Granting FAQ

Granting FAQ

Below is a list of the most common questions and issues grant applicants bring to us. This FAQ also details some strategies for successful proposals.

Do you have other questions? Let us know.

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Is my organization Eligible for a Grant?

Under the Income Tax Act, the Foundation may make grants only to "qualified donees." For the most part, this means federally registered charities and municipalities.

Note that not-for-profit organizations do not automatically receive charitable status, and many choose not to apply for it. For more information about becoming a registered charity, see the Canada Revenue Agency's publications on this topic.

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Is my project eligible?

The Foundation will only consider projects that address our current granting priorities or complement active Foundation initiatives. In some areas we are unlikely to consider new projects for the time being; in others, projects are being considered by invitation only. Please consult each Foundation initiative for more information.  Click here to learn more about our granting priorities for 2017.

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What areas will the Foundation NOT consider at this time?

The Foundation has certain permanent restrictions on what it will fund.

The Foundation does not consider requests:

  • to match government funding
  • which are part of a general fundraising campaign
  • to reduce accumulated capital or operating deficits
  • for endowments
  • for annual operating funds or other recurring costs, unless directly linked to a project that meets our other granting priorities
  • involving partisan political activities
  • involving strictly religious purposes or activities
  • for purely academic or basic research; visit the RECODE program page to learn more about our post-secondary initiative
  • oriented to Third World development
  • for emergency needs

The Foundation generally does not consider requests:

  • in which the primary activity is local or regional, unless it responds to a pressing national social issue and there is a high potential, demonstrated demand, and clear strategy for the wider application of the project's lessons
  • in which the primary activity is the production of a film, video, or publication (although these can be part of a project or program)
  • in which the primary activity is a conference, workshop, or seminar
  • in which the primary activity involves training, scholarships, or subsidies
  • in which the primary activity takes place outside of Canada

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What are the key elements of a successful proposal?

From the Foundation’s experience, successful proposals demonstrate many of the following characteristics:

  • Clear rationale: A clear statement of the challenge to be addressed and its context, and the reasons why the proposed activity will make a difference.

  • Organizational strength: Organizations most likely to be effective demonstrate a clear sense of mission and goals, capable management, committed volunteers, an experienced and engaged board, a supportive and involved constituency (i.e. the people or organizations to whom services are offered), and an ability to learn from experience.

  • Long-term horizon: Not all initiatives need to be sustained, but the Foundation encourages organizations that have the potential for lasting change to think carefully about sustainability and to develop a plan that outlines how the desired change will be maintained over time.

  • Evaluation: The Foundation encourages and supports a range of evaluation activities. Generally, strong proposals address the need to incorporate provisional outcomes or emergent lessons into ongoing program design. They also include a plan to assess outcomes against objectives and describe how progress and success will be measured. For more information on evaluation, read the evaluation section of the Granting FAQ.

  • Knowledge and dissemination: Our grantees are innovating and learning in many areas. We encourage applicants to develop a plan to share the knowledge that arises from their work with others in their field. This could involve creating or joining a community of practice, simply telling the story in a new way, or another activity that is appropriate for the kind of knowledge that is to be shared.

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The Foundation is on record as supporting impact investing and social finance. Can I ask for a loan or investment in a social enterprise?

Through its partnership with Social Innovation Generation and the Causeway Initiative, the Foundation supports policy innovation to enable new financial resources to be directed to the public good. For more information, see the Task Force on Social Finance's recent report, Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good. While committed to this strategy over the long term, we do not have the capacity to assess and manage individual requests at this time.


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Why should I include an ‘evaluation component’ to my application?

At the Foundation, we value evaluation as a tool to improve our own work, as well as that of the organizations we fund. We see evaluation as an integral part of the grant, not something that is tacked on as an “extra” at the end of the granting period. As early as the grant application stage, you should think about how your project might benefit from evaluation.

Please note that if your activity or project has already been evaluated, you should mention it in your application. You may be asked to provide copies of earlier reports.

Sometimes, an outside or formal evaluation is unnecessary or premature. In these cases, informal and internal reflection and assessment may be sufficient to elicit lessons of value to the grantee.

In other cases, a project may benefit from evaluation to uncover what works, what doesn’t, and why, such as when:

  • the project is based on an assumption or hypothesis that needs to be tested;

  • the project targets organizational development and learning that need to be systematically tracked and assessed;

  • the project aspires to an important social change that requires a long-term approach.

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How do I add an ‘evaluation component’ to my application?

If you have decided that the project would benefit from formal evaluation, you will see that our application requirements invite you to provide a brief description of how you propose to evaluate the project.

Your project budget should include a line item for the amount you plan to invest in evaluation. The scale of an evaluation and its cost should be in proportion to the scope of the project and the organization's capacity to participate in an external review. Generally, such expenses do not exceed 10% of the budget.

There is no single right approach to evaluation. In preparing your application, think about

  • why you might want to conduct an evaluation

  • what you want to evaluate

  • who would benefit from the lessons generated

  • how you will integrate and act on those lessons

These are important questions to ask and should determine what approach to evaluation will be most relevant, and in what form the resulting information will be most useful.

What kind of evaluation should we consider?

You may wish to consider one or more of the following approaches to evaluation:

  • A summative evaluation is often undertaken at the end of a project to answer the question: Did the project work? It is often used to help decision-makers determine whether to continue, expand or disseminate the well-defined program model that is being tested.
  • A formative evaluation is often implemented in the middle of a project to answer the question: Is the project working? It is used by practitioners to improve project performance and by program designers to fine-tune the overall model that is being tested.
  • A developmental evaluation is employed over the course of an initiative to answer the question: What are we learning? It is used to identify emerging dynamics and outcomes that can nourish alternative program designs.

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Where can I find more information on evaluation?

There are a number of excellent online resources on the issue of evaluation models. We recommend the following:

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Procedural Questions

What is the average amount of a grant? Is there a range of grant amounts the Foundation will consider?

There is no pre-established limit for grants. The Foundation generally makes larger grants, often for 2 to 4 years duration, for initiatives with pan-Canadian scope. We generally do not make small, short-term grants to local projects. Please review our  "Granting Priorities" and the grants database for more detail on the size and scope of the Foundation's grants.

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Can proposals be submitted in French?

The Foundation is pleased to receive requests in both official languages.

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Priorities, Restrictions and Categories

Can a grant application be submitted for a project in our local community?

While recognizing that much creativity and many new ideas emerge at the local level, the Foundation's mandate is to address issues of national significance. Thus we occasionally support the dissemination of solutions developed and tested locally.   See for example the descriptions of Opération Nez Rouge, Centre for Children Committing Offences SNAP program, Roots of Empathy, and JUMP Math.

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I am an individual (artist, researcher, community worker, etc.) involved in exciting and useful work. Can I get a grant from the Foundation?

The Foundation can only make grants to organizations defined as “qualified donees” by the Federal government.

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Our organization has received a grant from the government, conditional on our securing other funds. Will the Foundation consider such requests?

Requests are considered on their inherent merits, and not on the basis of there being a specific requirement to match another donor’s contribution. Many of our initiatives are supported by a range of funders: foundations, government, private sector and communities.

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I would like to talk to someone to find out if our project might be considered. Who should I call? Can I email a summary and get an opinion on whether our project might qualify?

If you have read about our granting priorities and believe that your project addresses an area where we are inviting proposals, please submit an online application. In so doing, you will not, as by email or telephone, be limited by the opinion of a single individual; an online application will ensure that your request receives full and fair consideration. The online form has been designed to be brief and simple in order to make it easy for applicants to submit a preliminary proposal and if more information is needed, we will contact you.

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How can I arrange to meet with someone to discuss an organization or project?

Visits to the Foundation's offices are initiated by invitation only. Since the Foundation operates with a relatively small staff, it would be difficult to meet with everyone who would like to talk to us about a project. In addition, it is much more fruitful for us to discuss a project after we have been able to study both the application itself and the surrounding issues.

It is for this reason that we ask grant applicants to submit a proposal using our online form. The application is reviewed carefully by the staff and if more information is required, it will be requested. If it is felt that a meeting would be helpful, it is arranged at that time.


Other questions? Email them to us at

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation 1002 Sherbrooke W., Suite 1800, Montreal, Québec H3A 3L6