help fundholders understand what’s needed and why.
- Fundholders can decide to partially fund a request. Even if multiple fundholders support a proposal, it’s possible that a nonprofit could receive less than their asking amount.
- Know your audience. Fundholders are community members, so keep your writing accessible and avoid insider jargon. Address the need in the community and clearly state why your project is important. Make a compelling case for the unique niche you fill, and articulate what success looks like.
- If your organization has only one program, you can still apply for a grant for that program. Simply use the fiscal year as your program dates.
- Don’t give up! New donor advised funds open every year, and even if your proposal isn’t funded, applying is a great way to get connected with fundholders that could decide to donate outside of the Community Grants program.
Grants from our Signature Programs
ACF’s signature programs—The Black Fund, Hispanic Impact Fund, and Women’s Fund—operate an annual grants cycle. While our Community Grants program is project-specific, grants from our signature programs provide unrestricted, general operating support. Additionally, nonprofits that have submitted a Community Grant application can also apply for this grants cycle in the same year.
Nonprofits should make sure their work aligns closely with an impact area for the program(s) they want to apply for. Funding is granted at competitive levels and organized by impact area depending on the program, which you can learn more about below:
To stay up to date on upcoming grant opportunities, be sure to follow us on social media and sign up for our email newsletter. Have additional questions about DAFs or grant opportunities for your organization? Reach out to our team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Watson is ACF’s Grants Manager, and Cybil Guess is our VP of Donor Relations.