2024 Grant Cycle

Since 2018, our grantmaking approach has centered on advancing racial equity and health equity in our service region. In the last year, we have been refining and adapting our grantmaking strategies to ensure the alignment of our partnerships with our strategic plan.

This year’s grant cycle is open to new and returning applicants seeking a one-year grant.

As the first step, all applicants (new and returning) will submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) that answers questions about their organization’s approach to advancing health equity and health justice, how they anticipate utilizing grant funds, and the demographics of their leadership and communities they serve. 

NOTE: The LOI Portal is now closed.

what we look for in partners

We value transparency and recognize the time and resources it takes to apply for a grant. Therefore, it is important for us to be clear about what alignment to our grantmaking framework means to us.

Grantmaking Priorities: WHAT ALIGNED WORK LOOKS LIKE

All partner organizations must demonstrate that their proposed work aligns with one or more of the categories below: 


to quality health services


Highly aligned partners can articulate how their efforts to improve healthcare access contribute to reducing racial and ethnic health inequities in our service region, especially within our Legacy and Equity zip-codes.  


for health policies & systems change


Highly aligned partners can bridge their advocacy efforts with individuals, communities, and organizations in our service region to increase civic engagement and build community power toward health equity.


social determinants of health


Highly aligned partners can demonstrate how their work improves community health by addressing structural and social determinants of health in racially equitable ways.


local health knowledge


Highly aligned partners can demonstrate how they disseminate health knowledge and data in ways that local organizations and community members can easily understand and apply to everyday life. This may include facilitation and direct support of community-led inquiry, data collection, and outcomes reporting.


Highly aligned organizations should meet the following criteria:

      • At least 20% of the individuals served by aligned organizations must reside in our service region.
      • Organizations whose work extends beyond our service area will be considered if they demonstrate strong alignment with our grantmaking priorities and actively engage with local communities.
      • Priority consideration will be given to organizations with historical and/or existing strategic ties to our Legacy & Equity zip codes.


      • They demonstrate intersectional approaches to achieving health equity. 
      • Community leadership is prioritized within their organization, their strategies and/or within our service region. 
      • They recognize the value of local leaders in organizational roles due to their proximity to the issues and solutions.  
      • They can articulate how they are connected to efforts that address structural issues and have a grasp on how existing systems perpetuate current inequities.

grant eligiblity

501(c)3 nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply for general operating support grants. Organizations that are not tax-exempt may apply with a fiscal sponsor.

You can access detailed descriptions of our grantmaking priorities, organizational strategies of aligned organizations listed above, an explanation of where aligned work happens and more about grant eligibility in our 2024 Grant Guidelines.


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

      • Operating foundations not directly connected to community-based efforts
      • Partisan political activities
      • Religious activities
      • Scholarships
      • School Districts & Individual Schools (including parent-teach associations, charter schools and nonprofits with more than 80% of expenses for school-based operations

application process

Our staff will evaluate all LOIs upon receipt and notify organizations that will move on to Stage 2 by March 15, 2024, which consists of submitting a full grant application. Upon review and approval, eligible organizations will receive a notice to set up a site visit with a member of our Program team. Please note that not all organizations will move to Stage 3. 


      • New applicants must create an organizational profile before applying.
      • Returning applicants can update their organizational profile and contact information, if needed.
      • We ask applicants to maintain only one account per organization. Please contact us if you experience a staff transition and need assistance accessing your account.

further support


Within our 2024 Grant Guidelines, you can access some quick tips to help you when using our grants portal. If you are still experiencing technical issues or have questions related to your grants portal account, please email us at administration@hcfdn.orgor call us at (708)443-5674. If you send an email, please allow 1-2 business days for a response. 


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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Click to expand

New & Returning Applicants

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

In this cycle, all organizations will submit a Letter of Inquiry regardless of new or returning status. Because the world has changed since 2020 and our grant cycle has become competitive, we have decided to provide all organizations with an opportunity to submit new information related to their programs and services.

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

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.  


The COVID pandemic continues to impact communities in our region. As a result, we have been refining and adapting our grantmaking strategies to bolster an equitable recovery while continuing to align with our strategic plan and equitable evaluation framework.   


This means that we have reinforced our commitment to racial equity and health equity, to support culturally affirming programs and services, and to invest in advocacy and upstream solutions. In the past couple of years, our grant cycles have become more competitive as more organizations learn of our foundation and new organizations emerge in our region. As a smaller foundation with limited assets, we will review all applications through this refined lens while continuing to focus on our grantmaking priorities and learning and evaluation framework. Please refer to our 2024 Grant Guidelines, which provide more information about what alignment with our strategic plan looks like.  

Our Service Area

Q: Do you have priority zip codes? If so, should an organization apply if they do not work in or with community members of priority 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. Yet, we consider 20% of the total number of individuals served by your organization living within our service region as a threshold for a competitive proposal. We also consider whether/how organizations demonstrate having a focused health strategy in our region in addition to meeting specific community health needs.  

Q: We are not currently working in the HCF service region but are interested in expanding our efforts and/or presence in the region. Should we still apply? 

We prioritize funding partners with existing partnerships, presence, and activities in our service region. We ask that applicants consider applying when they have moved to the implementation stage of working in our service region. 

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

Please refer to the question in the “Outcomes, Evaluation & Data Collection” section that references policy advocacy efforts. 

Q: Our zip code is not in the Legacy and Equity area, 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 inequities between zip codes but 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 2024 open cycle is for one-year general operating support grants.  As part of our strategic plan and pandemic recovery response, we launched multi-year grants in 2021 for a select cohort of partners, with funding through 2024. The decision to extend multi-year grants (or expand the number and type of multi-year grantee partners) will be based on key learnings and data we derive from our evaluation of this grantmaking strategy.  

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 FAQs 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 2024 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 on our service region. We will not consider two applications from one organization (unless you are a fiscal sponsor for another entity).   

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 Letter of Intent to discuss your current or prospective collaborations that are relevant to your health-related work in our service 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 who demonstrate an explicit focus and meaningful commitment to building community power and/or engaging residents in strategy development and decision-making. 

Q: 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 various community-led conversations that directly impact schools and districts. However, at this time, 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 separate nonprofit organization identifies them as a community partner within their application. We define a separate nonprofit organization as a 501(c)3 that does not share staff, board members, or financial resources with the school or school district. 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. How might this factor into your consideration or review process? 

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 consider requests for capital expenses for materials (i.e., medical equipment, dental chairs).  

Q: Is there a difference in the application process for returning vs. new grant applications? 

No, new and returning applicants will go through the same Letter of Intent application process.  

Q: When will the next funding cycle open?    

Our goal is to open the next annual cycle in the spring of 2025 with funding decisions released in September 2025. 

Q: Can an organization apply 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 your programmatic strategy and ask you to use your best judgment on the nature of the request based on your familiarity with our guidelines and approach. Please note that more competitive applicants already have active partnerships, presence, and activities in our service region.   

Q: If my organization was declined funding in 2023, can I re-apply? 

Yes, while strategically our annual grant cycle is focused on responding to and ensuring an equitable pandemic recovery, we recognize that community needs may shift over time. We invite you to review the 2024 Grant Guidelines, to consider feedback you might have received in prior grant cycles, and to reach out to our team with any questions regarding alignment. 

Q: Our organization’s budget is ineligible for audits. What financial documents should I supply instead? 

We know that organizations with budgets under $500,000 are not required to participate in an audit with an independent CPA, however, organizations with budgets with contributions between $300,000-$500,000 are required to file a financial statement with the IL Attorney General. If your organization is in that range, we would like to see that financial statement along with your board-approved budget. If your budget is under $300,000, a board-approved budget would suffice.

Outcomes, Evaluation & Data Collection

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

We began implementing a Foundation-wide evaluation framework in 2021, which informs our data collection and organizational learning efforts. Our equitable evaluation approach recognizes that the strategies organizations use to address health equity in our region can take many forms— issues are complex and require a deep understanding of the local community context. We value data-driven and evidence-based health efforts that are emergent from and supported by grassroots leadership, with a nuanced understanding of local communities – i.e., those who are experts in their own lives and experience.   

Ultimately, we seek partners that demonstrate effective approaches to achieving health equity, have very clear and explicit commitments to (and can share progress on) their goals, and clearly articulate their commitment to advancing racial equity/health equity and/or racial justice/health justice in every aspect of their work. We recommend reading through the 2024 Grant Guidelines for specific information on what we look for in grantee partners.

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. Regarding the Letter of Intent, please include the outcomes you are currently tracking. 

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

We would like to learn how community members in our service region are directly involved in your organization’s activities. For example, How are individuals in the region directly participating in advocacy efforts on a local or statewide level? Are individuals engaged as trainers, peer educators, participatory action researchers, or in leadership roles? Are individuals the primary audience or recipients of your programs and initiatives?   

We would ask you to submit the number of individuals 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 individuals in a zip code? 

Please refer to the question above and indicate how individuals 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 may differ across organizations. 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 contact us if you would like to speak further about your specific context. 

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

We have begun implementing a Foundation-wide evaluation framework this year which informs our data collection and organizational learning efforts. Organizations must submit a final written or verbal report in August 2024.  

Q: What is this year’s requirement for sharing board diversity/identity? 

Organizations applying for general operating support grants will be asked to provide board and staff demographic data as part of our commitment to organizational learning and racial equity. We recognize that organizations may be collecting this data differently than the format requested or may not yet be collecting this data. Please contact our Program team if you have questions regarding your specific context. 

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. This is given the evidence to suggest that diverse boards and leadership that is representative of their constituents are more innovative and effective in their approach. 

Review & Award Decisions

Q: How will Letters of Intent/full grant applications be reviewed? 

Letters of Intent and full grant applications are reviewed and recommended for funding by our Program staff utilizing 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 Letter of Intent/full grant 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 Stage 1 (LOI) or Stage 2 (Full Grant Application), please contact our Program team for feedback. Additional details and next steps will be provided in follow-up communication. 

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

We do not require supplemental items for your application other than what it outlines. If your organization is emerging and/or grassroots (including, but not limited to, if you apply with a fiscal sponsor), please contact 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: When will applicants be notified? 

Grant recipients will be notified of funding in September 2024.  

Q: What is the grant term for this cycle? 

Grant awards will be officially announced across our communication channels in October 2024. The grant period is October 1, 2024 – September 30, 2025. 

General Operating vs Project Support: Requests From Larger Institutions

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? 

All 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. As noted in our communications about this year’s grant cycle, the most compelling and competitive proposals will request an amount that aligns with our programmatic health focus in the region.  

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 read our 2024 Grant Guidelines for specific details about university and hospital requests.  

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, but we also require a detailed project budget.  

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. 

So long as your institution meets eligibility criteria, you may position your proposal as you see fit. We ask all institutions applying for project support to carefully review our guidelines for alignment. The most compelling project requests align with our programmatic priorities and organizational strategies and clearly demonstrate the institution’s strategic investment in the region. Specific projects with strong partnerships in the Healthy Communities Foundation region, committed institutional investments, and a clear connection to how the described project and partnership are critical to their larger institutional mission are more competitive. Please read our 2024 Grant Guidelines for specific details about university and hospital requests.  

Q: What do I need to prepare to apply for a project support grant (organizations with a Budget over $30M)? 

When completing the LOI, the large institutions’ full budget would be your organizational budget size, which will unlock the additional project support questions listed in our LOI Process Guide. The project support section will ask for a second budget for the specific project that includes both current revenue and expenses. Highly aligned project support grants can demonstrate that they have strategic partnerships, significant investment and a strong commitment to local communities in our service region, in addition to aligned work and approaches as outlined in our 2024 Grant Guidelines. Feel free to reach out if you have any additional questions. 


Visit “Our Terminology” page to find 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.