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Our grant-making

We make grants to not-for-profit organisations across the globe that aim to make the world a safer, fairer, and more sustainable place to live.

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.

+ 300

Grants per year:
the majority of awards are
multi-year in duration.

USD 600,000

The average award:
they range between
USD 25,000 to USD 10 million.

We provide core support and project support grants

We commit multi-year, core support (unrestricted grants) where we can and when it fits within broader efforts. At Oak, core support has increased, from 22 per cent in 2013 to 42 per cent in 2021, and the intention is to continue this upward trend in the coming years. However, sometimes Oak pursues a specific objective within a partner organisation’s broader focus. In those situations, we may explore flexible project support where our priorities align.

Our application process

Oak Foundation has an invitation-only application process and we fund on a rolling basis. Grant applications are initiated in three ways:

Direct invitation
Programme officers investigate and learn about organisations that fit within our programme strategies. They will then invite organisations working in our areas of interest to submit a concept note and/or complete an application for funding. Read this document for more information on our timeline and process.

Letter of enquiry
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. If an organisation believes that strong alignment exists with Oak Foundation’s funding priorities, we encourage it to submit an unsolicited letter of enquiry. We will then invite applications for a grant only if we also find alignment with our funding priorities and if there is available budget.

Requests for proposals
We occasionally develop or join initiatives in our areas of interest by issuing calls for proposals on our website or convening policy makers, grantee partners, funders, or practitioners to explore solutions to critical issues.
We post all “Requests for
Proposals” on our career page.

Our application timeline

When we formally invite an organisation to apply for a grant, we discuss the size of the grant and whether it will be project support or core support (i.e., flexible and unrestricted funding). We work with organisations to develop the application in partnership, ensuring we communicate consistently about when and who will make the decision on a grant, how the application process works, and how long it will take. We also discuss the possibilities of renewal well in advance of the end of a grant. We consider all renewals as distinct and separate grants. The below timeline is an approximate timeline.

Step 1
Idea exchange & initial screen
Approximate timeline:
1 month

Step 2
Concept note & summary stage
Approximate timeline:
1 month

Step 3
Application development
Approximate timeline:
2 months

Step 4
Application review
Approximate timeline:
2-4 months

Step 5
Recommendation and decision
Approximate timeline:
1-2 months

Step 6
Notification and payment
Approximate timeline:
1-2 months

For more information about the different steps in the grant-making process, please see our Grant application process and timeline guidelines.

Notes: At any stage, a grant may be declined. If this happens, we will inform the applicant as soon as possible. An invitation to submit a summary or full application materials does not guarantee that a grant will be awarded.

Our funding 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. 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, we generally do not provide programme grants under USD 25,000

Additional grant-making

Special grants

Occasionally we make exceptionally large or significant grants to an organisation or a group of organisations. These grants usually address pertinent or pressing issues of our time and fall outside the remit and budget of our regular programmes. Search our grant database to learn more about these grants.

Discretionary grants

A discretionary grant is a donation initiated by one of Oak Foundation’s Trustees, Advisors, or staff. A discretionary grant can be given as unrestricted core or general support funding, programmatic or project support, or for emergency response.

Discretionary grants advance the foundation’s overall mission and are in line with Oak’s values. Every year, we publish the total amount provided in discretionary grants in our Annual Report.

If you have been approached by an Oak Trustee, Advisor, or staff to receive a discretionary grant, please reach out to them for more information on the process.

Are you ready to submit
a letter of enquiry?

You can access the letter of enquiry form by clicking on the button below. We encourage you to first read this page and the programme strategies before you submit a letter of enquiry. Please note that only a few submissions are approved each year. This is due to the volume of requests we receive.