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, but they often need help developing their business plans, go-to-market strategies, recruiting talented teams or board members, and raising money. We know entrepreneurs who are women, people of color, or who live in rural communities struggle more than others to grow and scale their companies.

2021 Goals

The Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant is designed to provide 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 rural communities, or working in under-resourced sectors such as consumer products. Priority will also be given to organizations that work with entrepreneurs who are aspiring to develop traded sector companies. Funding is not available for individuals; OCF makes grants to nonprofits only.

Guiding Principles

  • We value Oregon’s diverse regions and populations, and we 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 give high priority to investments that are creatively addressing needs and position entrepreneurs to thrive in Oregon.
  • We prioritize investments that demonstrate 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 that either have 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 2021 Thriving Entrepreneurs Grants must hold similar standards in the provision of services.

Application Details

Funds Available

In 2021, OCF anticipates awarding at least $500,000. We aim to fund a mix of proposals in communities across Oregon and anticipate funding organizations serving diverse entrepreneurs.  

Timeline

There was one opportunity to apply for a Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant in 2021.  The application opened on May 18, 2021 and closed on June 25, 2021.  As part of the decision-making process, applicants may be contacted for additional information or a virtual site visit during the summer.  Notice of funding may be provided as early as August, but all decisions may not be finalized until November 2021.

Grant Types and Amounts

All grants will be one year 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 opened May 18, 2021 and closed June 25, 2021, with all decisions to be made by early November 2021.

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, Oregon Community Recovery Fund grant or any other OCF grant are eligible to apply.
  • Organizations scheduled to apply for renewal of an active Community Grant may submit either a Community Grants Renewal application or a new 2021 Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant application, but not both.
  • Organizations may apply for a 2021 Thriving Entrepreneurs Grant only once.

What We Look for in Strong Proposals

The strongest proposals will:

  • Address a clear and compelling community need
  • Have goals/work that are relevant to Oregon’s entrepreneurs
  • If the project addresses the needs of a specific population, have staff and board with appropriate 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 expense, explain how they are thinking about sustainability 

Priority will be given to organizations that:

  • Primarily serve one or more priority populations (women, people of color, living in rural communities, or working in under-resourced 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 2021

  • Capital Projects
  • Projects in individual 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 opened May 18, 2021, and closed June 25, 2021, at 5pm, with decisions to be made by early November 2021. 

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 Melissa Freeman, Director of Strategic Projects, mfreeman@oregoncf.org.

For technical assistance in preparing and submitting the online application (application window opens May 18), 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?