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Grants FAQ

  1. What types of projects do you fund?
  2. What is the average size of your grants? Average duration?
  3. Do Fund program staff seek out and develop projects, or do you accept unsolicited proposals?
  4. What types of organizations do you fund?
  5. Do you fund for-profit organizations?
  6. Do you fund international projects?
  7. Does the Fund provide fellowship or scholarship support for individuals?
  8. How does the Fund use grantmaking to honor its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion?
  9. How can I apply for funding? Is there an application form? 
  10. Are there deadlines for submitting my request for funding?
  11. Are there guidelines for developing my application?
  12. What if there is uncertainty about the level of the funding request at the letter of inquiry stage?
  13. What if an individual has a project idea that fits with the Fund’s program goals, but does not have an institutional base from which to carry out the work?
  14. Do you have a budget template or sample budgets I can use in developing my budget?
  15. What if I have additional questions about the Fund’s grantmaking process?

1. What types of projects do you fund? 

The Commonwealth Fund carries out its mission by supporting independent research on health care issues and making grants to improve health care practice and policy. 

The Fund’s current programs are: Health Care Coverage, Access, and Tracking; Health Care Delivery System Reform; Advancing Health Equity; Controlling Health Care Costs; International Health Policy and Practice Innovations; Advancing Medicare; Medicaid; and Federal and State Health Policy. The Fund has recently launched new initiatives focused on Behavioral Health, Public Health Modernization, and Climate Change and Health Care

Within these programs, preference is given to proposals that seek to: clarify the scope of serious and neglected problems; develop, test, and evaluate the impact of practical, innovative models for addressing such problems; disseminate tools and models of care that have been proven to be effective; or analyze the impact of specific policies or trends. To review descriptions of funding priorities and lists of recently approved grants, please click on the programs above. 

The Fund does not support: 

  • General support, ongoing activities, or existing deficits 
  • Endowment or capital costs, including construction, renovation, or equipment 
  • Basic biomedical research 
  • Conferences, symposia, major media projects, or documentaries, unless they are an outgrowth of one of the Fund’s programs 
  • Individuals or scholarships, outside of the Fund’s existing fellowship programs 
  • Churches or other religious organizations unless the project for which they are seeking funding is entirely secular in nature. 

2. What is the average size of your grants? Average duration? 

During fiscal year 2020–21, the average award amount was $180,145, with an average term of 12 months. 

3. Do Fund program staff seek out and develop projects, or do you accept unsolicited proposals? 

Program staff at the Commonwealth Fund develop projects with prospective grantees and also respond to and fund unsolicited proposals. The Fund accepts letters of inquiry (LOI) on a rolling basis. Program staff will provide deadlines for projects under development. 

4. What types of organizations do you fund? 

The Fund awards grants to tax-exempt organizations and public agencies. If an organization does not have 501(c)(3) status or other tax-exempt recognition, the Fund may take expenditure responsibility for the grant. 
 

5. Do you fund for-profit organizations? 

The Fund may award grants to for-profit organizations in cases where funds are earmarked for charitable purposes, but no suitable nonprofit grantee organization is available to conduct the work.

6. Do you fund international projects?

Yes. Although the majority of the Fund’s support is focused on domestic issues, internationally focused projects are funded through the International Health Policy and Practice Innovations program. The program is dedicated to building an international network of policy-oriented health care researchers, sparking innovative health policy thinking and high-level international exchanges, and encouraging comparative research and collaboration. 

7. Does the Fund provide fellowship or scholarship support for individuals? 

The Commonwealth Fund supports and manages the Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy and Practice. Commonwealth Fund grantees direct the Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in Minority Health Policy at Harvard University, based at Harvard Medical School with degrees granted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and the Pozen-Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in Health Equity Leadership at Yale University, based at the Yale School of Management. The Fund also supports other small fellowship initiatives through grantee organizations. Outside of the Harkness Fellowships program, the Fund is not able to provide direct support for fellowships or scholarships or provide any direct grants or assistance to individuals. The Foundation Directory Online, an online tool from Candid, provides an up-to-date database of philanthropic giving to help individuals seeking support. 

8. How does the Fund use grantmaking to honor its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion? 

The Commonwealth Fund has sought to catalyze change and eliminate disparities in health care policy, practices, and outcomes for more than 100 years. Over the past few years, we have taken additional steps to make our grantmaking more equitable and to intentionally fund a diverse range of institutions and investigators. In 2021, we launched a grantmaking initiative with an explicit goal to advance equity in U.S. health care. You can learn more about this effort by visiting the Advancing Health Equity program page. Administratively, we have revised our proposal and reporting guidelines and streamlined our processes to alleviate burden. We will continue to evaluate our grantmaking methods through an equity lens and evolve our programs and processes as we fulfill our commitment to becoming an antiracist organization. 

9. How can I apply for funding? Is there an application form? 

Submit a letter of inquiry (LOI) to initiate the grant application process. Following review of the letter of inquiry, Commonwealth Fund program staff will solicit full grant proposals where there may be a fit with program funding priorities. Applicants are typically advised of the results of their inquiries within a month and often sooner. 

10. Are there deadlines for submitting my request for funding? 

Letters of inquiry are accepted on a rolling basis; there are no deadlines. Typically, projects recommended for board approval are in development for a few months before a funding decision is made. The Fund’s board meetings are held in April, July, and November. Small and intermediate grants are approved on a monthly basis. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) will have deadlines which are shown in the grants portal and on the RFP announcement. 

11. Are there guidelines for developing my application? 

Guidelines for submitting an online letter of inquiry can be found here. 

Prospective grantees should not develop a full proposal without a specific request from the Fund. If a Fund program staff member requests a full proposal and budget, please visit the Applicant and Grantee Resources section of our website, which includes detailed guidelines for those documents and other supporting materials. 

12. What if there is uncertainty about the level of the funding request at the letter of inquiry stage? 

Uncertainty about budget amounts and sources at the letter of inquiry stage is fine. At that stage, be sure to include an estimate of the total budget amount, and state whether you anticipate having cofunders. The Fund actively seeks out collaboration with other funders; in 2020–21, Fund program appropriations leveraged an additional 24 percent in support from other funding organizations. 

13. What if an individual has a project idea that fits with the Fund’s program goals, but does not have an institutional base from which to carry out the work? 

If an individual who is not affiliated with a particular organization requests funding for a project related to the one of the Fund’s major program areas and the project is of interest to Fund staff, then staff will work with the individual to try to identify a suitable grant-receiving organization to house the project and administer the grant, prior to any funding decision. 

14. Do you have a budget template or sample budgets I can use in developing my budget? 

Yes, but please remember that a full budget is not required at the letter of inquiry stage. Applicants who are contacted by Fund staff regarding the development of their letter of inquiry into a full proposal will find budget guidelines and templates available on the Applicant and Grantee Resources page. 

15. What if I have additional questions about the Fund’s grantmaking process? 

Send email inquiries to [email protected] To view the Fund’s current funding priorities, click here.