How to apply

We consider requests for funding that meet the overall mission and goals of the Foundation. We fund a variety of time-bound projects, core costs, technical assistance and collaborative activities. Each programme has its own funding criteria, geographic scope and requirements.

We occasionally initiate our own programmes or form initiatives in our areas of interest by issuing calls for proposals on our website, or convening policymakers and practitioners to explore solutions to critical issues.

Our principles

While each programme has its own areas of focus, as a whole, we adhere to seven funding principles. These include funding initiatives that:

  • target root causes of problems;
  • are replicable either within a sector or across geographical locations;
  • include plans for long-term sustainability;
  • strive to collaborate with like-minded organisations;
  • demonstrate good financial and organisational management;
  • value the participation of people (including children) and communities; and
  • have secured co-funding;

Trends in our grant-making

Oak Foundation has an annual grant-making budget of more than USD 200 million and makes grants to organisations located in countries worldwide. See our recent Annual Report for more details on our grant-making.

Our grant-making has evolved over the years and in recent times we have increased:

  • the length and size of grants;
  • the number of core support grants;
  • support to capacity building, policy work, campaigns and new types of social movements; and
  • joint programming work to address issues from many different perspectives.


Funding Restrictions

We do not provide support to individuals, and do not provide funding for scholarships or tuition assistance for undergraduate or postgraduate studies. We also do not fund religious organisations for religious purposes or election campaigns.

Except in special circumstances or in Zimbabwe, we generally do not provide programme grants under USD 25,000.


Programme officers will invite an organisation working in our areas of interest to submit a concept note and/or complete an application for funding. Not-for-profit organisations that have not been invited to apply by a programme officer can submit unsolicited requests for funding through our Letter of Enquiry process.

For programme officers to make the best possible recommendation for funding, they strive to gain the most comprehensive view of the organisation, its board members, the project and finances. Therefore, we have a rigorous due diligence and selection process, which includes extensive discussions, financial reviews and site visits.

Funding decisions are made by the Board of Trustees, either individually or as a group. While the Board of Trustees meets twice annually, grants are considered on a rolling basis throughout the calendar year.

This process does not have a set time frame. It can take from two months to more than a year from the submission of a concept note to final approval, as indicated in the chart on this page. The formal application process begins only when an organisation is invited to submit an application.

Timing depends on a number of factors, but we work to ensure the most efficient process possible. After the initial approval of a concept note, organisations are encouraged to reach out to programme officers to learn about the grant-making process and the stages of the application.

The lines of communication between the programme officer and the organisations are always open once the organisation has been invited to apply – it is a collaborative effort.

We greatly appreciate learning about organisations around the world that also aim to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged.  Therefore, Oak Foundation accepts unsolicited requests for funding through a letter of enquiry. However, please note that the majority of our grant-making is not initiated by our letter of enquiry process.

Follow these steps:

Step 1: Review Oak Foundation's criteria for funding
Read Oak Foundation's criteria for funding, review previous grants in our grant database and assess whether your organisation meets the general requirements of the Foundation.

Step 2: Read Programme requirements
Each programme has its own goals, geographic scope, funding restrictions and requirements for funding. Please read our programme pages for details. Note that programme budgets are often committed well in advance, so please ensure that you propose any time-sensitive projects sufficiently in advance.

Letters of enquiry that do not fit programme geographies and strategies, or are time-bound without sufficient notice, will not be considered.

Step 3: Submit a request for funding
Organisations who are interested in seeking a grant should submit a letter of enquiry through our online form. Please note that this submission is not part of Oak’s formal grant process, which begins only after a formal application is submitted at Oak’s request.

We will respond within three months if we require further information or if the applicant is invited to submit a formal proposal. Unfortunately, due to the volume of requests that we receive, will not respond if your letter of enquiry does not meet the requirements of the programme.

We would be most appreciative if you do not contact the Foundation directly to discuss your request.  For initial contact, please do not telephone or visit the offices. Thank you for your understanding.