A Guide to Our Grantmaking

The Cleveland Foundation is the community foundation serving Greater Cleveland, including Cuyahoga, Lake, and Geauga counties. It is made up of more than 1,300 funds representing individuals, families, organizations, and corporations. Its mission is to enhance the lives of all residents of Greater Cleveland, now and for generations to come, by working together with our donors to build community endowment, address needs through grantmaking, and provide leadership on key community issues. 

The foundation is the region’s largest grantmaking organization, with assets of $1.86 billion and 2012 grants of $91 million, which were distributed to nonprofit organizations mainly in Greater Cleveland. Grants are made through various funding approaches, which include: Greater Cleveland’s Vital Issues, Community Responsive Grants, and Donor Engaged Grantmaking.


The Cleveland Foundation makes most of its grants to tax-exempt (private agencies classified as 501(c)(3) organizations) public charities as defined by the Internal Revenue Service. Some grants are also made to government agencies. Grants to organizations fall within three categories:


About one-third of grantmaking dollars are awarded proactively to priority areas where the community is most vulnerable. Grants in these areas are generally made to our long-term partners with the goal of creating significant, widespread impact. Learn more about areas of impact to which we proactively direct grant dollars. 


The remaining Cleveland Foundation grants are made in response to direct requests from the community. In general, responsive grants are made (but are not restricted) to the areas of arts and culture, civic affairs, economic development, education, environment, health, and social services. Learn more about our responsive grantmaking.

Donor Directed

Nearly half of the dollars granted through the Cleveland Foundation are directed by our generous donors based on their philanthropic goals and the needs within the community. 

Priority is given to programs that reflect one or more of the following:
  • Improve access to services and programs for vulnerable and underserved populations
  • Strengthen nonprofit organizations
  • Test new ideas and partnerships
  • Support policy and advocacy
We generally do not make grants to:
  • Individuals
  • For-profit organizations
  • Endowment campaigns, annual appeals, or membership drives
  • Religious organizations for religious purposes
  • Travel for individuals or groups when travel is the proposal’s primary focus
  • Community services such as police and fire protection
  • Staff positions for government agencies
  • Capital projects for hospitals, nursing homes, or institutions of higher education
  • Publications, audiovisual projects, or video productions. However, consideration may be given when they fall within a promising project.

Capital Requests

Capital requests (such as those for buildings, land, or equipment), are supported when they meet certain stringent criteria. Capital projects must advance areas of impact help to meet a compelling community need, and offer a broad social benefit. When we do participate in a capital project, our support is contingent on funding from other sources. We generally do not authorize payment until the organization has raised a significant amount of its total dollar goal.

Funding Levels

The foundation does not predetermine funding levels. Applicants should request the amount that meets the needs of the program, and at a level that is consistent with the organization’s capacity and other anticipated or received support.

Generally, grants are made for one to two years; although they may be longer, given program priorities. Unless specifically notified differently by the foundation, applicants may apply for continued support of a previously funded purpose or project. The foundation cannot fund projects already under way or projects that have already been completed. Please submit your request well in advance of your project’s start date. For a list of recent grants made from the Cleveland Foundation, visit our recent grants listing.