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Grants FAQ

General

The mission of the Commonwealth Fund is to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society's most vulnerable, including people with low incomes, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and the elderly.

The Fund carries out this mandate by supporting independent research on health care issues and making grants to improve health care practice and policy. An international program in health policy is designed to stimulate innovative policies and practices in the United States and other industrialized countries. The Commonwealth Fund actively seeks to support projects on innovative approaches to addressing problems within its areas of focus, working in partnership with professionals and organizations in a range of fields. The Fund's current programs are:

Health Care Coverage and Access
Health Care Delivery System Reform
International Health Policy and Practice Innovations
Advancing Medicare
Controlling Health Care Costs
Medicaid
Federal and State Health Policy
Communications & Outreach
Tracking Health System Performance

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 particular policies or trends. You can review descriptions of funding priorities and lists of recently approved grants by clicking on the programs above.

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

During fiscal year 2016–17, the average award amount was $150,223. Typical grant terms were 12 to 18 months. The Fund awards grants that support a complete project period, rather than annual, renewable grants.

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

Program staff at the Commonwealth Fund both develop projects with prospective grantees and respond to and fund unsolicited proposals. In 2016–17, 15 percent of approved grants originated as unsolicited letters of inquiry, 50 percent were jointly developed, and 35 percent were solicited by Fund staff. 

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. (link to ER guidelines).

Do you fund for-profit organizations?

The Fund may award grants to for-profit organizations when funds are earmarked for charitable purposes, and when a suitable nonprofit grantee organization is not available to conduct the work.

Do you fund international projects?

Yes. Although the majority of the Fund's support is focused on domestic issues, international projects are funded through the International Health Policy and Practice Innovations area. 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.

Does the Fund provide fellowship or scholarship support for individuals?

The Commonwealth Fund supports two major fellowship programs—the Harkness Fellowships in Health Care Policy and Practice and Commonwealth Fund Mongan Fellowship in Minority Health Policy, based at Harvard Medical School, and also supports a few other small fellowship initiatives through grantee organizations. Outside of the Harkness Fellowship Program, the Fund is not allowed to provide direct support for fellowships or scholarships for individuals, or provide any direct grants or assistance to individuals. The Foundation Center provides resources for individuals seeking foundation support.

Application Process

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

The Commonwealth Fund requests letters of inquiry to initiate the grant application process. Following their review of the letters of inquiry, program staff will solicit full grant proposals in cases where there may be a fit with our programs’ funding priorities. Applicants are typically advised of the results of their inquiries within four to six weeks.

Please review the Fund’s Guide to the Online Inquiry Application before you register and submit your letter of inquiry.

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 at least four to six months before a board meeting. The Fund’s board meetings are held in July, November, and April of each year. Small grants are approved on a monthly basis.

Are there guidelines for developing my application?

At the letter of inquiry stage, if you are making your first approach to the Fund on a particular topic, please follow the guidelines for submitting an online letter of inquiry.

If a Fund program staff member has contacted you to discuss your letter of inquiry and asked that you submit a full proposal and budget, please visit the Applicant Resources page of our website, which includes guidelines for developing proposals and budgets. Prospective grantees should not develop a full proposal without specific direction from a Fund program officer, following submission of a letter of inquiry.

How long will it take for my letter of inquiry to be reviewed?

Letters of inquiry are acknowledged when received. The typical initial review could take up to six weeks, although in most cases we are able to respond more quickly.

Can a grantseeker submit more than one letter of inquiry at the same time for different projects?

Yes, the Fund will review more than one letter of inquiry from one researcher.

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 the letter of inquiry 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; approximately 9 percent of approved projects in fiscal year 2016–17 had cofounding.

Fund staff will not review full line-item budgets at the letter of inquiry stage. If prospective grantees are requested to prepare a full proposal and budget, guidelines are available on the Applicant Resources page of our website.

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 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.

Budget

Do you have a budget template or sample budgets I can use in developing our 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 Resources page.

Do I need to develop a line item budget?

Yes, the Fund requires a line item budget, with justification, for all projects that are recommended for funding. Remember, the Fund does not require a detailed budget at the letter of inquiry stage.

Is there a limit on the indirect rate?

The Commonwealth Fund allows overhead to be charged at a rate not to exceed 10 percent of total direct costs. We consider direct costs to be those costs directly related to carrying out the project for which the Fund is providing support (i.e., project staff salaries and fringe benefits, travel, consultants, meeting expenses, office expenses). Subcontracts with an institution, purchased services (e.g., data and consulting), and direct educational support (including fellowships, scholarships, tuition, and stipends) are excluded from the indirect cost calculation. The 10 percent allowance is intended to include space rental, furniture, equipment, heat, electricity, accounting services, library services, and the like. If any of these charges is to be listed separately, then the sum of that charge and indirect charge cannot exceed the 10 percent allowance.

Do I need to show other project support?

If the Fund is providing only a portion of the funding for the project, the budget should have separate columns both for the entire budget and for the Fund's grant. The source, project period, and amount of other funding should be specified. Letters of commitment from the other funders should also be attached.

Current Grantees

Can we reallocate funds after a budget is approved?

Yes. Fund Grantees are allowed to make changes in the approved budget, up to $10,000 (line items added or deleted, or transfers among line items amounting to $10,000), without advance approval from the Fund. For amounts greater than $10,000, and for any major changes in project objectives, implementation strategy, key personnel, timetable, or in the approved budget for the project, the grantee should request approval from the responsible Fund officer in writing, and wait for the Fund's approval before such changes are implemented.

Where can I find reporting guidelines?

Visit the Grantee Resources page for reporting guidelines.

We will not be able to finish our project in approved time frame, what should I do?

You should request a no-cost extension, in writing, from the responsible program officer. Please be sure to include a reason for the request. Your request will be reviewed by the program officer and the grants management office. The Fund understands the unpredictable nature of policy research, surveys, data analysis, and applied research, and recognizes that even the best-planned project can encounter delays. At the same time, much of the Fund's projects are timely in the sense that they are designed to have an impact on current policy and priorities, and lengthy delays may affect the final impact they may have. Please be prepared to address this issue as it applies to your project.

What if I have questions about the Fund's grantmaking process that have not been answered here?

Please feel free to contact:

Grants Management Office
Telephone: (212) 606-3800
E-mail Inquiries should be directed to: grants@cmwf.org.