Please see below for frequently asked questions about our grant application process. If you have addtional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
- What is the review process?
- Do you have a deadline for requests?
- Where do I send an LOI?
- How do you define a project?
- Are there priorities within your six giving areas?
- What amount should I ask for?
- Are your proposal questions on your website?
- What percentage of requests do you fund?
- What makes a strong proposal stand out?
- Do you fund projects outside of Baltimore?
- How is COVID affecting how you operate and priorities?
- Is a meeting necessary before I apply?
- Will you come see my project to learn about it before I apply?
- Do you allow a certain percentage of a grant to cover administrative costs?
- When can I reapply?
- Do you make multi-year grants?
- Do you make matching grants?
- What happens after the grant is made?
- What grant reporting do you required?
- Can I apply directly to you for a scholarship?
- Do you only make grants to tax-exempt organizations?
- How can I learn more about the Foundation on an on-going basis?
- LOI review process: Organizations must have a 501c3 or fiscal agent to submit a letter of inquiry (LOI). We review LOIs on a rolling basis and make decisions based on priorities, pipeline, timing, capacity constraints and available grant funds. Requests that are not a fit are declined as soon as possible so that organizations can pursue alternate funding strategies. All others are considered quarterly ahead of our board meetings and then invited for a full proposal, deferred to a future cycle or declined as they may be a fit but a lower priority given all requests.
- Proposal review process: Organizations asked to submit a proposal, based on a successful LOI review, will have about one month to complete the proposal. The Foundation communicates deadlines and submission requirements (including detailed project plan, budget, board information, audit, etc.). Once received, each proposal is assigned to a staff member to conduct a thorough review including follow up questions and a site visit if possible.
- Board review process: Foundation staff present proposals to a grants committee for initial review. The committee makes funding decisions on small grants ($50,000 or less) and then determines which proposals to submit to the full board for additional review and final decisions. The full board generally meets within one month of the executive committee.
- Timeline: Organizations should expect the process to last three to five months depending on grant size and cycle timing. Staff are available to discuss requests and ideas in advance of submitting an LOI.
2. Do you have a deadline for requests?
We accept Letters of Inquiry on a rolling basis and make decisions on these requests four times each year. The closing dates for each round of decisions come prior to our four annual board meetings. We encourage you to submit your LOI whenever it is ready. If your request is not a clear fit for Foundation goals, we will let you know as soon as possible, even before the closing date. Deadlines for invited proposals are sent when we provide proposal guidelines.
3. Where do I send an LOI?
Please email LOI to email@example.com. You may address your letter to Amy Gross, Executive Director. Each email gets a confirmation response. Due to the volume of emails that our program officers receive, please send LOI and proposals to this general email address so that they are seen in a timely manner. We do not need a hard copy of materials as our review is paperless.
4. How do you define a project?
The Foundation funds projects with defined beginnings and ends, but not programs or operating support. A capital or equipment project is the easiest example of this, but we also fund other one-time needs. Does your request happen every year? Will the project require ongoing philanthropy to continue? Does the budget include recurring costs? These needs are not a fit for the Foundation. There are times that we seed new models that have a path to a sustainable funding source (such as fee-for-service or reimbursement model) that require philanthropy to begin. If you have specific questions about your project, please contact us.
5. Are there priorities within your six giving areas?
Yes - about 30-40% of our annual funding goes to education, a historical priority for the Foundation. Another 40% of funds are split between Health & Human Services and Community & Economic Development. This means that smaller portions go towards our interests in Civic & Culture, Environment and Historic Preservation. Within each area of focus we have certain interests and priorities, which are generally explained under each area's page. You can also see the percentages each year by program area in our annual reports.
6. What amount should I ask for?
The request amount depends on the total project size, funds raised, remaining funding gap, plan and probability of closing the funding gap, etc. We typically do not expect to fund 100% of a project. We strongly prefer not to make grants under $10,000 and generally do not make grants that exceed $500,000. Our median grant in the last five years was $50,000 and our average grant was $112,500. Our sample grants page and past annual reports can provide context for the types and sizes of grants that we make.
7. Are your proposal questions on your website?
We do not have our questions on the website because our proposals are invitation only and we want to make sure organizations do not spend extra work on a proposal if we do not plan to do a full review. Our proposal questions are fairly standard and we are flexible about format. We will take a proposal you have prepared for another funder as long as it addresses the questions we ask.
8. What percentage of requests do you fund?
We currently fund between 20-40% of requests per cycle, which is a lower ratio than what we have done in the past. This does mean that the process has become more competitive so having received previous funding is not a guarantee of future funding.
9. What makes a strong proposal stand out?
Strong proposals have a clear need and implementation plan, reasonable scope, well-defined fundraising strategy, demonstration of past organizational success, connection to our priorities, and a clear timeline.
10. Do you fund projects outside of Baltimore?
Yes, but we generally fund projects in Baltimore City and County. In the last several years, nearly 90% of our grants supported work in Baltimore City and/or County. We do fund in Metro Baltimore (Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford and Carroll Counties) depending on need and competitive proposals. In addition, some giving areas have geographic restrictions; for example, we fund schools locally, but consider environmental and historic preservation requests from around the state while still prioritizing local projects. If you have a question about geographic fit, please contact us.
11. How is COVID affecting how you operate and your priorities?
The France-Merrick Foundation team is working remotely and requesting all communication be electronic. We are available for videoconferencing or phone meetings, but in-person site visits. We initially responded to COVID through a set of emergency grants and continue to respond through our normal grant making process. Over the next year, we plan to give in all program areas in our project-based style, but priorities may shift as community needs change. We do not plan to fund endowments in 2020-2021.
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12. Is a meeting necessary before I apply?
No, meetings and phone calls are not necessary, but sometimes provide clarity about goals and fit. We encourage you to contact us if you have questions in order to ensure you have the best information to make your case. It is not necessary for you to request a meeting in preparation for a letter of inquiry.
13. Will you come see my project to learn about it before I apply?
There are times where this makes sense, and other times where this is just not possible due to limited staffing. Our preference is to visit the project after it is clear that there will be an application, as a site visit is a standard part of our review process. [Site visits are temporarily suspended due to COVID, as are pre-request visits. We are happy to do a telephone or video conference.
14. Do you allow a certain percentage of a grant to cover administrative costs?
We do not have a standard administrative cost allowance (sometimes labeled as overhead or indirect costs). Because we fund projects, with defined beginning and ends, we are not inclined to support an operating budget through our grants as a regular practice. There are times when a certain percentage or amount may make sense, depending on the circumstances of the project. You can always ask us to include a certain percentage or particular cost and we can decide how we want to approach that request in the given context.
- If you are declined, you may apply again for another project at any point in the future. Please do not apply for the same project again unless staff requests it and there is a clear change that justifies resubmission.
- If you have received a grant, we have an eligibility period. Grantees become eligible again two years after the last payment on the grant. If the grant is paid over multiple years, the organization becomes eligible two years after last payment. This process ensures that we fund one-time projects and that we fund more nonprofits by spreading funds over time.
16. Do you make multi-year grants?
The Foundation does, from time to time, make multi-year payments on grants depending on the context of the request, the need for funds in a given year (based on organizational information), and the availability of funds (based on the Foundation’s grant budget). Each request is considered on a case-by-case basis depending on the project’s circumstances.
17. Do you make matching grants?
If you received a grant from another funder (including a government agency) that requires a match and your project is a fit for the Foundation’s style and areas of giving, we will consider making a matching grant. The Foundation also makes grants that require a match in order to help organizations meet their fundraising goals. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your specific request.
18. What happens after a grant is made?
Once decisions are made and communicated, we send a grant agreement within one week. Payments are usually made within two weeks of receiving a signed grant agreement if there are no contingencies on the grant. Payments are made electronically unless a paper check is requested.
19. What grant reporting do you require?
We request a written report a year after the grant has been made, and depending on the payment schedule, may require annual reports until a year after the last payment. If the project is not complete by the time of the year anniversary, we may consider the report a progress report and assign a mutually agreed upon date for a final report. The reporting format is included in grant award letters and includes a narrative portion and a financial section. For endowment gifts, which are very limited, we require ongoing annual reporting with a specific format we send out each year to endowment grantees.
20. Can I apply directly to you for a scholarship?
No. We are proud to have funded about 1,500 scholarships over time at private schools and colleges and universities. When we make those grants, the institution then makes the decisions about scholarship recipients based on criteria of the scholarship and the school’s process for determining eligibility and fit.
21. Do you only make grants to tax-exempt organizations?
Yes. We also make grants to fiscal agents when necessary if an organization is not a separate 501(c)3 or has legal status and chooses to use a fiscal agent.
22. How can I learn more about the Foundation on an on-going basis?
Thank you for your interest! Please sign up for our quarterly newsletter and follow us on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter).