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Turning Ideas
Into Impact

Our annual competitive grants process is one of the best ways for us to learn about the creative ideas of our local nonprofits. The grant submissions help us decide where to focus our discretionary grants. And we share the information with the community, other funders and with our donors who have a similar passion. This gives them a great opportunity to know about your work and to contribute.

We award competitive grants once a year

To be eligible, your organization must be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; be based in or serving Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, or Citrus counties; and exhibit strong management and sound leadership.

How It Works

The competitive grants process has two stages: letter of intent and full application. During the specified timeframe, registered 501(c)(3) nonprofits may submit a letter of intent (LOI) to outline a funding need. We will then review the LOIs and invite several to proceed to a full application.


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The Review

More than 50 reviewers assess the full applications. The reviewers include Foundation staff and members of our regional councils, and Board of Trustees. The process is highly competitive. Only about one in 10 letters of intent receive funding. It is important to note that most proposals we receive meet all the minimum requirements. Our discretionary funding is not enough to fund every good idea. That is why we share the top vetted applications with donors, other funders and the community.

Do your best to communicate what sets your organization apart. And please know that results are not an indication of the worthiness of your project.

Focus Areas For Competitive Grants

Through and with our donors, we fund organizations and projects across the nonprofit spectrum. With our discretionary grants, we target five areas of focus. This helps us better concentrate our impact.

Community Vibrancy

  • Arts and culture projects that engage the community
  • Projects that build resiliency and environmental sustainability
  • Local projects for community improvement

Economic Mobility

  • Education beyond high school
  • Career-readiness training
  • Apprenticeships and on-the-job training

Empowering Women & Girls

  • Support for domestic violence victims
  • Access to health and mental wellness resources
  • Programs to improve the economic status of women and girls

Mental Well-Being

  • Trauma-informed care models
  • Programs that address suicide and addiction
  • Models for reduction of mental health stigmas

Positive Education

  • Strength-based approach that emphasizes critical life skills
  • Kindergarten readiness
  • Social emotional learning and growth mindset


Previous Grants

Next Steps

Acknowledgment and Reporting

We encourage you to acknowledge your grant from the Community Foundation Tampa Bay — whether you receive the grant through the competitive grants process or as a grant from one of our donor advised funds or foundations. Please share on your website, social media, newsletter and other appropriate places. You will find guidelines and helpful information in the PR Toolkit below. We also welcome an opportunity to make a formal check presentation to your Board.

A follow-up report will be due online one year after you receive funding.

Competitive Grants Eligibility and Evaluation Criteria

Reviewers use these criteria as a guide, not a definitive checklist. Overall, we look for signs of efficient and effective organizations. We want to hear about how you are achieving success. Please ensure that your submissions are complete, contain sufficient detail to describe your project, and are well-written.


We look for demonstrations of partnerships, such as third-party letters of support, and multiple funding sources.


We want to see how your project is different. We also want evidence that it is based in research and best practice.

Measurable Outcomes

We think of competitive grants as investments. So, show us metrics that support the work and demonstrate positive impact in the community.

Community Visibility

When your project is visible and can be described clearly, it encourages future support and funding opportunities.


We evaluate projects on inclusive practices, equitable outcomes, populations served and community impact.

Frequently Asked Questions and Tips 

Only about one in 10 letters of Intent (LOIs) receive funding and only about a third of the Full Applications receive funding.

Any nonprofit based in or serving Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando or Citrus counties is eligible to compete for a grant.

Our average competitive grant award in 2021 was $18,890, but grant amounts ranged from $6,500 to $42,000.

Take a look at our Previous Grants Awarded to get a good idea of the sort of grants that have been successfully awarded.

Only about one in 10 letters of Intent (LOIs) receive funding and only about a third of the Full Applications receive funding.

Generally, our competitive grants are not designed to fund:

Grants to individuals (rent, utilities, etc.)

Operating, administration or fundraising costs

Annual appeals, fundraising events, membership contributions

Capital campaigns or purchase of capital items over $1,000

Political campaigns or direct lobbying efforts

Religious or sectarian purposes

Medical or scientific research.

12 Tips for Successful Grant Proposals

If you do some research and make a personal connection with your funder, your proposal is more apt to align with their goals.
Some funders are all about helping you operate at maximum capacity, while others are more interested in funding an initiative that can take your work to the next level.
Ask for the formal rubric for scoring the grant. Many funders will share them. If there isn’t one, that may tell you that your story is more important than the technical points.
Painting the picture of the impact you make on the people you serve is often an overlooked element in a successful proposal. Weave your story in with the plan for what you hope to accomplish.
Funders want to see that you have support from numerous sources. If most of your money comes from one source, you could be at risk if that funding is lost.
It’s important to articulate what you can do for your funder. Do they want credit? Can you help them look good to their boards? Can you enhance their reputation in the community?
Be respectful of the funder that took a chance on you. If your existing funder feels a sense of ownership, they may be uncomfortable with a new funder getting equal recognition.
How often and how much does your funder want updates? Beyond the formal reporting requirements, be willing to offer occasional informal progress check-ins.
If you don’t get funding, set up a meeting to learn why. Feedback is an invaluable process of putting together a strong grant.
You’re spending time and money on this so begin to track the effort. You want to balance effort with opportunity, so be sure to consider all the costs before applying.
Plain language almost always wins out over jargon and academic language. Keep it simple while still demonstrating the value of your work and its complexities.
There are funders who are willing to take a risk on a big idea. Demonstrate confidence in your ability to see something through and be honest about the outcomes, even if they are not favorable.

Critical Needs

While nonprofits provide services to those most in need within our community, many are often under-resourced and a single, unexpected event can dramatically impact their ability to provide crucial services. To address these unexpected needs, Community Foundation Tampa Bay has created the Critical Needs List for nonprofits to share those urgent, unexpected needs with community philanthropists. A critical need is defined as unbudgeted, unforeseen, and time-sensitive, and one that significantly interferes with a nonprofit’s ability to provide crucial services or presents an imminent threat to the organization’s continued operations. Please view our list submitted by local nonprofits below.
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