Blurb about why Forefront rocks, caption for photo


We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about the Mission Sustainability Initiative and its services. If you have any further questions, please email Genita Robinson, Director of the MSI, at

About the MSI


What is the Mission Sustainability Initiative?  

The MSI offers a confidential, transparent, and accessible process for organizations to consider strategic partnerships and collaborations as a tool to further their mission. Strategic partnerships and collaborations may take the form of a co-location, a back-office collaborative, a joint venture, a merger or acquisition, or other long-term or permanent partnership that changes the way of doing business of the organizations involved. The MSI provides information, educational resources, referrals to pro bono legal and specialized consulting services, and grants to help meet the costs of exploring or implementing a partnership.


Why is this project needed?

Long-term or permanent partnerships can sometimes be a good choice to respond to a rapidly changing external environment or to increase the effectiveness or efficiency of nonprofit work. A number of other regions across the country operate similar programs dedicated to long-term or permanent strategic partnerships and collaborations, and their positive experience has helped to inform the development of the MSI.

What is the desired impact? What will the benefits be?

In addition to providing support for exploration and implementation of long-term or permanent strategic partnerships and collaborations, the MSI has four primary objectives:

About the Grants Process


Do I need to be a Forefront Member, or must my organization be located in a particular part of the state, to apply for a grant?

All of the MSI resources, including grants, are available to organizations regardless of their Forefront Membership status. Grants are currently only available to organizations in Cook, DuPage, Kane, and Lake Counties.


How much money will be available for grants?

Our goal is to award $1 million in grants over the next three years. We also offer in-kind support in the form of education and access to assessments and other tools.

How large are grants?

Although actual grant amounts depend on the specifics of the proposed transaction, we make three types of grants:

Are organizations expected to move through all three stages of funding support?

No. Each type of funding request is considered independently (as opposed to being part of a formal continuum from pre-exploratory to exploratory to implementation). Some organizations may receive an implementation grant following an exploratory grant. It is also anticipated that after conducting thorough exploratory work, some collaborative projects will not proceed to implementation based upon the findings of the exploration. No organization or potential partnership will receive more than $75,000 in cumulative funding regardless of which types of grant(s) they receive.


What kinds of projects are eligible for a grant?

Grant support is available to cover the necessary one-time, out-of-pocket costs incurred in exploring or implementing a strategic collaboration. These costs may be modest compared with the potential benefits of the collaboration, but they often become stumbling blocks because most funding is tied to programs and unavailable for process-related costs. MSI grants will not support the ongoing programmatic, operational, or capital costs of the grant applicant or proposed partner(s). Due to our partnership with the Community Law Project and the availability of pro bono legal support, the MSI will not fund legal costs.


When and how do I apply for a grant?  

Grant guidelines and a sample grant application are available on our website. Grant applications may be submitted at any time, but the MSI Funders Committee reviews grants six times per year, with deadlines listed on the website. We are committed to getting responses within 45 days to applicants whom submit by the posted deadlines. Potential applicants must be invited to apply by having an initial conversation with the MSI Director, Genita C. Robinson. Please contact Genita at to schedule a time. Potential applicants should be aware that there is a particularly high demand for appointments leading up to the posted deadlines. Based on the initial conversation, Genita will provide guidance as to next steps, which may include suggesting that the applicant take additional steps before submitting an application.


Will applying for a grant jeopardize my funding or funding prospects with members of the MSI Funders Committee? 

The members of the Funders Committee believe that nonprofit boards, leaders, and funders should routinely consider strategic partnerships. Organizations that make the decision to undertake the hard work of exploring strategic partnerships should be acknowledged, encouraged, and supported by funders. Recognizing the sensitive nature in general of partnership negotiations, initial conversations with the MSI Director are confidential. When and if the Director recommends a grant proposal to the Funders Committee, the names of the applicant and potential partner(s) will be disclosed to the Funders Committee. Grants are made public only once the grantees announce their partnership or give the MSI permission to publicly disclose the grant.

About MSI Resources


Do I need to be a Forefront Member, or must my organization be located in a particular part of the state, to access MSI resources?

All of the MSI resources are available to organizations regardless of their Forefront Membership status.

What other resources are available? 

The MSI has assembled a set of resource materials that should help you get started with considering and planning a strategic restructuring. You can find them here.


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