Mission Sustainability Grants

The Mission Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grant application is for nonprofits seeking funding to support the exploration or implementation of a long-term or permanent strategic partnership. Please note the following:

  • Applications will be accepted + reviewed throughout the year.  Grant application deadlines are as follows. Application are due by 5pm CST.
    • Monday, February 4, 2019
    • Tuesday, March 26, 2019
    • Wednesday, May 22, 2019
    • Thursday, August 22, 2019
    • Wednesday, October 2, 2019
    • Monday, November 18, 2019
  • Potential applicants must be invited to apply by having an initial conversation with the MSI Director, Genita C. Robinson. Please contact Genita (grobinson@myforefront.org) directly to schedule a time.  Based on the initial conversation, she will provide guidance as to next steps, which may include suggesting that the Applicant take additional steps before submitting an application.
  • You may view a sample of the grant application here. The actual grant application will be shared with potential applicants after their initial conversation.
  • Applications must be submitted via e-mail to grobinson@myforefront.org in a single PDF document (except for the Applicant’s audit). Please be sure to check that you have included all required application components as noted on our checklist.

For any questions, to schedule an initial conversation, or to learn more, please contact Genita at grobinson@myforefront.org.

Eligibility for Grants 

The MSI is designed to support strategic partnerships.  We define strategic partnerships to include: nonprofit mergers, acquisitions, back office collaborations, joint ventures, and other long-term or permanent programmatic alliances.

  • The proposed strategic partnership must be intended to strengthen the Applicant’s effectiveness in fulfilling its mission, including the promise of improved services and outcomes for the Applicant’s constituents.
  • The Applicant must be a Chicago area-based nonprofit 501(c)(3).  Based upon the current funding sources for the grants, consideration will be given to Applicants in Cook, DuPage, Kane, and Lake counties. 
  • The Applicant must be exploring or implementing a nonprofit merger, acquisition, back office collaboration, joint venture, and other long-term or permanent programmatic alliance.
  • The Applicant and final entity that results from the partnership must be nonprofit organizations. 
  • Applicants with annual budgets of $10 million or less will receive priority consideration.  The Funders Committee will consider grants to larger organizations that demonstrate need.
  • The proposed strategic partnership should promise greater effectiveness or efficiency of work in the public interest. 


Selection Criteria 

Grant awards are determined by the MSI Funders Committee based upon the criteria below.

  • The grant will play a material and catalytic role in the exploration, design, or successful completion of the proposed strategic partnership.
  • The strategic partnership project proposed for funding is likely to go forward.    
  • The strategic partnership project proposed for funding will serve the public interest and the mission of the organization. 
  • There is alignment of mission among the Applicant and Proposed Partner(s). 
  • The Applicant and Proposed Partner(s) are committed to the long-term success of the strategic partnership.  
  • The project is likely to meaningfully increase the capacity, service delivery, effectiveness, and/or financial health of the nonprofit(s) involved. 
  • The Applicant and Proposed Partner(s) have engaged in a thoughtful pre-planning process.   
  • If the Applicant or the Proposed Partner(s) use of the grant is for the hiring of a consultant, there is a well-conceived scope of work. 
  • The budget relies upon reasonable assumptions, including projected expenses and timeframes.
  • The Applicant and Proposed Partner(s) are contributing financial resources according to their ability to do so.  
  • The proposed strategic partnership is likely to be sustainable over time. 


If funding is being requested for implementation:  

  • There has been formal board approval for the strategic partnership by each organization. 
  • There is a formal written plan detailing the scope of the strategic partnership with clear implementation steps and pre- and post-repositioning budgets. 
  • There is an agreed-upon, written plan to evaluate the success of the strategic partnership. 


MSI grant funds are not available for:

  • Strategic partnership projects that already appear to be on track and well-funded;
  • Any transaction involving only one organization (e.g., internal reorganization/restructuring) or any short-term activity (e.g., organizing a conference in partnership or working together on an informal basis);
  • Program-level only collaborations that do not involve a fundamental shift in the Applicant and/or Proposed Partner(s) business model (e.g., a nonprofit providing afterschool programming is not eligible for a grant because it “works” with a school); and
  • Staff time, ongoing programmatic and operational costs, or capital costs of the Applicant or Proposed Partner(s). 


Grant Amounts and Use

Grants will be made on a sliding scale from $5,000 to $75,000. Most grants awarded will be for less than the indicated maximum dollar amount.  Grants may be used to pay the necessary one-time, out-of-pocket costs incurred in exploring or implementing a strategic restructuring. Exploratory grants will generally be smaller than implementation grants and be awarded for strategic planning and consulting, though they may also be awarded for other purposes. Implementation grants may be awarded for a wide variety of purposes, including merging technology systems, closing out contracts or leases for property or equipment, human resources, cultural alignment of the Applicant and Proposed Partner(s), and communications.