Grant Guidelines

If you're interested in applying for a grant, please review the areas of focus, funding methods, and eligibility requirements below, as well as our major grants process and timeline or leadership development grants program information before submitting an application.

Submissions that do not fall within our stated areas of focus, funding methods and follow our grant application instructions will not be reviewed.

Eligibility Requirements

All organizations seeking funding, regardless of amount requested, are required to meet the following criteria:

  • Provide services in and/or be based in one of our geographic areas of focus (exceptions may be made on invitation of the board);

  • Provide evidence of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3), OR, in the case of international grantees, provide similar proof of tax exemption to the satisfaction of the Executive Director;

  • Provide up-to-date contact details for regular communications;

  • Adhere to the principles of the Foundation and the Foundation's mission statement.

The Helen J. Serini Foundation will not make grants to the following:

  • Organizations that engage in discriminatory hiring, benefit or service practices based on race, color, nationality or ethnic origin, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, veteran status or any other characteristic protected under applicable federal or state law.

  • Individuals

  • Political Action Committees (PAC) or lobbying efforts (exclusive of research)

  • 509(a)(3) organizations

  • Religious institutions that have not submitted a 1023 form and/or received their 501(c)(3) status

  • Reimbursement for prior expenses

Funding Priorities

Before proceeding, please review Our Mission for more information on the types of programs we support and areas of focus. You may also review our Grant History & Philosophy to see examples of previous grants made, as well as basic information on typical grant sizes and types. 

The Foundation supports innovative interventions that remove or address root causes of systemic barriers to health, safety, shelter, and opportunity in the communities where we work and live. Our support of direct service, emergency needs, or similar programs is rare, and usually occurs in instances where that service is used to inform systemic work, or if an organization can demonstrate that such a program, if implemented universally, would have systemic impact.

Individually, board and family members may support direct services and emergency needs organizations, but the foundation’s collective giving focuses on root causes and systems change work as outlined above.

The Foundation is seeking funding partnerships with non-profits who demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • A creative, innovative, entrepreneurial spirit

  • A spirit of collaboration, partnership, and alliance-building

  • A commitment to equity

  • A willingness to grow a relationship over time

  • Experienced, high-energy, talented management and demonstrated board governance

  • Models that are constituent-driven and informed by the communities they aim to serve

  • Services that are transformative in the lives of clients

  • Work that improves and/or restructures symptoms by changing the policies and practices that hold people in cycles of poverty

When considering whether or not to apply, consider the following questions:

Does this work improve or restructure systems of poverty by changing policies, practices, or beliefs that hold people in cycles of poverty? 

If this is a request for direct service support, does this direct service inform or complement work to improve or restructure systems?

If not, do you believe that the universal implementation of this direct service work would result in an improved or restructured system?

Geographic Areas of Focus

We are currently accepting unsolicited LOI submissions from organizations that are operationally based in, or that provide services and support to, the communities where our board members and advisors live and work. This includes Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, and Frederick County.  

In effect, this geographic focus affords us with better opportunities to provide a more personal level of support to our grantees, beyond just grant dollars, and to cultivate positive relationships and share resources amongst other local nonprofit associations and organizations in these regions.

Funding Methods

We are flexible in our funding methods. While we most commonly make direct grants (which may include unrestricted, restricted and matching), we are open to Program-Related Investments (PRI), loans, bridge funding, and other creative funding mechanisms. For more information or questions specific to your needs, please contact our Program Officer, Kerry McHugh, directly.

Grant Start & End Dates

Because we believe that you know your own project, fiscal, and other calendars better than anyone else, we’ll ask you to set your own grant start and end dates in your grant application. For short-term projects, this may be as short as a day or a week or a month. For long-term or ongoing projects, you may opt to use a calendar year or fiscal year. Note that if approved, grant reporting will be tied to these start and end dates, so pick a timeframe that makes sense for the work you’re doing.

Grant periods are capped at one year. Multi-year funding requests are considered on an invitation-only basis, and only grant partners who have received at least one year of funding from us in the past are eligible for these invitations.