Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Program

Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Fund

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Contribute to SVCF’s Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Program

Applications are accepted year-round. Submit your application here.

The Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment program is a year-round grantmaking fund that invests in the effectiveness and sustainability of nonprofit organizations serving San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Organizations seeking to apply should have a clear focus on equity and racial justice and a process to integrate community voice into their work. Priority will be given to organizations with annual budgets under $1 million that are led by Black, Indigenous or other leaders of color, and to allied organizations.

The program was designed and shaped by lessons learned from prior SVCF capacity-building efforts such as the Community Leadership Program and the Nonprofit Investment Program. Some of these lessons include:

  • Capacity and leadership support for nonprofit organizations is most effective when it can be customized to address self-identified priorities.
  • Sustainability must be a program goal to ensure nonprofits are able to continue serving our communities through challenges like uncertain economic or political cycles
  • General operating support is a critical component in facilitating capacity and leadership development.  

The program will fund four types of activities:

  1. Organizations that have capacity and leadership needs
  2. Organizations that support capacity and leadership of nonprofits or nonprofit coalitions
  3. Capacity and leadership priorities of Community Catalyst Cohorts, which are groups of grantees from SVCF’s Community Catalyst Fund
  4. General education experiences which focus on racial equity, social justice, community-building and power-building (e.g., workshops that help raise awareness of implicit bias within organizations, or workshops that assist organizations in developing their advocacy work)

Applications are accepted year-round.

Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions below for the quarterly review and grantee announcement dates for 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is guiding Silicon Valley Community Foundation's new strategic direction?

SVCF’s vision is to build a community where all can lead financially secure, safe and fulfilling lives. Our work is centered on racial justice and focused on communities that often face challenges that are exacerbated by inequities, specifically Black, Indigenous, people of color and undocumented residents. Our impact goals are to:  

  1. Reduce systemic disparities by raising the standard of measurable change on economic mobility outcomes, specifically in housing, early learning and financial security.  
  2. Build a strong and engaged community by engaging deeply in community and aligning with and investing in BIPOC individuals, movements and organizations.  
  3.  Develop a culture of effective philanthropy by engaging donors and corporate partners to garner catalytic capital and aligned action.  
  4. Build a trusted and enduring institution for the community.

What changes can nonprofit partners expect in SVCF’s approach to funding?

Nonprofit partners can expect more core operating support, a more streamlined grantmaking processes and simpler reporting.

What are Silicon Valley Community Foundation's grantmaking strategies?

Within the Community, Action, Policy and Strategy Division at SVCF, funding will be distributed through various channels:

  • Through our Strategic Initiatives team, early childhood development, housing and financial stability will be prioritized. Learn more about our Early Childhood Development strategic initiative here.
  • Through our Community Partnerships and Learning team, funding will be provided for special initiatives such as the California Black Freedom Fundthe LatinXCEL Fund, and Equity Forward
  • Through our Community Action team, nonprofit organizations can apply for funding through the Community Catalyst Fund and/or the Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Program

How did SVCF pick its new strategies?

In July 2020, SVCF announced its new strategic plan with the objective of building a Silicon Valley where all can live financially secure, safe and fulfilling lives. This followed a year-long strategic planning process supported by The Bridgespan Group, which included extensive conversations with nonprofit and community organizations. SVCF also conducted interviews with issue-area experts and analyzed trends related to our strategic areas of focus. We connected with many of our community partners throughout the process and beyond, carefully considering all insights and feedback provided. 

Who decided on those strategies? 

Our board of directors approved the strategies, which were recommended by SVCF staff and informed by our community. 

What are the geographic restrictions for funding? 

Organizations must serve San Mateo and/or Santa Clara counties. Organizations headquartered outside the two-county region may apply but should demonstrate significant service or partner with a local organization significant service to these areas or partner with a local organization that does. 

What is BIPOC?

BIPOC is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color.

What is an ‘allied organization’?

Allied organizations, not BIPOC-led, are those working with BIPOC-led organizations to advance a racial and economic justice agenda. 

Can nonprofit organizations apply for donor advised funding?

Organizations may not apply directly to receive funding from donor advised funds established by individuals or families. However, our staff will share investment opportunities with our donors. Also, the community foundation manages a number of corporate advised funds, several of which are open to application. Please check our corporate partners on our website to see if your organization is eligible for one of the corporate funding programs.

Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Questions:

When may I apply for a grant? 

The Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Program is open year-round, meaning the application will be open to applicants throughout the year, with no closing date. Applications will be collected and reviewed on a quarterly basis.

2022 Timeline: 

  • Round 1:
    • Review date: January 31
    • Grantee announcement: March 1
  • Round 2:
    • Review date: April 30
    • Grantee announcement: May 31:
  • Round 3:
    • Review date: September 30
    • Grantee announcement: November 1
  • Round 4:
    • Review date: January 31, 2023
    • Grantee announcement: March 1, 2023

What is SVCF looking for in the program application?

Please review suggestions about how to submit a competitive application. Additionally, please listen to the recorded information session. The Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment team is also available for a conversation -- please send an email to to schedule with our team.

Will SVCF make multi-year capacity and leadership investments?

We anticipate that we will be providing multi-year funding in future years. Currently, funding for the Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Program will be considered for up to 12 months.

If my organization has already been awarded a grant from SVCF, will I be eligible for program support through the Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Program?

Yes, you may submit a program application even if you have been awarded a grant through other SVCF priorities or strategies. If you have been awarded a grant from the Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment program, you will be eligible to submit another application after that grant period has expired. 

If my organization is a current grantee through another SVCF initiative or priority, will I be given priority?

No, all program applications will be reviewed based on the program criteria. There will be no priority given to current grantees.

If my organization submits an application, is it possible that the organization may be awarded less money than requested?

Yes, it is possible that your organization will be awarded a smaller grant than what was requested depending on the availability of resources. Any change of this nature will be discussed with the organization before approval, to ensure the modification will still need the organization’s goals.

Will any general operating support grants be awarded?

Yes, organizations may include general operating support within the program application budget.  

Is the organizational budget required to be based on our current fiscal year or a projection of the upcoming year?

Budgets may be based on either. If you anticipate a significant change in your organization's overall budget going forward, please include the projected budget and explain the variance in the budget narrative. 

May we submit letters of recommendation?

No, we ask that you do not submit letters of recommendation. We will not evaluate letters of recommendation as part of your application. If we need additional information not included in the proposal submission package, we will contact you. 

If my application is not funded, will I receive comments from the reviewers or a debriefing of some other kind from the community foundation?

Yes, we are committed to building relationships with our nonprofit partners and will endeavor to be as responsive to questions from applicants as our staff capacity allows. Please schedule time with the Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment team here.

Review the Application Questions

Please review the Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Program application questions before beginning the application.

Tips to Submit a Competitive Application

Tips for Submitting a Competitive Application for a Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Grant


Our Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment program supports nonprofit effectiveness and sustainability for organizations serving communities within San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Funding decisions will be prioritized for organizations that align with the following criteria:

  1. Organizations providing direct service to communities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties 
  2. Organizations that center the issues of equity and justice
  3. Organizations that are led by Black, Indigenous or people of color
  4. Organizations with total operating budgets of $1 million and under
  5. Organizations serving communities that have historically been underserved or underrepresented at decision-making tables
  6. Organizations that center community voice in organizational decision-making 
  7. Organizations that invest in advancing Black, Indigenous or people of color in middle management to executive levels

Applications for this program will be accepted year-round. Application review and funding decisions will be made on a quarterly basis. Once your application is submitted, you will be informed about the timeline.


Please take time to reflect on these points before submitting your application.

Does your organization serve San Mateo and/or Santa Clara County?

               If not, you will not be eligible for funding through this program.

What is your organization’s commitment to the issues of racial equity and social/economic justice?

Be prepared to explain and include examples about why your organization is committed to these issues.

SVCF is committed to advancing racial equity and social/economic justice, and invests in organizations that share this commitment.

What is your vision as it relates to leadership development and capacity-building for your organization?

Be prepared to explain your organization’s specific needs and how support of these needs will strengthen or further the equity and justice work at your organization.

SVCF will support organizations that can clearly articulate their needs, and invests in organizations that keep sustainability in mind and consider how to carry work forward in the long-term.

How are you engaging the communities you serve?

Be prepared to explain how your organization listens to and engages the communities you serve in organizational decision-making.

Communities that are impacted by racial inequity and social/economic injustice are often the same communities that have been largely underrepresented at decision-making tables. SVCF invests in organizations that prioritize community representation.

What is the total cost of the needs that you have named in the application?

Be prepared to upload proposals, cost lists, or other documentation related to the leadership and/or capacity needs that you name in the application. Your application might include costs associated with any of these areas: consulting fees, coaching fees, program/training costs, or general operating support. SVCF will consider requests for up to $50,000.

If you are not prepared to provide detailed cost information, please pause and collect this information before submitting an application. Applications that lack this information will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.


Once you are prepared to submit your application, please keep these things in mind:

  • You will be unable to advance to a new page in the application until you have provided answers for all required fields. Required fields are denoted with an asterisk.
  • You have the option to save your progress and come back to the application. However, please know that the system will not save any attachments. For this reason, we suggest collecting all information you will need before working on the application.

Click here to see a list of all information fields and questions that you will see in the application.

If you have any questions or would like to meet with the Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment team, please email

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