Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions we receive from nonprofit organizations about grantmaking.


What is the relationship between The San Diego Foundation and nonprofits?

The San Diego Foundation works with a variety of donors, including individuals, businesses and organizations, to award grants that enable community solutions to improve the quality of life in our region. Together, we help move nonprofit programs and organizations forward to better serve those in need and provide greater equity and opportunity for all San Diegans.

What resources does The Foundation offer for nonprofits that provide services in San Diego County?

  • Foundation Grants: Our Regional Affiliates determine areas of focus for grant making and communicate those opportunities in the grant opportunities section of our website. If we are not currently soliciting proposals for programs that fit your type of request, keep checking the grant opportunities section of our website as programs change their grant focus periodically and new opportunities are communicated there.
  • Endowments and Planned Giving Partnership: We offer services to assist nonprofits in their endowment-building and planned giving efforts.
  • Resource Library: Through a partnership with The San Diego Foundation, Nonprofit Management Solutions offers access to a free resource library for management and fundraising information.

How does grantmaking work at The San Diego Foundation?

The San Diego Foundation grantmaking is driven largely by our donors through their advised funds, which allow donors to direct charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations of their choice.

Of the $77 million granted to nonprofits in fiscal year 2020, 63 percent was directed through donor-advised funds. Additional grantmaking was led by The Foundation’s staff and Board of Governors, accounting for 37 percent this past year due in large part to the COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

Donors grant to nonprofits in many fields, including education, civil society, health and human services, arts and culture, youth development and environment. Check out our grantseeker Frequently Asked Questions to learn how donors select nonprofits to support.

Outside of grantmaking through advised funds, The Foundation oversees a set of programs and funds focused on supporting the San Diego region in a variety of impact areas. In order to find Requests for Proposals (RFPs), please visit our Apply for Assistance web page. Any currently open grant opportunities will be listed there.

Before applying for a grant, we encourage grantseekers to closely read descriptions about our current programs and funds to determine whether your project is aligned with these areas. If you believe that your nonprofit meets the criteria and is aligned with a strategic program goal, then you may consider applying to a grant or RFP related to that program.

Due to very specific grant criteria, some program grants are by invitation only. Due to a large volume of inquires, we are unable to respond to unsolicited requests for funding.

Can I connect directly with San Diego Foundation donors?

The San Diego Foundation follows a specific protocol related to the stewardship of our donor advised fund advisors, and we are not able to solicit donors. If donors are interested in particular organizations or a social impact area, our team conducts research related to giving opportunities.

For such donor-requested reports, GuideStar is a database that we utilize when compiling information to present to donors based on their interests. It is highly recommended that your nonprofit organization creates and updates a GuideStar profile.

The more information about your organization that is in the GuideStar database, the more donors know about your work, as many philanthropic organizations utilize GuideStar. By achieving a GuideStar gold seal (or greater), nonprofit organizations benefit by sharing goals, strategies and capabilities – all things that funders and donors are generally interested in understanding.

How do I share information about my organization with San Diego Foundation donors?

We receive many requests to meet with community-based nonprofits. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate all requests individually.

To stay informed, we encourage grantseekers to sign up for our monthly Nonprofit e-Newsletter for grant opportunities and updates from our SDF News blog, and to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Additionally, we encourage all nonprofits that serve San Diego County to create or update their profile on Guidestar. It is free and a great way to provide comprehensive information that donors seek. Visit Guidestar and follow the instructions for ‘claiming your organization’s report.

What type of funding does The San Diego Foundation provide?

The type of funding varies depending on the program. Grants programs may offer the following types of support:

  • Project Support: These grants are restricted to a specific piece of work that provides direct benefit to the organization’s constituents over a period of time to achieve measurable results.
  • Capacity Building Support: This type of support is generally awarded for activities that strengthen an organization, or a coalition of organizations, to better achieve its mission. Capacity building may include expansion of services, infrastructure improvement, organizational assessment, strategic planning, board/staff development, and so on.
  • Core Operating/General Support: An organization may use the funds in any way to support its mission.

How does my organization apply for funding?

Outside of grantmaking through advised funds, The Foundation oversees a set of programs and funds focused on supporting the San Diego region in a variety of impact areas. In order to find Requests for Proposals (RFPs), please visit our Apply for Assistance web page. Any currently open grant opportunities will be listed there.

Before applying for a grant, we encourage grantseekers to closely read descriptions about our current programs and funds to determine whether your project is aligned with these areas. If you believe that your nonprofit meets the criteria and is aligned with a strategic program goal, then you may consider applying to a grant or RFP related to that program.

Due to very specific grant criteria, some program grants are by invitation only. Due to a large volume of inquires, we are unable to respond to unsolicited requests for funding.

Can I apply for a donor-advised fund grant?

Applications are not accepted for donor-advised funds. Donors work with The Foundation to direct grants based on the donors’ areas of interest.

Who can apply for a grant through The San Diego Foundation?

Any 501(c)(3) organization located in or providing services to San Diego County is eligible to apply for a grant through The San Diego Foundation. Grantseekers working with a fiscal sponsor (an organization willing to administer the grant if awarded) that meets these criteria are also eligible. We do not accept unsolicited proposals. Please review our current strategic grant opportunities available. We also provide college scholarships to students.

My organization’s mission and activities address more than one of The San Diego Foundation’s grantmaking areas. What should I do?

Each organization may submit only one proposal per grant program area, but may submit to multiple programs at The Foundation if each proposal is for a different project. If a project is undertaken as part of a partnership with other organizations, no more than one organization may submit a proposal for that project. If more than one proposal is submitted for the same project, all applications will become ineligible. Grantees who have previously received a grant award may apply again.

If you have program area or project specific questions, please contact the person listed in the program’s grant guidelines.

Can I apply to more than one Regional Affiliate for funding?

Yes. However, your program will need to serve the needs of the population of the specific affiliate community. Metrics on numbers of residents served in the community must be provided.

How often can I apply?

There is no limit on the number of times a nonprofit organization can apply for funding. Generally, we prefer that grantseekers use discretion and submit requests only for top-priority projects and programs.

Can I submit a paper application form?

In most cases, The San Diego Foundation uses an online application process to reduce processing time and assure that our records are up to date and accessible. We serve you best with the online process and often require an online application for competitive and initiative grant requests. Below are some tips to assist with the online application process.

  • Get started with the application early. At the last minute, many people will be on the website. By taking time early, you can be sure to complete the application while allowing time for any technical or computer issues.
  • Carefully review all questions before filling out the online application form. We strongly suggest that you use a computer-based word program to prepare the long-text responses (e.g. Organization Description, Request Narrative), and then copy and paste your responses into the appropriate text boxes. This will save you the task of re-typing answers if there is a problem with your internet browser, and it will ease the task of editing the size of your narrative responses, if necessary.

What other philanthropic resources are available for local nonprofits?

There are several local resources in San Diego for nonprofits to access assistance for capacity building, accountability, best practices and other measures.

There are several local resources in San Diego for nonprofits to access assistance for capacity building, accountability, best practices and other measures.

Association of Fundraising Professionals, San Diego (AFPSD)
The primary purpose of AFPSD is to educate and advance the careers of those in the rapidly changing field of development. The Chapter promotes ethical standards, provides a network for members, lists local, regional and national employment opportunities, and offers a pool for consultant services.

BoardSource Community Resources
BoardSource is dedicated to advancing the public good by building exceptional nonprofit boards and inspiring board service. They have an extensive library of free community resources with guides, best practices, and FAQ’s.

Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) San Diego
EPIP San Diego is part of a national network of foundation professionals, social entrepreneurs and other change makers who strive for excellence in the practice of philanthropy. EPIP’s mission is to develop emerging leaders committed to building a just, equitable, and sustainable society.

Flagship for the Arts
Be a part of San Diego’s new “Flagship for the Arts” – the NTC Arts & Culture District. We have 15 historic buildings, newly renovated and brimming with opportunities. A 2-year rent subsidy is available for qualifying nonprofit organizations. For more information contact Sean Giffin at 619.573.9304 or sgiffin@ntclibertystation.com.

Foundation Center’s New ‘Foundation Stats’ Tool
The Foundation Center recently launched ‘Foundation Stats;’ a new online data resource that is free and accessible to the general public. Foundation Stats provides the most comprehensive resources available for generating tables and charts on the size, scope, and giving priorities of the U.S. foundation community.

LEAD San Diego
LEAD provides intense issue-oriented programming, leadership skill building and community volunteerism opportunities to regional leaders.

Mission Edge
Mission Edge provides the San Diego nonprofit community with resources and knowledge to streamline business processes and further social change. Services include fiscal sponsorship, outsourced HR and accounting support, leadership development and connection to expertise and best practices in the community.

Nonprofit Management Solutions (NMS)
NMS provides management training, consulting, information and technology resources to nonprofits in San Diego including customized training, board and staff development, strategic planning, networking, and meeting facilitation. In 2013, The San Diego Foundation partnered with Nonprofit Management Solutions, funding their resource library expansion plans through our endowment and combining our libraries at their location (8765 Aero Dr. Ste. 312, San Diego, 92123, www.npsolutions.org, 858-292-5702). There, you can access the Foundation Directory Online database (where you can search through nearly 100,000 foundations who may offer the type of funding you’re looking for) available at no charge to nonprofits, Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at National University
The Institute offers seminars, certificates and degree programs designed to prepare exemplary nonprofit leaders for the 21st century and dramatically increase the impact of charitable organizations in the U.S. The San Diego Foundation partners with the institute to offer and introductory course in fundraising called The Fundraising Academy.

SCORE San Diego
SCORE is part of a national association which serves as a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SCORE is a volunteer, nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote the success of small businesses and nonprofits.

University of San Diego Institute for Nonprofit Education and Research (USD)
This site includes information on the institute as well as USD’s degree programs in nonprofit leadership.

Young Nonprofit Professionals Network San Diego (YNPN)
YNPN offers professional development and networking opportunities in order to create a thriving San Diego by cultivating a highly valued network of emerging leaders dedicated to serving the nonprofit sector.


Contact Our Grants Administration Team

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