Frequently asked questions

General

1. What issue areas does Chicago Foundation for Women fund?

  • Access to health services and information
  • Economic security
  • Freedom from violence

2. What makes an organization a good fit for a grant from Chicago Foundation for Women?
In general, we seek to fund organizations that:

  • display evidence of management integrity and sound fiscal planning; and
  • have women and girls in leadership positions on the board and staff, with diversity reflective of the community served;
  • reflect and promote Chicago Foundation for Women’s Guiding Principles;
  • work to intentionally benefit women and girls in underserved communities.

3. What do you mean by “a program intentionally designed to benefit women and/or girls?”
We look for organizations that have identified needs or systemic barriers faced by women and girls and have intentionally designed a program to meet those needs. Even programs that primarily serve women and girls are not eligible for support if their design is not specific to women and girls, that is, if the programs themselves would be equally well suited to serving mostly men and boys.

We will consider funding a program that strategically includes men or boys in specific ways in order to ultimately benefit women and girls.

4. Where are the organizations you fund located?
We support nonprofit organizations within the Chicago metropolitan area (Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry, and Will counties). The activities of those organizations can be local, regional, statewide, or even, in some instances, national. All grantee organizations and their projects must be located within the U.S.

5. What is your renewal policy?
If your organization received a Fall or Spring cycle grant for the same project in the previous year, you will be considered a renewal applicant and may be invited to follow a shortened application process. You will not need to submit a Letter of Inquiry Form, for example, but should instead move directly to the Full Proposal stage. This renewal application is accessed by invitation of the CFW staff.

Process

6. What is the application process? 
First, determine if your organization is applying for new or renewal funding. If you’re a new applicant, you should complete a Letter of Inquiry, which includes space to describe the project and provide financial information. Your responses must fit within the space allowed. Required information includes:

  • a list of other sources of support (if applicable);
  • program budget (if applicable); and
  • the organization’s most recent 501(c)(3) certification or that of your fiscal agent, along with a letter of approval from that fiscal agent.

If you are a renewal applicant, you will be invited by CFW staff to submit a Full Proposal Renewal request, which also has a separate deadline.

If you are applying for the Strategic Response Fund, the Health Series or the Enterprise Fund you should complete that fund's application found on the online application system. 

7. What is the grantmaking schedule and deadlines?
Grants from the spring and fall cycles are made twice a year. Application materials are due no later than 5 p.m. on the date listed—material turned in after 5 p.m. will not be accepted. Ongoing small grant opportunities are made on a rolling basis.

8. How do I submit my application?
Please submit all applications on CFW’s online application system by 5 p.m. on the deadline date. We will not accept late applications or proposals. Applications for grants from the Strategic Response Fund, Enterprise Fund, Health Series Fund, Scholarships, Giving Councils and Giving Circles, should also be submitted on the online application system.

9. Can I apply for general operating support?
Yes. The Foundation provides general operating support for organizations. If you are applying for operating support for an organization, your organization’s mission must align with Chicago Foundation for Women’s guidelines—i.e., your organization must, by design, specifically benefit women and/or girls. If you are seeking operating support for a program that is part of a larger organization, apply for program support.

10. Can I apply for direct service support?
Yes. You should be able to document a clear need for the proposed program, describe the constituency to be served, and articulate program strategies, a project timeline, and expected outcomes.

11. Can I apply for advocacy support?
Yes. We expect proposals to outline clear strategies that will affect public policy or community systems (e.g., criminal justice, health care, media, public education). Advocacy is defined as seeking to affect or inform the actions of community systems or any level of government expressed in laws, administrative practices, regulations, and executive or judicial actions. Please note that this includes policy advocacy and lobbying but is not limited to that type of work.

12. Can I apply for funding in the arts or in education?
Yes, as long as your agency or program’s mission emphasizes social justice and intentionally benefits women and girls. In addition, the program must focus on one of the Foundation’s three issue areas: economic security, freedom from violence, and access to health services and information.

13. What size are your grants?
Anticipated grant ranges:

  • Advocacy: $15,000-$50,000
  • Direct Service: $15,000-$50,000
  • Stabilization: $25,000-$50,000
  • Training: $35,000- $150,000

Grants awarded for ongoing small grant opportunities:

  • Enterprise Fund: maximum of $7,500
  • Eva Janzen Powell and Smith T. Powell Health Series: maximum of $5,000
  • Strategic Response Fund: maximum of $7,500

14. Can my organization submit more than one application during the fall or spring cycles?
No, only one request is permitted per grant cycle for the primary cycles (Fall and Spring). This limit does not include requests to the Strategic Response Fund, Enterprise Fund, and Health Series Fund, which are accepted on a rolling basis. Please note: an organization is limited to one Strategic Response grant per year.

Decisions

15. How do you decide who gets funding?
Final decisions on applications for Fall Cycle will be made at the December Board of Directors’ meeting. Final decisions on application for the Spring Cycle will be made at June Board of Directors' meeting.

Grants are made from the Strategic Response Fund, the Eva Janzen Powell and Smith T. Powell Health Series and the Enterprise Fund throughout the year.

16. Can a grant be automatically declined?:
Yes. The following conditions can trigger the automatic decline of your proposal:

  • Application is incomplete or incorrect. Staff will not follow up.
  • Application received after 5 p.m. on day of deadline.
  • Request is for the full program budget. 
  • Organizations submitted more than one application within a 12 month period for the spring and fall cycles.
  • Request amount below minimum and above maximum Request is for 100 percent of project budget.
  • Request is only for funding for a new staff position.

17. Who has recently received funding from you?
See a list of our current and recent grantees.

 

Online Application FAQs

18. Can I email or fax my proposal?
No, all fall cycle full proposals need to be submitted using the online grant portal.

19. Why can’t I find the application I am looking for?
After you have logged into our online grant portal, click the “Apply” link on the left. This will take you to the list of grant opportunities currently accepting applications. If you can’t find an application, its deadline may have already passed, or it’s by invitation only. For further information please contact lyork@cfw.org

20. Do I have to complete my application all at once?
No. At the bottom of the application is a “Save as Draft” button. We recommend you save your application often and before logging out. You can log in at a later time to continue working on your application. We recommend that you cut and paste your application answers after each question into a Word document to save as backup.

21. Are there character limits to the application questions?
There are limits on the amount of text you can submit. You will see a character counter displayed below the entry field. This will actively tell you how many characters you have entered and will let you know when you are approaching the limit. You will not be able to save a draft of your application if you exceed the character limit. You are not required to reach the character limit!

22. What file formats will be accepted for attachments?
We accept files in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx), Excel (.xls or .xlsx) or PDF format (.pdf). Unacceptable formats include files with "exe", "com", "vbs", and "bat" extensions.

23. How should I name my files?
You should give each file a name that identifies your organization and the type of required document it represents.

24. Is there a size limit for file attachments?
The maximum size for all attachments varies. If your attachment is larger than the allotted space, please contact us at lyork@cfw.org.

25. Help! Why did I lose my edits?!
There are a few common reasons why this can happen:

    • If you stay on one page for an extended period of time without saving, your account may “time out” without warning.
    • A weak internet connection may momentarily disconnect your computer while you are working on the application.

As a safeguard, we recommend that you:

  • Save your application often
  • Cut and paste your application answers after each question into a Word document to save as backup.

To restore your edits, try:

  • Re-loading your internet page, as sometimes the browser will cache an older version of your page.
  • Logging out, wait a few minutes, and then log back in and re-open your application.

26. Why am I having problems uploading files?
Double check that there are no symbols in the file name, the file type and size are OK, then try one or more of these suggestions:

  • Sometimes the problem can be a corrupt file. Try saving a new, renamed version of the document.
  • Try saving your file as a different type. For instance, if you tried to upload a (.pdf) file, try uploading the original Word or Excel version of this document. If it is a Word (.doc or .docx) or Excel (.xls or .xlsx) document, try saving it as a (.pdf) file and then uploading this version. If you scanned a document to create a (.jpg) file, try saving it in a (.pdf) format instead.
  • Use a different computer to do the upload

27. How do I print my application for my records?
If you would like a paper copy of your application for your own records, login to the application portal and choose the Application Packet link. This will create a PDF of your application. You can print or save this document. You will always have access to your application by logging back into the application portal, even after you submit it.