Why We Shifted Our Grant Application Process

Why We Shifted Our Grant Application Process

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Our Director of Programs, Nora Garcia, explains why the Foundation moved to a two-stage application process this grant cycle.

It is hard to believe that less than a year ago, our staff and Board of Directors came to the end of a learning-focused planning process and approved a new strategic direction for the Healthy Communities Foundation. Since then, we have dived deep into the work of infusing health and racial equity into our programmatic strategy. A great part of this effort has been the hundreds of conversations with community partners and stakeholders across our 27-zip-code region. In multiple meetings, site visits, evening events, and phone calls, we heard enthusiastic feedback about grounding our grantmaking principles and priorities in general operating support and supporting community-defined solutions. Yet, in these same conversations, we also heard about the importance of being proximate to both communities and organizations to better understand the efforts happening within and across neighborhoods. It became clear that a one-time opportunity to present complex solutions to even more complicated health disparities in the region left much to be understood and leveraged.

As we work to become a learning foundation, a strategic priority of HCF, we have incorporated this learning and feedback into our grant cycle process. In implementing a streamlined two-stage application process, our goal is two-fold. First, respect the time and effort of organizations preparing and submitting applications. Second, allow our small staff to shift their time from reviewing hundreds of full proposals to truly understanding the work by meeting with organizations and spending more time in the field. In addition, conversations across the region have also informed our decision to structure our program staff both geographically and by issue area. Our intention is to more deeply understand how health equity and disparities impact individual communities but also larger portions of the south and west sides of Chicago and the surrounding western suburbs. We hope to share more updates on this in the fall/winter of this year.

With less than a year into our new strategic plan, we understand there is still much to learn, both from our partners and from our peers in philanthropy who are boldly leading the shift from charity to philanthropy. We look forward to continuing to share our learnings as we work towards our vision of all residents in our region leading full, healthy lives and enjoying equal life expectancy. 


Nora Garcia

Nora Garcia, Director of Programs

Nora is the Director of Programs at the Healthy Communities Foundation (HCF). She leads the foundation’s work on the intersection of health and social determinants, addressing questions on the role and impact of direct services, networks, policies and institutions on health outcomes. She has over a decade of nonprofit and philanthropic experience with a solid understanding of the development and implementation of programmatic and grantmaking strategies and processes.






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