Applying for Grants - Grantseeker Guidelines

We are not currently accepting letters of inquiry from new grantseekers. The 2014 deadline for unsolicited letters of inquiry has passed.

College Futures Foundation funds organizations that demonstrate the capacity to expand access to public financial aid to large numbers of low-income students and/or increase the likelihood that low-income students will succeed in college. Typically, our program team identifies potential grantee partners and invites them to submit a grant proposal.

The Foundation also accepts unsolicited inquiries from grantseekers once a year, but we can only fund a limited number of these grants.  

Unsolicited grantseekers who wish to be considered for funding in 2015 should check this page for updates to guidelines and announcements about the next application deadline.

While we accept and review unsolicited letters of inquiry for specific funding areas on an annual basis, it is important to note that the majority of our grants are identified by the proactive work of our program staff. We continually scan the field and conduct research to identify organizations that are doing exemplary work that aligns with our program goals and priorities. We also seek to add value above and beyond a direct grant by collaborating or coordinating with other funders and organizations, bringing together grantee organizations working on common issues, or connecting organizations to technical assistance resources.

For your reference, 2014 information about what we fund and eligibility requirements can be found on this page.

Funding Overview: We Help California’s Low-Income Students Go to College

The mission of College Futures Foundation is to help the state’s qualified low-income students attend college and graduate. To achieve this mission, we provide grants to programs, community-based organizations, and educational institutions committed to increasing enrollment, persistence and graduation rates among low-income and underrepresented college students.

The Foundation’s three main areas of work are:

  • Strategic Scholarships
  • Expanding Access to Financial Aid
  • Community Initiatives
Additionally, we:

  • Support statewide outreach, policy and communications activities
  • Deploy scholarships across all areas of our work to incentivize college enrollment and catalyze institutional change
  • Support and test strategies for increasing college graduation rates for low-income students
This chart outlines our areas of work. The areas and strategies open for unsolicited grant inquiries are marked with an asterisk.


We are proud to support work in the Los Angeles area in partnership with the California Community Foundation. Through the Los Angeles Scholars Investment Fund (LASIF), our co-funding partnership with the California Community Foundation, eligible organizations working in Los Angeles may be considered for grants from one or both of our foundations. 

Types of Grants Available Via Unsolicited Letters of Inquiry

We provide grants for: 1) need-based scholarships to low-income students that are tailored to meet students' unmet financial need after considering other sources of public and institutional aid; 2) program support to implement strategies that ensure large numbers of low-income students and their families know about, apply for, and access public financial aid, and; 3) program support to expand strategies that increase the college graduation rates of low-income students.    

We invite letters of inquiry for the following two areas of work as well as strategies for increasing college graduation rates:

1. Strategic Scholarships:

For this area of work, we award grants for scholarships and operating support for administering need-based scholarship programs that work with low-income students. In 2014, we will give priority consideration to organizations that meet the following requirements:

  • Work in one or more of the following counties that have large proportions of low-income youth and/or youth from groups that remain underrepresented in higher education: the counties of Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, or San Diego; and
  • Have experience working effectively with groups historically and presently underrepresented in higher education, including low-income males, African Americans, and other underrepresented groups (for example, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese). Foundation grantee programs must not discriminate but may target students in racial, ethnic or other demographic groups with high financial need and/or low college-going rates.
2. Expanding Access to Financial Aid:

For this area of work, we are interested in supporting the expansion of access to public financial aid for large numbers of low-income students on a sustained basis via the promotion of universal FAFSA and Cal Grant application completion. We support partnerships and collaborative efforts by high schools, school districts, county offices of education, community-based organizations, and business and civic organizations to institutionalize universal Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion and Cal Grant application processes and procedures in high schools with significant numbers of low-income students. Our goal is to have these processes and procedures become standard practice in combination with college and financial aid advising so that all graduating high school seniors apply for Pell Grants and Cal Grants and, if they enroll in a California community college, Board of Governor fee waivers.   

3. College Completion:

In addition, we are interested in testing different ways in which postsecondary institutions can create effective partnerships with community-based college advising programs and other organizations to increase retention and graduation rates for low-income college students. We are particularly interested in working with organizations and supporting strategies that have the potential to scale effective retention and completion practices.

Please note that we are not accepting inquiries for our Community Initiatives area of work in 2014.   

Submitting a New Grant Letter of Inquiry

If your organization is not a current College Futures Foundation grantee, and the Foundation has not invited you to submit a proposal, please follow these three steps to determine whether your organization is eligible for consideration.

I. Step One: Review Eligibility Requirements

Who Can Apply?

The Foundation only accepts inquiries from California non-profit organizations that are classified as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (or that have a fiscal sponsor with tax-exempt status) or from California public agencies or government entities.

We do not award grants or scholarships to individual students.

Criteria for Consideration:

The Foundation supports organizations with a demonstrable capacity to develop and implement strategies to expand access to public financial aid for low-income students and/or increase their likelihood of completing postsecondary education. In addition, potential grantees must meet the following criteria to be considered for program support and/or scholarship funding:

  • Primarily serve low-income students and/or students who are among the first in their families to attend college;
  • Provide college preparation  and search services, financial aid application assistance, and college persistence support to low-income students who attend or graduated from California high schools;
  • Serve low-income students who plan to pursue or are currently pursuing two- and four-year degrees full-time at accredited, degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the United States;
  • Demonstrate the ability to work with significant numbers of low-income students to provide financial aid advising, assistance completing the FAFSA, and services that ensure students meet all application deadlines;
  • Demonstrate strong working relationships with high schools, school districts or county offices of education with large numbers of low-income students (applies to organizations interested in applying for support to expand financial aid services or ensure that FAFSA completion and Cal Grant applications are institutionalized in high schools);
  • Demonstrate appropriate working relationships or partnerships with relevant departments at one or more postsecondary institutions (applies to organizations interested in applying for grant support to implement persistence and completion strategies for students once they are enrolled in college);
  • Demonstrate the capacity to effectively collect student-level data and use it to inform and improve program practices. We require grantees to collect and submit student-level data for all students who receive scholarships and financial aid services funded by the Foundation, including scholarship amounts, high schools and postsecondary institutions attended, and other demographic and financial aid data. For FAFSA completion and financial aid work supported at the high school level, we expect grantees to work with high schools to collect key aggregate high school class–level data annually; and
  • Demonstrate financial stability.
All scholarship grantees must administer scholarships programs in adherence with the Foundation’s scholarship grant award policies. (Please note that this document was formerly referred to as “Best Practices.”)

II. Step Two: Confirm Alignment with Foundation Goals and Objectives

Organizations submitting a New Grant Letter of Inquiry must demonstrate that they have the necessary institutional partnerships and staff capacity to accomplish one or more of the following priorities:

  • Expand financial aid advising to large numbers of low-income students;
  • Work with high schools or school districts to ensure students complete the FAFSA and Cal Grant applications as part of standard annual practices at high schools with large numbers of low-income students;
  • Work with postsecondary institutions to ensure more low-income students persist through college and graduate; and/or
  • Strategically use scholarships to accomplish any of the three objectives previously described.
III. Step Three: Submit Your Inquiry

We are not currently accepting letters of inquiry from new grantseekers. The 2014 deadline for unsolicited letters of inquiry has passed.

Grantseekers who wish to be considered for funding in 2015 should check this page for updates to guidelines and announcements about the next application deadline.

Title Size
Multi Yr Project Budget 23.69 KB
One Yr Project Budget 24.74 KB
Scholarship Grant Award Policies 40.73 KB
Definitions - Goals Outcomes and Objectives 44.12 KB
Areas and Strategies Chart 2014 177.84 KB