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Grant-making at Oak Foundation

Since Oak Foundation was founded in 1983, we have made over 4,650 grants to not-for-profits across the globe.

We partner with organisations that work to advance the foundation’s overall mission and the strategic goals within programmes. Each programme has its own funding criteria, geographic scope and requirements. The programmes are managed by dedicated staff with deep field expertise and networks.

Oak Foundation has an invitation-only application process. The majority of awards are made to our long-standing partners or are invited to apply based on fieldwork and research.

Although we operate an invitation-only application process, we want to hear about ideas and work that fit within our programme strategies. Therefore, if an organisation believes that strong alignment exists with Oak Foundation’s funding priorities, we encourage the organisation to submit an unsolicited letter of enquiry. We will invite the organisation to apply for a grant if we also find alignment with our funding priorities and if there is available budget.

We occasionally develop or join 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.

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 who have not been invited to apply by a programme officer can submit unsolicited requests for funding through our letter of enquiry process.

Our 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.

For more information about the process and the timeline please click here.

Grant-making statistics and trends

Annually, approximately USD 250 million is distributed to over 300 not-for-profit partners. The size of grant awards vary from approximately USD 25,000 to USD 7 million, with an average award of USD 600,000. The majority of awards are multi-year in duration. Grants support a variety of project, general, technical assistance and collaborative activity costs. Our grant-making has evolved over the years and in recent times we have increased:

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

See our recent Annual Report or visit our online grant database for more details on our grant-making.

Our principles

In all of our work, we are committed to social justice. To this end, we pursue rights-based approaches, gender equality and partnership with the organisations we fund. We seek to support innovation, visionary leaders and organisations. We seek to be inclusive, flexible and to learn from different points of view. We believe that the best grant-making reflects both careful due diligence and the willingness to take risks.

We encourage our partners to work together – we believe that together we are stronger. As a whole we fund initiatives that:

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

Creating long-lasting change

We believe in providing long-term support to our partners to help create long-lasting change; we also believe that our partners benefit from having diverse funding sources to promote resiliency and to achieve the impact they desire. Therefore, we generally fund no more than 50 per cent of any project budget or 20 per cent of organisational budgets. Requests to fund higher levels should be discussed with the programme officer.

We do not provide support for:

  • individuals;
  • scholarships or tuition assistance for undergraduate or postgraduate studies;
  • religious organisations for religious purposes;
  • election campaigns;
  • except in special circumstances or in Zimbabwe, we generally do not provide programme grants under USD 25,000.