Frequently Asked Questions

Section 1: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Q. How does The Collins Foundation understand or define diversity, inclusion, and equity?

A. We think about diversity, inclusion, and equity as distinct but interconnected and mutually-reinforcing concepts. Our working definitions:

Diversity refers to a range of perspectives and voices being present in an organization and enriching its decision-making and effectiveness. This includes different life experiences based on race, ethnicity, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, income, religion, geography, disability, and a range of other factors.

Inclusion means that those diverse perspectives and voices are empowered to fully participate in the mission, life, and decision-making of an organization. By definition, an inclusive organization must be diverse, but a diverse organization isn’t necessarily inclusive.

Equity is the practice and promotion of justice. We all carry responsibility for addressing injustices that have structurally advantaged some and disadvantaged and excluded others. An equitable organization (1) works to understand and address disparities; (2) fosters inclusion and the conditions necessary for people to achieve their full potential; and (3) provides fair and inclusive access to resources and opportunities.

We recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to integrating diversity, inclusion, and equity into an organization’s work. There are common challenges and opportunities but diversity, inclusion, and equity will mean different things to different organizations.

 

Q. Our organization doesn’t have a specific equity focus -- does that make us ineligible or less competitive?

A. A lack of focus or experience with equity will not preclude you from receiving a grant, but throughout the application process we do ask questions that will require you to think honestly and engage meaningfully about disparities that exist in your organization and community and how your work addresses those disparities.

We recognize that not all organizations have had the same opportunities to learn about practicing and promoting equity and we know that diversity and inclusion will look different in different parts of the state. We are committed to sharing our learning and supporting the learning of others, including providing grants for equity training and technical assistance, as well as investing more in culturally- and community-specific organizations.


Q. What do you consider in determining whether an organization meets your nondiscrimination requirements? What are you looking for in our nondiscrimination policy?

A. The Collins Foundation is committed to equal opportunity for all persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, age, disability, or any other legally protected status. It is our intent to consider grant requests only from organizations and agencies that pursue these same principles in their governance, employment practices, and services.

In short, we look for a policy that covers everyone in the organization – staff, board, volunteers, and the people you serve – and that offers a clear commitment to nondiscrimination across all legally protected communities.

 

Section 2: Completing the Community Information Form

Q. How does The Collins Foundation use the demographic information?

A. We will use this data in a few connected ways: (1) to evaluate our grantmaking and better understand the extent to which our grants are reaching Oregon’s diverse communities; (2) to track our progress in achieving the goals laid out in our diversity, equity, and inclusion plan; and (3) to develop a sense of your organization and the extent to which the community you serve is represented in your staff, leadership, and volunteers.

We are not looking for organizations to check every box or meet a certain quota. Instead, we look for meaningful leadership by and accountability to those you serve. We recognize that this is an ongoing process, that organizations don’t become more inclusive or equitable without intentional work and a long-term commitment. We at The Collins Foundation know we have work to do on this front as well.

 

Q. Isn’t it illegal to ask staff to provide their race, gender, sexual orientation?

A. We can’t provide you individual legal advice, but there are a few great public resources on this topic. In particular, the US Department of Labor requires businesses with more than 100 employees to collect demographic data and their guidance is available here and a legal brief on this topic from the D5 Coalition is available here. Of course, it’s inappropriate to use demographic information to discriminate against staff in hiring or promotions and it’s generally recommended that any demographic data you collect is kept separate from personnel files.

 

Q. How should we go about collecting this information if we don’t already have it?

A. Whatever specific tool you use, it’s important that people are given the opportunity to self-identify (or to refuse to disclose demographic information) whenever possible. Allowing people to optionally self-identify ensures the most accurate data. We recommend that you start early and give yourself plenty of time to collect the data.

    • Staff or board members can self-identify during the orientation or onboarding process, with a paper survey distributed at an annual meeting, or through a free, anonymous survey tool like Survey Monkey.
    • To gather data on the people you serve, you can add demographic questions to intake or evaluation forms used by clients or volunteers, distribute paper surveys at performances, or conduct online surveys of a large sample of clients.
    • If you need to estimate data for one or more communities (staff, board, volunteers, or population served), use the drop down menu at the bottom of the form to indicate that the data is estimated and use the comments box to indicate why/how you estimated the information and whether you anticipate being able to collect actual data in the future.

A proposal to The Collins Foundation will not be complete until we have the Community Information Form.

 

Q. What if we don’t know exactly who/how many people we will be serving during the project?

A. We expect that many, if not most, organizations will need to estimate the “people served by this project” column. There are a few ways that you could go about this, depending on the nature of your work, community, partnerships, expertise, and internal capacity.

If your work has an indirect benefit on a large number of people, as is common in both conservation and systems change work, one way to arrive at your estimate would be to use census demographic data for the impacted community. You could adjust those numbers based on who you know is most impacted by a given problem.

For example, if you’re working to improve how domestic violence services are provided in your community, you could start with county-level domestic violence statistics and adjust based on the focus of your program or outreach.

Alternatively, if you’re addressing urban air pollution, you might look for neighborhood-level demographic data in the neighborhoods most impacted by air pollution. Alternatively, you could start with city demographic data and then make adjustments to account for the disproportionate impact of air pollution on low income communities.

If, on the other hand, you work with a more defined population but you don’t know exactly who you’ll be serving this coming year, it would make sense to estimate based on past service populations, adjusting for any new, focused outreach.

For example, if you run an after-school support program you could use demographic information collected in past years to estimate what your service population will look like during the project. If you’re planning to expand to new service sites, consider the demographics of those schools or sites in your projections for the coming year.

If you provide cultural or creative programing, you could use past audience surveys to estimate who your audience will be for the coming year, making adjustments for new partnerships or focused audience development work, as appropriate.

 

Q. What should we do if staff or board members or volunteers refuse to disclose this information?

A. Those who don’t want to disclose some or all of their demographic information should be allowed to decline. In that case, use the empty cells at the bottom of each section (race & ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation) to add a “did not specify” row and add folks there. The totals at the bottom of each section should still add up to your total number of staff, board, and volunteers, respectively, and you would still indicate that the data collected is actual, not estimated.

 

Section 3: The Application Process

Q. How important is it that we establish our tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code?

A. All applicants do need some form of federal tax-exemption to be considered for a grant. We will consider applications from organizations that: (1) have established their tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) and are not “private foundations” under section 509(a) of the Code; (2) have tax exemption as a governmental*, Tribal, or other publicly-funded entity; or (3) have a qualified, tax-exempt fiscal sponsor. If you are applying with a fiscal sponsor, you should contact Colin Jones (cjones@collinsfoundation.org), our grants manager, before getting too far along in the process.

*We generally do not make grants to public education institutions, including elementary, secondary, and higher education institutions.

 

Q. When are your application deadlines?

A. You are welcome to submit an application at any time; the Foundation doesn’t have set due dates or deadlines. Our trustees review proposals six times each year, in February, April, June, August, October, and December. Generally, an agenda fills up 12-16 weeks in advance. If you have a time-sensitive request, we generally recommend applying by the following dates, but a docket may fill sooner than indicated below:

Applications received no later than...Will generally be considered in...*
February 1Mid-April
April 1Mid-June
June 1Mid-August
August 1Mid-October
September 15Early December
December 1Mid-February

*We make every effort to consider grants on this timeline, but due to fluctuations in proposal volume, we can’t guarantee a specific decision date.

Q. Should we send a letter of inquiry (LOI) before submitting a complete proposal?

A. We don’t ask for an LOI as part of our application process. Once you’ve had a chance to review the eligibility requirements and application checklist, you’re welcome to send a full proposal. If, before you apply, you have questions regarding whether your project is aligned with the Foundation’s interests or priorities, you may send an email to Sara Yada (syada@collinsfoundation.org) or Cindy Knowles (cknowles@collinsfoundation.org) and one of them will be happy to confer with you. 

 

Q. Should we meet with staff before we apply?

A. It’s not necessary to meet with staff before you apply. If you have specific questions, we can talk with you over the phone or answer questions via email. Contact Sara Yada or Cindy Knowles if you’d like to schedule a conversation.

 

Q. How much should we request?

A. This is one of the hardest questions for us to answer! In 2015, our average grant was about $35,000, but award sizes ranged from $5,000 for a one-time project at a small organization to $750,000 for a large, three-year capital campaign. When considering if the size of a request is appropriate, we look at your overall project budget, your project’s size relative to your operating budget, the fiscal health of your organization, and the breadth and depth of community support relative to the resources available in your community for the issues you’re addressing. We strongly prefer to partner with other funders, particularly on larger projects.

 

Section 4: The Types of Grants We Award

Q. Do you make challenge or matching grants?

A. Yes! A challenge match can be used to inspire new and increased donor contributions for a specific project or priority, or to help an organization expand its donor base to increase its sustainability. If applying for a challenge grant, you should identify the amount of the challenge match, a start and end date for the challenge period, and the target donors. In most cases, the Foundation provides a 1:1 match after the entire challenge amount has been raised. For project and operating support challenge match grants, we strongly prefer to match donations from new donors and current donors increasing their contributions.

 

Q. Do you make multi-year grants?

A. We do if the proposal provides a strong rationale for a multi-year award, and, if appropriate, a clear plan to support the project after the grant period ends. We most often award two- or three-year grants for (1) well-defined projects that need an extended amount of time to become established and sustainable; and (2) large-scale capital projects. Multi-year awards are generally paid in declining amounts each year.

 

Q. Do you provide operating support?

A. Under certain circumstances, we do. We are most inclined to provide general operating support to organizations that are starting a new initiative or new area of work, implementing a multi-year strategic plan, experiencing shifts in major funding sources, or are in a period of growth or leadership transition. Our focus is on providing stability and support and alleviating some annual fundraising pressure during transitional or growth periods.

 

Q. Do you fund capital projects?

A. We do! For capital projects, we strongly prefer to participate with other funders and look for strong community support of a project. Proposals are most successful when submitted after 35-50 percent of funds are already committed.