We are in a defining moment to reimagine our local health ecosystems rooted in a values-based, community-centered health equity framework for all residents.


In an ongoing response to the pandemic, we will focus our grantmaking on an equitable recovery in our service region. We believe that strengthening our partner organizations from within with general operating support allows them to be more agile, adaptive, creative, and values-focused to deliver health and social services that address health equity.


The application period for the 2021 grant cycle is now closed. New and returning applicants aligned with our funding principles were encouraged to apply for a grant length of one-year. Our annual general operating support funding allows us to be flexible and responsive to our region’s needs by being open to community-driven initiatives. Read more about our General Operating Support grantmaking.

Grantmaking Priorities

Current and potential partners must demonstrate that their proposed work aligns with at least one of the categories below and has a meaningful footprint or core population(s) they serve in our region.


to quality health services 


Proposals should demonstrate how organizations are innovating to remove physical, financial, and/or cultural barriers to care while highlighting and engaging on upstream solutions.


social determinants of health 


Proposals should demonstrate how organizations focus on creating more equitable, inclusive, and just communities while meaningfully improving community health by addressing social determinants of health. 


for health policies & systems change


Proposals should share how organizations center and contribute to the leadership, expertise, and solutions of communities and individuals most impacted by the inequities they seek to address. Organizations must have a track record of cultivating deep, meaningful relationships in community.


knowledge through capacity building


Proposals should share how organizations have developed intentional partnerships to ensure that public health data can live and belong in communities and how those relationships have led to community-led inquiry, improved data collection, and outcomes reporting. 

What We Look for in Grantee Partners

      • Intersectional approaches to achieving health equity
      • Community leadership is prioritized within their organization and/or within our region
      • Effective organizational stewardship 
      • Clear articulation about the focus of their work on systems change

Who We Fund

      • 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations. Organizations that are not tax exempt may apply with a fiscal sponsor.  
      • At least 20% of the total individuals served by the applying nonprofit organization must live in the Healthy Communities Foundation service region. Organizations whose work extends beyond our service area are considered if they demonstrate strong alignment with our grantmaking strategy and implement their work in close partnership with local communities. 
      • For organizations with operating budgets greater than $20 million, including but not limited to hospitals and university systems, we will only award Project Support grants for initiatives that demonstrate strategic partnership and strong commitment to local communities in our region.  Please refer to the Q&A section under “General Operating vs. Project Support: Requests from Larger Institutions” for more information.

What We Do Not Fund

      • Businesses
      • Capital campaigns*
      • Government Entities
      • Individuals
      • National organizations not focused on our service region
      • Partisan political activities
      • Religious activities
      • Scholarships
      • School Districts & Individual Schools (including PTOs)
      • Operating foundations not directly connected to community-based efforts


Generally, we do not fund more than 10% of an organization’s operating budget.


*Only capital expenses for materials will be considered for funding (i.e., medical equipment, dental chairs).


We know it takes time and resources to apply for a grant, and we have a small staff that reviews applications. The COVID-19 pandemic affirmed the need for us to streamline application processes further so that we can all focus on what matters most – improving our region’s health and well-being. 


For the 2021 grant cycle, we have a two-stage process that begins with a streamlined application for the first stage and utilizes a site visit as the second stage. Our goal is to more deeply understand your organization and strategies to achieve health equity. 


We will only consider one application per organization/institution. Organizations serving as fiscal agents may submit two—one on behalf of the organization and one on behalf of the sponsored organization.

Important Dates

stage one

May 14, 2021 – Application Portal Opens


June 18, 2021, 11:59pm CT – Applications Due

stage two

June 30, 2021 – Notification of Site Visit


July– August 2021 – Virtual Site Visits Conducted

Grant decisions and notifications will be released in September 2021.


If you have questions about the alignment of your work with our grantmaking priorities, or have questions about our grant guidelines, please submit your question here.


For technical questions related to your grants portal account, please email us at administration@hcfdn.org or call us at (708)443-5674. If you send an email, please allow 1-2 business days for a response.

Are you looking for event sponsorships or funding for other special projects?

Frequently Asked Questions

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New & Returning Applicants

Q: How are you defining new applicants and returning applicants? 

      • New Applicants: Organizations that have not applied for general operating support from the Healthy Communities Foundation or organizations that may have previously applied but have not received funding since 2019.   
      • Returning Applicants: Organizations that received a general operating support grant in 2020.


Q: I am a returning applicant. What criteria will you use to determine whether my organization is renewed or declined?   

For more context and information on the annual grant cycle, please read our 2021 Grant Guidelines.  


We believe in transparency and recognize the time and resources it takes to apply for a grant. Therefore, we want to be clear about what alignment to our grantmaking framework looks like. 


COVID-19 has deeply impacted communities in our region, which will continue to feel the pandemic’s impact for a long time. This year our annual grantmaking will focus on bolstering an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and we seek grantee partners that successfully utilize all of the following strategies:   

      • Intersectional approaches to achieve health equity in programs and services.   
      • Existing/emerging pathways for community and resident engagement.  
      • Effective stewardship as demonstrated by policies and practices that reflect organizational and fiscal health.   
      • A deep understanding of how existing systems create and maintain health inequities and a focus on systems change. 
HCF Service Area

Q: Do you have target zip codes? If so, should an organization apply if they aren’t representing one of those targeted zip codes? 

We fund the 27 zip codes outlined in our service region’s map, regardless of whether they are within the designated Legacy and Equity zone.   


Q: Our organization is not located within the HCF service region, and/or less than 20% of our total participants are from the HCF service region. Can we still apply?   

Yes, you may still apply. We recognize that some organizations may cover a wider geographic area than our region and/or the headquarters may be located elsewhere. We consider 20% of the total number of individuals served by your organization living in HCF communities as a threshold for a competitive proposal. We ask that you demonstrate how your work has a focused health strategy in our region and how your work meets the specific community’s health needs.  


Q:  Do you fund statewide health policy work that has a proportionately higher impact on the service area? 

Please refer to the question above and under “Outcomes, Evaluation and Data Collection” that reference policy advocacy efforts.  


Q:  Our zip code is not in the Legacy and Equity Zones, yet a significant portion of our clients are underinsured and uninsured. How do we show need despite not being in the zip codes mentioned above?  

We understand that there are disparities not only between zip codes but also within zip codes. Please articulate the need and context of the population and the zip codes generally or across the region.

Grant Requests & Grant Cycle Information

Q: Can we apply for multi-year funding?  

The 2021 open cycle is for one-year grants.  As part of our strategic plan and COVID-19 response, we will begin the process of phasing in multi-year grants in 2021 for a select cohort of partners.  


Q: How much funding can our organization apply for?   

Organizations are invited to apply for up to 10% of their operating budget (using the current fiscal year expenses as a guide). Please note that more compelling and more competitive proposals will request an amount that aligns with a regional health focus and programmatic rationale rather than a straight 10% budget request. Organizations with operating budgets larger than $20M should refer to the guidelines and additional Q&A under the section “General Operating vs. Project Support: Requests from Larger Institutions.” 


Q: Can we apply for funding for two different but complementary programs?   

Through the 2021 Grant Cycle, funds are available for general operating support, up to 10% of your organizational budget. You may write about more than one program in your proposal so long as there is a health equity focus in our service region. We will not consider two applications from one organization (unless a fiscal sponsor).  


Q: Can we apply as a collaborative project or initiative?   

We are not accepting collaborative proposals in addition to individual organization requests at this time. However, please feel free to use the application and/or site visit to discuss your current or prospective collaborations as it is relevant to your health-related work in the region.  


Q: How do we show collaboration at the community level for statewide and regional organizations?   

Please articulate how your organization participates in community-specific collaboratives or how residents from a particular community are engaged in your efforts. We seek grantee partners that can demonstrate an explicit focus and meaningful commitment in our service region.  


Q: Can collaborative work include faith-based work? Do you fund faith-based institutions that are 501(c)3?    

We understand that faith-based institutions can play a central role within communities. A faith-based organization with 501(c)3 status may apply for a grant so long as the organization does not require the attendance of (or participation in) religious teaching or faith-specific services and does not discriminate based on religious or spiritual beliefs.  


Q: Why are schools and school districts ineligible to apply?   

We recognize schools’ value and unique role as trusted entities within communities and as sites for health programs and service delivery. We are involved in a variety of community-led conversations that directly impact schools and districts. At this time, however, school districts and individual schools (including charter networks and schools) are not eligible to apply for general operating support in part due to the sustainability of strategic efforts that intersect with health and education issues. Schools and districts may still benefit from our resources if a nonprofit organization identifies them as a community partner within their application. As with all applications, these organizations should demonstrate their commitment to and understanding of the school and the local community.  


Q: If I am requesting project support (versus general operating) can I request more than the 10% threshold?    

The same 10% threshold holds for both general operating and project support to make our process equitable.  


Q: The majority of our organization’s budget is from government grants. Does that count against us with regard to competitiveness?    

We understand that many social service agencies are funded primarily through government grants. We do not have a threshold for government funding concentration, yet we review the audit and financial budgets for budget deficits and/or significant funding shifts.  


Q: Do you fund capital campaigns?   

We do not fund capital campaigns but do consider requests for capital expenses for materials (i.e., medical equipment, dental chairs). 


Q: In 2019, there was a difference in the application process for renewal vs. new grant applications. Is there a difference this year?    

Yes, we strive to continue streamlining our application and review process so that organizations and the foundation can focus on building relationships and understanding the work on a deeper level. Renewal applicants will have a more streamlined proposal, while new applicants will include more organizational background information.  


Q: Can an organization applying for a general operating support request for a new pilot project or expand a project within one request?   

We believe that your organization best understands its programmatic strategy. If a particular pilot or program expansion best aligns with our grantmaking priorities, it is your discretion what you request support for.  


Q: When will the next funding cycle open?   

Our goal is to open the next annual cycle in the spring of 2022, with funding decisions in September 2022.  

Outcomes, Evaluation & Data Collection

Q: Are there specific outcomes that Healthy Communities Foundation is looking for?

We recognize that the strategies organizations utilize to address health equity in our region can take many forms – issues are complex. They require a deep understanding of the local community context. We value traditional health and medical expertise – i.e., data-driven and evidence-based – AND we value grassroots leadership and nuanced understanding of local communities – i.e., those who are experts in their own lives and experience.


As we work towards more “upstream” approaches to address long-term systems change (which can tip the scales towards greater health for all), we will simultaneously support “downstream” efforts that ensure residents have greater access to quality, comprehensive care today. We will begin to implement a Foundation-wide evaluation framework in 2021 to determine the format of the final report of grants awarded in this grant cycle.


Q: For social determinants of health, can you talk about tracking health outcomes when our programs have traditionally tracked outcomes related to housing, education, etc.?

Please refer to the question above. With regards to the application, please include the outcomes you currently track.


Q: What is the best way to present data on the population served for policy advocacy efforts?

We would be interested in learning how residents are directly involved in your organization’s activities, i.e., How are residents directly participating in advocacy efforts on a local or statewide level? Are residents engaged as trainers, peer educators, participatory action researchers, or in leadership roles? Or, are residents the target audience or recipient of your programs and initiatives? We would ask you to submit the number of residents directly involved and invite you to provide more context about the direct or indirect involvement in the space provided.


Q: What is the best way to present data on the population served for programs/services that aim to benefit or reach all residents in a zip code?

Please refer to the question above and indicate how residents are directly engaged in your efforts.


Q: Our organization does not or cannot track data in the format requested. What should we do?

We recognize that data collection looks different for everyone. We invite applicants to share more context about any specific circumstances or challenges that apply to your organization in the space provided on the application. Please reach out to us if you would like to speak further about your unique context.


Q: If we are funded, what will be the reporting process? Are we required to submit mid-year or final reports?

We are currently finalizing our evaluation framework to inform our future reporting processes and will provide more information once it is available.


Q: What is the requirement this year for reporting on board diversity/identity?

In 2019, we made the decision to pause asking demographic information about boards and staff until we could articulate how this information aligned with our evaluation and learning framework. This information will only be required for awarded grants and not required in the application process. As a foundation focused on health equity, we are committed to racial/ethnic equity and justice. The American Public Health Association has declared racism a public health crisis, and systemic racism touches nearly every aspect of American society. We acknowledge that systemic conditions such as implicit bias and institutional/structural racism impede access and opportunities that impact health and well-being.


Q: Can a board legally refuse to provide diversity data?

Generally, nonprofit organizations are not legally required to disclose demographic information at the board level. There is a shift, however, in the social impact sector to do so as a form of best practice and to help advance organizational equity goals, given the evidence to suggest that diverse boards are more innovative and effective in their approach.

Review & Award Decisions

Q: How will applications be reviewed?

Applications will be reviewed and recommended for funding by our program staff using a scoring rubric to identify alignment with our grantmaking framework and funding priorities. Final funding decisions are made by our Board of Directors.


Q: If we are not funded, can we receive feedback on our application?

We understand the time and effort it takes to prepare a proposal and the value of feedback to determine whether future applications align with organizational priorities. If your organization does not move forward from the application stage, please reach out in September 2021 to schedule a brief feedback call. For organizations that advance to a site visit but do not receive grant funds, we will also offer more in-depth debrief conversations in September 2021.


Q: Will you accept letters of support from community partners?

We do not require supplemental items to your application other than what is outlined on the application itself. If your organization is emerging and/or grassroots (including, but not limited to, if you apply with a fiscal sponsor), please reach out to us to confirm if a letter of support or other evidence might be appropriate.


Q: Is there an intended funding range for this year’s grant cycle?

We do not have a predetermined funding range for this cycle.


Q: How are grant dollars distributed across priority areas?

Given the intersectional approach of several requests, we determine total grant awards per area based on the volume of requests received and the total number of recommended awards.


Q: If awarded, does the grant period begin after funding decisions are released or with the submission of the full application?

Grant awards will be announced September 2021. The grant period is October 1, 2021 – September 30, 2022

General Operating vs Project Support: Requests From Larger Institutions

Q: Would you consider funding a university or school within a university (such as health sciences, social work, or education) with its own budget, program staff, and community impact?

Please review the “Who We Fund” section on this webpage or read our grant guidelines for specific details about university and hospital requests.


Q: Would a hospital or university be eligible to propose its health equity work in a specific community under one proposal, with multiple projects? We have more than one project which meets the guidelines.

Yes. Please review the “Who We Fund” section on this webpage or read our grant guidelines for specific details about university and hospital requests.


Q: We are a large agency, and our work is citywide (or serves an area beyond the HCF service region). Should we still apply under general operating if we plan to request support for a program within your geographic area?

Organizations with operating budgets larger than $20M, including universities or health and hospital systems, should tailor their request as a project-specific application. In some circumstances, HCF staff may reach out during the review process to request additional information, such as a program budget and secured funding sources, if applicable. As noted elsewhere in the FAQs, the most compelling and competitive proposals will request an amount that aligns with our programmatic health focus in the region.


Q: Can I apply by using the audit and 990 of the university and hospital’s operating foundation?

You may apply using the operating foundation information, yet we may require more relevant financial documents that support the project request.

Other Funding Opportunities

Q: If I am an annual partner, does this mean I precluded from responsive or strategic funding opportunities?

Our general operating grants work in tandem to other funding opportunities. In the next three years, we will look closely at the equitable COVID-19 recovery efforts of annual grantee partners to determine future investment in potential responsive opportunities or strategic initiatives.


Below is a list of key terms and definitions that are relevant to our work and grantmaking strategy. Feel free to reach out to us on how to present your work in alignment with these definitions.

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We use the term “BILPOC” (pronounced “bill-pock”) as a tool to center how Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people have experienced structural racism, cultural erasure, and discrimination in our region. For us, it is a more inclusive term than “people of color”. Yet, it is not without its flaws.


We recognize the limitations of using this and other “umbrella” terms as they fall short in referencing the diverse racial and ethnic communities of our region. We also acknowledge how gender, racial, ethnic, and political identities are fluid, complex, and personal. As identities and social contexts evolve, we remain committed to being in right relationship with our region’s communities.


Because the use of “BILPOC” is not appropriate in all instances, we explicitly name communities when we refer to individuals or issues that affect specific groups of people. We look to current demographic and population data to learn more about residents and refine our use of language to be as representative and inclusive as possible.


A health difference that is closely linked with social, economic, or environmental disadvantage. (Source: healthypeople.gov)  


This is achieved when every person can “attain his or her full health potential,” and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of some socially determined circumstance. Health inequities are reflected in different lengths of life, quality of life, disease rates, disability and death, disease severity, and access to treatment. (Source: CDC)  


A framework for using law and policy to eliminate unjust health disparities. (Source: Journal of Health Affairs)


An intersectional approach, or intersectionality, recognizes that people have multiple identities based on gender, race, class, age, ability, etc., and experience varying degrees of oppression based on each identity and at the intersections of these identities. (Sources: Kimberly Crenshaw; the Combahee River Collective) 


This is a framework to analyze how race and ethnicity shape our experiences with power, access to opportunity, treatment, and outcomes. (Source: Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity


The systematic fair treatment of people of all races resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice—or racial equity—goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures. (Source: Race Forward


The conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age that impact health outcomes. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power, and resources at global, national, and local levels. (Source: WHO)  


Addressing the systemic conditions (including the policies, practices, institutions, culture, and power) that have historically created inequities and continue to hold them in place, which contributes to advantages for white people and disadvantages for Black, Indigenous, Latinx people of color. (Source: National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy-Power Moves


The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color.  (Source: Racial Equity Tools)