Focus Grants

Focus Grants are awarded to organizations that clearly demonstrate how they are disrupting intergenerational poverty. Our awards vary in size, with a standard maximum award of $25,000. Currently, we provide two Focus Grant cycles annually on the following timeline:

Cycle 1 opens February 15   |   Cycle 1 closes March 31*
Cycle 2 opens July 15   |   Cycle 2 closes August 31*

*If on a weekend, the deadline will move to the Friday prior at midnight.

Visit our Grantmaking Framework page to see if your organization’s efforts align with our funding strategy. In addition, we use a Community Impact Lens to assess all proposals. The priorities that inform this lens are listed below, as well as answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.

If you need additional assistance, please contact our Program Team at [email protected].

Community Impact Lens

The following priorities help guide our funding toward projects and programs that have the greatest potential for community impact.

  • The program or organization addresses an important community need in southwest Washington and is focused on dismantling disparities and increasing opportunities for historically underserved communities;
  • The proposed project or work is consistent with the organization’s mission, and the organization has the experience and knowledge to address the identified community need;
  • The organization is committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion both internally, through its institutional practices and policies, and externally, through its partnerships and program delivery;
  • The program or organization is working to build awareness around intergenerational poverty and address its root causes;
  • The organization’s programs are clearly defined, avoid duplication and are grounded in strength-based best practices in the field;
  • The organization seeks to include the voices and perspectives of the people and communities it serves during program development and conducts outreach and service delivery with cultural sensitivity;
  • The organization has established trusted community relationships and meaningful community partnerships;
  • The organization seeks to collaborate and share, carrying out their work in coordination with partners or through coalition building efforts;
  • The outcomes and activities noted are realistic and the organization has demonstrated potential of future impact;
  • The organization demonstrates competency in fiscal planning and management; the project budget and grant request are commensurate in size with the organization’s overall budget and with the proposed impact of the work; and additional support is sought from other funding sources.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to apply for funding?
Nonprofits, fiscally sponsored projects, government and tribal agencies, churches and schools working to disrupt the cycle of intergenerational poverty in Clark, Cowlitz, or Skamania Counties are eligible to apply. We do not fund debt reduction, endowments, parent teacher associations or booster clubs.
How do I determine if our request aligns with the Focus Grant program criteria?
If you have questions regarding alignment, please review our grantmaking framework. If this doesn't answer your questions, please reach out to our Program Team at [email protected] to discuss your project or proposal.
Can organizations that are not headquartered in southwest Washington apply?
Yes. As long as an organization has programs or projects serving people in southwest Washington, it is eligible to apply for funding.
Does an organization have to be a registered 501(c)3 to apply?
No. You may apply if you have a fiscal agent that is an established 501(c)3. Government agencies (including public schools), tribal agencies or faith-based organizations are also eligible to apply.
What types of funding support are included?
Beginning in 2021, we will classify all Focus Grant awards as general operating support. For organizations headquartered outside of our service area, we do ask for a southwest Washington specific project budget.
What is the average size of a Focus Grant award?
The average size of a Focus Grant is $25,000.
How often can an organization apply for a Focus Grant?
If your organization is awarded funding in Cycle 1, we request you wait until the next calendar year to submit another proposal. If your organization's request is declined in Cycle 1, you can apply in Cycle 2 of the same calendar year. If your organization receives an award in Cycle 2, you are eligible to apply in Cycle 1 of the following calendar year.
Can an organization apply for multi-year funding?
We make a limited number of multi-year awards. If you are interested in exploring multi-year funding, please contact the Program Team at [email protected] prior to submitting an application.
Are there character limits on the questions in the application?
The only question with a defined character count is the brief description of the request. For the remainder of the application, we ask that you define the community need, your approach and intended impact in a concise manner.
What data should I include in my application?
We request that only relevant localized data or information is included. If more information is needed, a member of the Program Team will reach out to for follow-up.
What happens after an application is submitted?
We strive to respond to applicants within eight to ten weeks of the close of our grant cycle. After the cycle closes, the Program Team begins an initial vetting phase to ensure applications are complete and aligned with the grantmaking criteria. Sometimes, a member from the Program Team will reach out to applicants for follow-up questions. Then the Discretionary Grants Committee begins a robust grant review and discussion process before making award decisions. Once complete, approved grants are paid directly to the applicant organizations.
What are the reporting requirements for grantees?
At this time, we do not require post-award reports. However, members of the Program Team will be reaching out during the second half of your grant award period to learn about successes and/or challenges your organization is experiencing. Our hope is to partner with you on your work and to stay in open communication with you as your work unfolds. These informal check-ins are always scheduled, and can be conducted in person or by phone.
Do Focus Grant applications receive consideration for other Community Foundation funding streams?
Yes. Our goal is to ensure as many proposals receive funding as possible. Throughout the review process, we will share applications with our Donor Relations team in an effort to identify alignment between unfunded proposals and fundholder interests. If a proposal is selected for funding, that organization will receive an award notification letter and grant check. Organizations that receive such funding should address all acknowledgements as specified in the award letter.
Do you provide feedback on unfunded applications?
Yes. Interested organizations are encouraged to contact the Program Team at [email protected]

Non-Discriminatory Policy

To comply with state and federal laws, the Community Foundation maintains a non-discriminatory policy that extends to its grantmaking and scholarships. This policy states that award decisions do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, citizenship status, creed, religion, religious affiliation, age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, veteran status or any other protected status under applicable law. Staff, fundholders and board and committee members must uphold this policy for legal obligations, but also as part of our organization’s promise to advance equity and serve all residents in southwest Washington.

Ian Thompson“The grants we received through the Cowlitz Community Fund have allowed our program to flourish considerably in the community. We are just four years in and have already connected hundreds of children and families to the joys that school gardens provide.”

– Ian Thompson
Executive Director
Lower Columbia School Gardens