Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant Program

Context

OCF understands the important role that entrepreneurs play in shaping our economic and community vitality in Oregon. For over a decade, OCF has provided grants to nonprofit organizations that support entrepreneurs across the state.

Entrepreneurs have big ideas and creative ways to solve problems. Still, they often need help developing their business plans, creating go-to-market strategies, recruiting talented teams or board members, and raising money. We know entrepreneurs who are women, people of color, or live in under-resourced rural communities struggle more than others to grow and scale their companies.

2024 Goals

The Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant provides an open, responsive grantmaking opportunity that offers organizations flexible funding, with prioritized support for those organizations that serve entrepreneurs who are women, people of color, living in under-resourced rural communities, or working in under-resourced sectors such as consumer products. Funding is not available for individuals; OCF makes grants to eligible organizations only.

Guiding Principles

  • We value Oregon’s diverse regions and populations, and seek to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion through our funding.
  • We are committed to funding across Oregon with grant dollars reaching our remote, rural, suburban, and urban communities across every region of our state.
  • We prioritize investments that creatively address needs and position entrepreneurs to thrive in Oregon.
  • We prioritize investments demonstrating strong community support, solid planning, and wise stewardship.

Funding Priorities

We know that funding needs will far exceed our limited grant dollars. Priority will be given to organizations with either a demonstrated track record of success working with diverse entrepreneurs or a promising approach and plan to serve entrepreneurs in a new way. Both experienced and new organizations are encouraged to apply.

Nondiscrimination Policy

OCF does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ability/disability, age, status as a veteran, national origin, or any other protected class. Applicants for the 2024 Thriving Entrepreneurs Grants must hold similar standards in the provision of services.

Application Details

Funds Available

In 2024, OCF anticipates awarding $750,000. We aim to fund a mix of proposals in communities across Oregon and anticipate funding organizations serving diverse entrepreneurs.

Timeline

There is one opportunity to apply for a Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant in 2024. The application will open on June 3, 2024, and all applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on July 12, 2024. As part of the decision-making process, applicants may be contacted via phone or a virtual meeting for additional information.

Notice of funding will be provided by November 29, 2024.

Grant Types and Amounts

All grants will be one year (12 months) in duration. Applicants may apply for programmatic support or project specific funding. Staffing expenses are allowed. Applicants should apply for the amount they need and describe why they need that amount, but most grants will not exceed $25,000.

Application Process

The application window opens June 3, 2024, and applications are due July 12, 2024, at 5:00 p.m., with all decisions made by mid-November 2024.

Online applications are accepted through MyOCF. 

To see the list of application questions, please visit here.

GENERAL ORGANIZATIONAL ELIGIBILITY

  • 501(c)(3) organizations, Tribal entities, and government entities are eligible to apply. Additionally, other types of organizations may work with a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor to submit an application. Applicants must submit formal paperwork confirming the fiscal sponsor relationship.
  • Organizations with an active Community Grant or any other OCF grant are eligible to apply. Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant recipients from past years are also eligible to apply.
  • Organizations may submit only one application for a 2024 Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant, unless they are an umbrella organization or a fiscal sponsor for a separate application.

What We Look for in Strong Proposals

The strongest proposals will:

  • Address a clear and compelling business community need
  • Have goals/work that are relevant to Oregon’s entrepreneurs, including small and micro businesses
  • If the project addresses the needs of a specific population, have staff and board with demonstrated cultural expertise to serve that population
  • Demonstrate that people with lived experience are meaningfully leading and/or influencing the work
  • Reflect realistic goals and solid planning
  • Show strong potential to build the organization’s stability, effectiveness, or capacity
  • Demonstrate strong community support, including the support of people being served
  • Clearly communicate the role and potential impact of an OCF grant in this moment
  • Have a realistic plan for securing remaining funds needed to carry out the work within the grant period
  • If the proposal involves new staff or other significant on-going expenses, explain how the organization is thinking about long-term sustainability

Priority will be given to organizations that:

  • Primarily serve one or more priority populations (women, people of color, under-resourced rural communities, or sectors)
  • Are reasonably positioned for long-term organizational viability

  • Support OCF in advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion through our funding
  • Reflect a strengths-based orientation
  • Work to create positive, substantive change

Activities We Typically Won’t Fund in 2024

  • Capital Projects

  • Projects in individual K-12 schools

  • Grants to subsidize participation (scholarships) or re-granting programs

  • Purchases or activities that occur prior to grant decisions

  • Deficit funding

  • Funding for public entities to replace government dollars

  • Lobbying to influence legislation (a particular bill)

  • Scientific research

  • Religious activities

  • Annual fund appeals and contributions to endowments

How to Apply

The application window opens June 3, 2024, and applications are due July 12, 2024, at 5pm, with decisions made by mid November 2024. Online applications are accepted through MyOCF. Your organization will need to register and set up an account to apply.

Important! In an effort to expand access to more avenues of funding at OCF, organizations who choose not to submit a Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant application are invited to share their current needs with donors by completing this Organizational Profile Tool.

Organizations that apply for a Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant may have information about their proposal shared with OCF donors and funding partners. We encourage applicants to provide clear and complete project descriptions to support donor connections.

Questions?

Please see the FAQ section at the bottom of this page.

For questions about the program and submitting a competitive application, please contact Megan Loeb, Senior Program Officer for Economic Vitality and Housing, mloeb@oregoncf.org;  or join us for open office hours on Tuesday, May 28 at 3 p.m. or Wednesday, June 12 at 10 a.m.: Office Hours.

For technical assistance in preparing and submitting the online application (application window opens June 3rd), please email grants@oregoncf.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the deadline for applications? If approved, how long will it take to receive funding?
What geographic regions are eligible to apply for funds?
Is this program accepting multi-year requests?
Are 501(c)(3)s the only organizations eligible to apply?
How do I apply for funding from the Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant Program?
Can my organization submit more than one application?
I recently received or applied for a different grant from OCF. Am I eligible to apply to Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant Program?
What does the term “culturally specific” mean to OCF?
What is OCF’s definition of a “rural-based organization”?
How can our organization share our needs with OCF advised fund donors so they may also contribute to our efforts?
I’m having trouble with the online application system. Who do I contact for assistance?
I have questions about whether my nonprofit fits this grant program. Who do I contact for more information?