Frequently Asked Questions

General Foundation Questions

What is the relationship between Cummings Foundation and Cummings Properties?

As Cummings Foundation's exclusive real estate management firm, Cummings Properties, at no charge to the Foundation, oversees the leasing, maintenance, and property management of the many large commercial buildings owned by and operated for the sole benefit of the Foundation. Founded in 1970, Cummings Properties manages more than 11 million square feet of prime office, lab, and medical space located in 11 greater Boston communities.

What is the best way to arrange a meeting with a representative of Cummings Foundation?

Although volunteer members of Grant Selection Committees sometimes conduct site visits while evaluating grant proposals, Cummings Foundation has a policy that staff members do not conduct site visits or hold informational, relationship-building meetings. Because this policy is applied uniformly, organizations will not be disadvantaged by it in any way.

Does my organization's focus fit within the Cummings $30 Million Grant Program guidelines? How should I determine whether to apply for a grant?

Please review the Grant Information section carefully to determine whether an organization is eligible for a grant and falls within the funding priorities.

Is it possible to receive funding if my organization does not match Cummings Foundation's focus?

Funding is unlikely, however, our volunteer review committee will be pleased to make that formal determination based on your letter of inquiry.

If my organization is headquartered outside the Foundation's tri-county area, but would expend the funds within the tri-county area, could it still receive funding?

Although we recognize that nonprofits are doing good work across county lines and throughout Massachusetts and New England, the Foundation has a very local focus, supporting organizations that not only serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties but also are headquartered in one of these counties throughout the term of their grants. Not every worthy nonprofit will match Cummings Foundation's guidelines and eligibility requirements; however, this type of discipline within our grants programs enables the Foundation to provide philanthropic support to hundreds of local organizations in a manner that is effective, efficient, and in line with its priorities.

If my organization is a regional chapter of a national organization, but serves those in the Foundation's tri-country focus area, could it still receive funding?

Cummings Foundation appreciates the positive impact national organizations have on the local area; however, its support is primarily focused on local organizations without access to the infrastructure of a national network. Local affiliates may be considered if they have an EIN separate from the national organization.

Does Cummings Foundation fund organizations under fiscal sponsorship?

Cummings Foundation will consider requests from organizations that have fiscal sponsors. In such cases, a copy of the memorandum of understanding between the two entities will be requested. The Foundation is more likely, however, to fund organizations that have their own 501(c)(3) statuses because of the transparency and IRS oversight that accompanies that designation.

Why does Cummings Foundation not typically fund medical research?

The Foundation recognizes the importance of medical and scientific research, and it appreciates the extraordinary lifesaving advances that can result from such studies. The process of identifying excellent research proposals, however, is extremely challenging. It requires rigorous scientific review by professionals who are involved with research that is closely related to the research being proposed. Cummings Foundation is simply not equipped to perform such review.

Application Process

How do I apply for a $100K for 100 or Sustaining Grant?

In 2020, the $100K for 100 and Sustaining Grants programs were merged into one program, now the Cummings $30 Million Grant Program. All previous $100K for 100 and Sustaining Grants will be fulfilled; however, new grants will be awarded through this new combined program. Previous recipients of $100,000 grants from Cummings Foundation will automatically be considered for long-term (10-year) funding when they apply through the Cummings $30 Million Grant Program. Learn more.

Are there standard grant proposal requirements or a specific form?

Organizations wishing to apply for grant funding should first submit the online letter of inquiry. A limited number of requests that meet the Foundation’s eligibility requirements, fall within its funding priorities, and are considered potential candidates for funding will then be invited to complete full grant applications. Proposals submitted in any other manner will not be considered.

Can my organization submit more than one letter of inquiry in the same grant cycle?

Organizations should submit no more than one letter per grant cycle. Departments at large institutions, such as universities and hospitals, are encouraged to coordinate efforts to ensure the highest priority need is presented.

How does being a recipient of previous funding affect a new grant application?

Every application is evaluated on its merits; receipt of a prior grant has no bearing on the awarding of a new grant. If a letter of inquiry is received from a previous grantee, our staff verifies that all required impact reports were filed and approved for the previous grant before considering the new request.

During the final stage of the grant selection process, previous grantees that have been selected for a new grant during the current cycle will be considered to have their award elevated from a three-year grant to a larger 10-year grant.

Does receiving an invitation to complete a full application mean my organization is likely to receive a grant?

No. In past years, Cummings Foundation has awarded grants to 40-50 percent of the organizations that completed full applications. We expect that the selection of grantees will continue to be a highly competitive process in which the number of fully worthy applications will exceed considerably the number of grants awarded.

Does Cummings Foundation have a policy regarding overhead or indirect costs?

Recognizing that most nonprofits incur general operating costs, the Foundation will consider funding necessary "overhead" expenses (e.g., rent, phone service, administrative salaries, etc.). These costs should be detailed in the budget template provided within the application rather than allocated as a percentage of the grant, as is often the practice with larger institutions, such as universities.

Does Cummings Foundation have other guidelines or restrictions regarding grant expenditures?

Built on fiscal responsibility, Cummings Foundation still adheres to the ideal of doing more with less. Accordingly, it seeks to support nonprofits that maximize their resources to deliver the greatest benefit possible. The Foundation’s one specific prohibition is the use of grant funds for upgraded airline tickets, to include upgrades achieved through mileage awards. (The Foundation never uses first-class transportation for its own travel.)

Does Cummings Foundation fund building or renovation projects?

Given the Cummings organization's basis in commercial real estate and construction, the Foundation understands the importance of bricks and mortar. Capital projects are reviewed closely, however, to ensure that plans are appropriate (and not extravagant) and that quotes are fair and reasonable. The Foundation’s ability to provide funding is largely a result of decades of disciplined “value engineering” and cost-effective construction by Cummings Properties, and we like to see a similar level of fiscal control when considering funding projects that fall within our area of expertise. If approved, these awards will be treated as pledges to be paid when construction is ready to commence. In addition, large capital projects are not typically funded unless very near completion.

What disbursement schedule should I request?

All grant requests should be written with a three-year grant in mind. Applicants may request annual installments of $10,000 to $100,000. Round numbers are preferred (e.g., $40,000 instead of $42,599), and the requested figure should not exceed 20 percent of your organization’s average annual revenue for the past three years. The Foundation would not decline an application based on the requested installment, but sometimes will award a grant with a different installment than was requested.

What tips can you offer grant writers?
  • Be concise: The Foundation provides what it considers generous character limits. Use however many words are necessary within that limit to answer each question. With several hundred requests received each year, the Foundation greatly appreciates clear, concise writing.
  • Be different: The Foundation often receives applications from multiple organizations that address a similar need. Convey the qualities or services that make your organization especially effective, or explain how it fulfills an otherwise unmet need.
  • Be cost-effective: The Cummings organization was built on—and continues to operate with—a strong sense of fiscal responsibility. The Foundation looks for that same commitment to cost-effectiveness in grant applicants. It has a particularly negative outlook, for example, on organizations that purchase first- or business-class airfare, regardless of whether such purchases would be made with Foundation grant funds.
  • Be jargon-free: While some selection committee members possess expertise in a particular area (e.g., education, healthcare), each application is read by multiple people with varying backgrounds. The value of a request will likely be much more evident if it is written in commonly understood language.
  • Be concrete: Opt for hard numbers and specifics over rhetoric and hyperbole. For example, "The grant would fund a new part-time instructor, allowing our organization to add two classes per week, serving an additional 200 clients per year," is preferable to, "The grant would allow our organization to increase its capacity to provide transformative learning experiences."
  • Be early: Although the Foundation accepts proposals over several weeks, the vast majority are submitted in the final days before the deadline. Submitting requests early is one way to stand out from the crowd.

After Applying

When should I expect to receive a response?

The timeline on the Local Grant Program page provides key dates.

Please note that important notices about letters of inquiry and applications are sent via email. To decrease the likelihood of missing such an email, applicants are encouraged to whitelist addresses and to check their spam folders regularly.

If my application was declined, is there a waiting period to submit another request?

There is no waiting period for organizations that have been declined for a grant. It is strongly recommended, however, that these nonprofits review the guidelines closely before submitting a letter of inquiry the following year.

After Receiving a Grant

How can I thank Cummings Foundation for my organization's grant?
  1. Spend the funds wisely. The Cummings organization was built on, and continues to be a strong proponent of, fiscal responsibility. We hope and expect that grant winners will be thoughtful and creative about maximizing the impact of their grant funds.
  2. Patronize businesses that lease space from Cummings Foundation. The large majority of buildings managed by Cummings Properties are actually owned by and operated for the benefit of Cummings Foundation, with 100 percent of rental profits going to charitable causes. Organizations that lease space in these buildings help to fund Cummings Foundation's grant programs, so we hope you will keep them in mind when deciding which businesses to patronize. Visit the Cummings Properties Client Directory for a full list of these organizations.
  3. Refer potential leasing clients to Cummings Foundation. If you know of an organization that leases commercial space, please let them know that leasing from the Cummings organization means that their rent dollars help local nonprofits.
Can my organization use grant funds to compensate the individual who wrote the grant?

No portion of a Cummings grant may be paid as a commission to an individual for his/her role in achieving the grant. Although not illegal, commission-based fundraising is considered unethical by the major professional fundraising societies.

Will my organization be required to submit a report detailing its use of the grant funds?

Grant recipients will be required to submit an online impact report by April 15 of the year following the awarding of the grant and each April 15 thereafter during the grant period. Please note that after a final grant payment, the impact report is due earlier, by February 28. Access to and the guidelines for this report will be provided via email at least two months in advance.

As stated in the grant agreement, if it is determined in Cummings Foundation's sole discretion that the grantee is not adhering to the grant agreement and/or has furnished false or misleading information, the Foundation may terminate the grant, shall be entitled to restitution of grant funds previously paid, and shall decline to renew the grant. In addition, if two consecutive years pass without a disbursement due to a grantee's failure to comply with the terms of the agreement, the grant will be considered terminated and will not be eligible for reinstatement.

Does the foundation perform site visits?

In the years following the final two disbursements of a three-year grant and every year of a 10-year grant, Cummings Foundation volunteers will schedule a time to visit the nonprofit and see firsthand how the grant has impacted the organization. The Site Visits Committee is made up of community leaders from both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. These volunteers thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to learn about local nonprofits and help the Foundation maintain relationships with grantees.

How should my organization acknowledge this grant publicly?

In all public announcements of this grant, please acknowledge "Cummings Foundation." You may also reference that your organization is the recipient of a "Cummings Grant." Please do not insert "The" before Cummings Foundation.

The conditional grant agreement signed by each grant recipient requires the organization to include a link to on its website and create and distribute a media release announcing the grant.

Grantees have permission to use the logos for Cummings Foundation and the applicable grant program.

Cummings Foundation reserves the right to use and republish, for not-for-profit purposes, any grant-related photograph/video submitted to the Foundation, posted to social media, or taken at any grant-related event, without the further permission of those included within the photograph/video.

Should we add Cummings Foundation to our regular mailing lists?

In an effort to conserve your time and funding, we would very much appreciate your not adding any Cummings organization addresses (including Cummings Foundation, Cummings Properties, Cummings Center, and Joyce and Bill Cummings) to general mailing lists for fundraising requests or informational updates.

Additional funding requests will be considered only after your current grant has been fulfilled. Additionally, although we are very interested in the good work grant recipients are doing in local communities, our limited staff is unable to read the many newsletters, event notices, and other announcements that arrive with increasing frequency via both email and postal mail.

When can my organization request additional funding from Cummings Foundation?

The Cummings organization does not typically award new grants to current grantees. A recipient of a $100,000 or three-year grant may submit a new letter of inquiry during the summer it receives its final grant installment. If the request is successful, the new grant would be awarded (and the first installment disbursed) the following June, allowing for uninterrupted funding.

A recipient of a 10-year grant, however, must allow a gap year in funding before re-applying. This policy allows the Foundation to reach more local nonprofits that have not yet received any Cummings grants. Accordingly, 10-year recipients may apply one year following their final installments.

Can my organization request a grant increase if the Foundation modifies or expands the annual installment maximum in the years after my grant is initially awarded?

The Foundation makes modifications to our grant program from time to time, and eligible grantees are welcome to reapply under any new parameters once they’ve completed their current grant and associated reporting. With a large number of active grantees and a very small Foundation staff, however, we do not have the bandwidth to reevaluate current grants each time the annual program is modified.

Please note that Cummings Foundation reserves the right to modify, add to, amend, or eliminate any of its eligibility requirements, priority funding areas, or policies at any time.