We are improving our processes for making and managing grants and other investments, and we will have a standard process and set of scalable tools that are used by all foundation teams throughout 2013. We are phasing in this transition across the foundation, so some teams are still using existing processes and tools, with variability to be expected, as described below. Foundation staff will provide grantseekers guidance on the appropriate process and tools to use.
Q. How do I apply for a grant from the foundation?
A. We do not make grants outside our funding priorities. In general, we directly invite proposals by directly contacting organizations. We do occasionally award grants through published RFPs or letters of inquiry. View a list of current RFP and LOI opportunities.
Only the Global Health and Pacific Northwest programs currently accept open letters of inquiry (LOI - see glossary of terms). Global Health currently welcomes LOIs for a range of initiatives. Pacific Northwest currently welcomes LOIs focused on Family and Community Roles in Supporting Student Success.
Q. I have materials I want to submit along with my request for funding. How do I send them?
A. Please submit only the requested forms. We are not able to accept samples, prototypes, or other supplementary materials that accompany requests for funding, and these items will not be returned.
Q. My funding request does not fall under any of your programs. How do I submit it?
A. We do not make grants outside our funding priorities.
Q. I am an individual seeking financial assistance. Am I eligible for a grant?
A. In keeping with our charter, we do not provide funding to individuals.
Q. I am raising money for a cause. Am I eligible for a grant?
A. The foundation makes grants to organizations directly rather than through individual fundraising activities; therefore, we are unable to fund your effort.
Q. How are the foundation and Microsoft related?
A. The Microsoft Corporation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are separate organizations and are not related. They each have independent approaches to charitable giving. To learn about Microsoft’s corporate philanthropy initiatives, please visit the Microsoft Community Engagement and Investment web site.
Q: What does the new investment process mean for grantseekers?
A: We will have a standard approach across all teams. Our new templates are designed to focus documentation and analysis on the key topics, rather than on rote questions, and reduce unnecessary work. The new process helps us work more effectively internally, reducing the questions and requests we make late in the development of an investment and rework by grantseekers.
Our new process supports clearer decision-making. Decision makers are identified at the early stage of an investment. Check-in points are built in to help ensure that decision makers are informed about and can raise questions during development, rather than holding all questions until the end.
Q: When is the foundation phasing in the new process and templates?
A: To ensure we provide the support needed as teams adopt the new process and templates, about half of the foundation teams will be using the new approach by August 2013, for investments that are in development. All teams will be using the new process by January 2014.
There is still template design work underway: new budget templates and new standard terms and conditions for our agreements will be available in late 2013/early 2014.
For grants or contracts that have been approved, grantseekers will likely continue to use the templates they are accustomed to using for any progress or financial reporting. If grantseeker is a current grantee and would like to use the new templates for existing funded projects, they should inform their program officer.
Q: How much time will grantseekers have to spend on submitting a new investment?
A: Just as today, that varies depending on the complexity of the work. We anticipate that while more time may be spent upfront to align on investment results and the approach to measurement and reporting, we anticipate that less time will be required on late stage requests, analysis, and rework.
Q: Who makes decisions on investments and when?
A: As part of its operating model, the foundation continues delegate decision making on grants and contracts to leaders across the organization. With our new process, decision makers are identified at the early stage of an investment. Check-in points are built in to help ensure that decision makers are informed about and can raise questions during development, rather than holding all questions until the end.
Q: What documents will grantseekers need to complete?
A: The typical set of documents includes a proposal narrative, a budget and narrative, and a results framework and tracker. The grantseeker may also complete a concept memo at a very early stage to outline an investment. That optional tool replaces the foundation’s Letter of Inquiry.
Once a grant is approved, the grantee will typically rely on the results tracker, progress narrative, and fiscal reports to report formally on progress, challenges, and financial status.
Many of these templates are similar to what grantees have used before; however, they are standardized across the foundation and have been streamlined so they can be customized for the complexity of the investment, and include fewer rote questions.
Q: How will investment results be measured and reported on?
A: The Results Framework & Tracker is a new tool that will help the prospective grantee or vendor identify how they will measure results (i.e. outcomes and outputs) and report on progress against them over the course of the investment. This tool will be used during the design and management phases of the investment.