Guidelines & FAQs / Building on Community Assets – March 2022
This round of the Chicago Region Food System Fund is focused on building on the capacity and assets in communities to ground and transform the way food is produced, processed, distributed, and consumed in the Chicago region, from farm to table, through approaches centered on economic and racial equity.
The Fund will focus support for community-based food work in two different ways: building on the assets of individual organizations, and supporting multi-organization initiatives. Funding may range from $10,000 to $250,000 in both categories. The Fund is committed to funding at all levels in each category.
“Community” means different things to different people. For some, it’s centered in a place like a neighborhood or town. For others, a community is cultural. Or springing from an identity such as gender. Or shared experience or status, such as veterans. We respect all these forms of community and ask, as you write, that you focus on the assets your form of community builds on.
Yes, communities suffer from structural disinvestment, racism, and economic discrimination and fall on hard times. The pandemic has had tragic impacts, including on how food is produced, processed, distributed, and consumed in the Chicago region. As we know, these challenges don’t translate into community deficiencies. Rather, they call for community-driven responses that build on the strength within: the gifts of committed people; community associations like block clubs and veterans groups;; institutions like schools, houses of worship, and hospitals; the resources inherent in land, water, and buildings; and the local food businesses that bring food from farm to table. Communities gather and deploy these social and physical assets to increase the value and availability of food, while building community wealth. The Chicago Region Food System Fund wants to provide the support communities need to do that.
The Spring 2022 Community Asset Round prioritizes projects that will further cultivate existing community assets to aid in long-term food system transformation. While emergency food assistance may still be supported as part of an initiative, it must be coupled with some other food system activity such as a farm or community garden, wasted food rescue, processing food for prepared meals, or support for businesses providing emergency food.
In this application, we will ask you to focus your story on what you have, not on what you lack. This is not a “needs assessment!” Too often philanthropy has asked you to justify your work by telling us how distressed your community is. We want to change that, and we hope to enlist you in helping make that change by centering your application in your community assets and strengths.
CRFSF prioritizes organizations that are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) led, defined as greater than 50% BIPOC board and leadership. In this round of funding, priority is also given to local ownership of farms, food processors, and food distributors. There are geographic restrictions, so please read them carefully in the FAQs below.
Applicants may seek funding in one of two categories:
Category 1: Building on the assets of individual organizations
Work may be stand-alone within a single organization or with one other partner. Examples could be but are not limited to:
- A neighborhood association developing an urban farm or farmers market to support urban growers.
- A nonprofit developing a facility focused on food processing and distribution.
- A nonprofit developing programming around healthy eating and nutrition based on the cultural knowledge and experience of community members.
- A house of worship supporting an urban farm through land or other food-related ministries.
- Development of a shared commercial kitchen to support local entrepreneur development of value added local food products.
- Community based cooperative models for farming, local food business development, or shared services.
Category 2: Strengthening connection between organizations and institutions across size, geography, and type
Initiatives should involve at least three different organizations to amplify the impact of community-based food efforts. Examples could be but are not limited to:
- A community association partnering with institutions like hospitals, businesses such as retailers, and public entities to incorporate food rescue mutual aid efforts in larger initiatives.
- Connectors working to coordinate food efforts in a neighborhood among diverse kinds of organizations (community associations, nonprofits, and institutions).
- A multi-partner initiative to build on rural/periurban/urban relationships to support food value chains in collaboration with community associations, businesses like food hubs, retailers, food service, and/or other entities.
- A multi-sector organizing campaign to build power by connecting diverse constituencies to make policy change.
- Development of business-related services rooted in community that link finance, accounting, legal services, and more to promote growth of farms and food businesses
Applicants may choose to apply in the category that best represents the work you are doing. In both cases, applicants must be rooted in community. This means that the leadership comes from within the community, rather than from the outside. Partners may be larger institutions with external origins, but preference will be given to community-rooted lead partners. These community partners may choose to reach out to external partners of different scales for their expertise and/or to help manage large projects. We would look for evidence that the governance structure of multi-scale collaborations prioritize community power in decision-making and have the means and processes to demonstrate that.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT EMAILS FROM CRFSF
Emails from CRFSF related to your application will come from one of two email addresses: email@example.com or “Forefront <firstname.lastname@example.org>”. You may want to add the addresses to your address book. If you have any questions about your application or the online application system, email email@example.com. The Forefront email address listed above is unmonitored.
CRFSF COMMUNITY ASSET APPLICATIONS INFO SESSIONS
Link to Q&A list from April 11 & 19, 2022, info sessions (one doc, combined)
Listen to the audio from the April 11, 2022, info session
Listen to the audio from the April 19, 2022, info session
QUESTIONS ABOUT COMMUNITY ASSET BUILDING
- How can we know that we are building on community assets?
- I’m confused. In the description above, you talk about community associations being different from institutions in the application narrative. For the purpose of this application, what is the difference between community associations and institutions?
- Why are both associations and institutions important if we want to apply in Category 2?
- Is there a “best way” to identify and list assets in our application narrative?
GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE APPLICATION
- Am I eligible to apply to the Chicago Region Food System Fund?
- We’re not a 501(c)(3)—what are our options?
- How do I apply to the Chicago Region Food System Fund?
- When can I apply to the Chicago Region Food System Fund? When are applications due?
- How much can I request? What is the grant period? Are the grants for specific projects?
- Should we include indirect costs in our budget? What is the maximum amount?
- CRFSF funded significant work on emergency food distribution in past funding rounds. Will the Fund prioritize emergency food distribution in this round?
- What kind of reporting will be required? Many grant applications ask about outcomes, measures or impacts, but I don’t see that question in this application.
- How can I see a list of the application questions?
- We currently have a grant from CRFSF–can we apply again?
- When will we be notified about a possible grant?
- Who else has been funded by the Chicago Region Food System Fund?
- What does BIPOC mean?
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE NEW ONLINE APPLICATION SYSTEM
- How do I use the online application system?
- We’re an organization applying for funding through a fiscal sponsor. How do we register and apply?
- What if I forgot my username and/or password?
- I’ve logged in and would like to start a new application. Please help!
- Can I log out of the online application system and return to my grant request at a later time?
- Does the online system automatically save my work as I go?
- I added the wrong document to my grant request or report. How do I remove it and add the correct one?
- I accidentally started multiple drafts of a grant request. How do I remove the ones I don’t need?
- How can I be sure I’ve submitted my application?
- How do I save and download a copy of my application for my records?
- Are there any manuals or guides to using the online application system?
QUESTIONS ABOUT COMMUNITY ASSET BUILDING
How can we know that we are building on community assets?
CRFSF is drawing on the work of the Asset Based Community Development Institute with these guidelines. You can learn more by visiting ABCD Institute | DePaul University, Chicago
There are three basic ways to know if your work is building on community assets.
- The work will be owned/controlled by community members.
- The main outcome is “productive community members” rather than community members “receiving services.”
- The work engages the wider community and is an engine for “community member centered” community development.
I’m confused. In the description above, you talk about community associations being different from institutions in the application narrative. For the purpose of this application, what is the difference between community associations and institutions?
An association is a group of local community members joined together with a vision of a common goal. They can be community garden groups, neighborhood business associations, veterans groups, gender identity-focused groups, mutual aid groups, and more. Their members are often volunteers, though some may grow to hire staff to implement their work. Association members:
• Decide what they want to do
• Decide how they want to do it
• Take action and DO IT!
The power of associations is not as clearly recognized as the power of institutions. The power of associations lies in their ability to amplify the gifts inherent in the community, reach large numbers of people, affect attitudes and behavior (create community culture), and be agile in exercising their creativity and vision. They involve people whose primary stake is in community through their locality or affinity, not through a professional paid relationship. CRFSF wants to ensure that associations receive support to play a role in community food-oriented work. If they don’t have formal nonprofit status, they may partner with nonprofits to access charitable dollars.
Institutions are organized for consistency, reliability, and sustainability and bring different assets to communities from those contributed by associations. Institutions in communities may be schools, hospitals, social service agencies, larger established food system nonprofits, private businesses, and government agencies, among others. They can serve communities through:
• Local purchasing and hiring
• Accountability through community member participation on boards and committees
• Making land, space, and equipment available
• Listening to ensure that their institution’s assets are well-used in communities
Why are both associations and institutions important if we want to apply in Category 2?
Category 2 seeks to build on the strengths of both associations and institutions through collaboration. Connections across multiple associations as well as collaborations between associations and institutions are priority initiatives. For example, multiple mutual aid community associations focused on food rescue could band together to amplify their impact. Or a community association such as a veterans group could partner with an established urban farming nonprofit and a house of worship to develop an urban farming program for veterans. Initiatives originating in institutions that only engage other institutions without strong community participation would be less likely to be funded. One example might be a social service agency in the emergency food system working only with other social service agencies to provide emergency food.
Is there a “best way” to identify and list assets in our application narrative?
No, there is no “best way,” but one way is to start with individuals and move out to community and physical assets. What are the gifts and talents of the individuals in the group, including cultural assets? How does the association or organization draw on those gifts? What relationships does the association or organization have with other organizations? What physical assets are available in land, buildings, and equipment, and how does the organization have access to them? Does the group rely on volunteers (in-kind contributions) and are there other financial resources?
It can be hard to move away from cataloging what is wrong, since that is generally what is incentivized by funding sources. Just do the best you can and enjoy thinking about everything you bring to the table.
GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE APPLICATION
Am I eligible to apply to the Chicago Region Food System Fund?
The following criteria determine your eligibility to apply to the Fund:
- Only 501(c)(3) organizations or fiscal sponsors are eligible to apply.
- There are loose geographic restrictions. The Chicago Region Food Fund focuses on an area roughly 200 miles from Chicago. Tribal nations located more than 200 miles from Chicago are eligible to apply if the Chicago region is part of their market.
- In Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties, funding consideration includes nonprofits working with: urban and peri-urban farmers; food hubs/cooperatives; farmers markets; community organizations with close ties to informal community associations; food businesses (processors, distributors, slaughterhouses, retail, restaurants, institutional providers); food chain workers; emergency food system organizations integrating local food; and wasted food projects.
- Funding consideration in other regions of Illinois, southeast Wisconsin, northwest Indiana, and southwest Michigan is for nonprofits working with rural farmers, food aggregation hubs, and food processors that include the Chicago metropolitan area as part of their market. This includes nonprofits supporting food chain workers. Tribal nations and indigenous peoples’ organizations that prioritize the Chicago region as part of a food sovereignty strategy will also be considered.
If you’re uncertain as to whether you qualify, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re not a 501(c)(3)—what are our options?
The CRFSF can only fund 501(c)(3) organizations. However, organizations that lack that status may engage in projects in two ways:
- Community associations such as block clubs or emerging projects that have not yet secured nonprofit status may partner with established non-profits that can support the work as a program expense or through a fiscal sponsorship relationship.
- Food system businesses may execute project work through a vendor contract with a 501(c)(3) organization. The 501(c)(3) must be the applicant to the Fund.
If you’re uncertain whether you qualify, please email us at email@example.com.
How do I apply to the Chicago Region Food System Fund?
Click this link to the new online application system. You can read more about the new system in the FAQs below, including specific information pertaining to returning users. Once you’ve registered to create an account, you’ll fill out and submit your application online.
When can I apply to the Chicago Region Food System Fund? When are applications due?
The online application system opened on March 23, 2022. Applications must be submitted by April 28, 2022, 11:59 p.m. CT.
How much can I request? What is the grant period? Are the grants for specific projects?
Grant applications for this round of funding may range from $10,000 to $250,000 in either focus area. The Fund is committed to funding at all levels in each category. The grant period will be for one year. Please see the guidelines and be specific in your grant application about your project.
Should we include indirect costs in our budget? What is the maximum amount?
We encourage you to include indirect costs up to 15% of your project budget, regardless of the size of your project or amount of your request! Indirect costs are costs related to overhead or administration of your work. Examples of indirect costs can include a portion of an executive director’s time not involved in the delivery of services or programs, but rather in the administration of the organization. Indirect costs can be represented by the sum of a % of ED salary, a percentage of facility rent and a portion of marketing expenses to promote the program, for instance. Indirect costs can be calculated on actual usage or by a percentage of your budget.
CRFSF funded significant work on emergency food distribution in past funding rounds. Will the Fund prioritize emergency food distribution in this round?
We recognize that the impacts of COVID-19 continue to put immense pressures on the food system and that demand for emergency food remains high. However, the Spring 2022 Community Asset Round prioritizes projects that will further cultivate existing community assets to aid in long-term food system transformation.For projects that include some focus on emergency food, priority will be on community-generated approaches to production, processing, and distribution of emergency food. While emergency food assistance may still be supported as part of an initiative, it must be coupled with some other food system activity such as a farm or community garden, wasted food rescue, processing food for prepared meals, or support for businesses providing emergency food.
What kind of reporting will be required? Many grant applications ask about outcomes, measures or impacts, but I don’t see that question in this application.
If your organization is awarded a grant, we’ll provide information in your grant agreement about reporting on the impact of your work. This will likely include tracking deliverables specific to your project, such as pounds of food grown (quantitative measures), as well as the impacts of, changes to, or lessons learned from the project during the grant period (qualitative measures).
How can I see a list of the application questions?
After you’ve logged in to your account and opened the application draft, use the “Question List” button to generate a pdf of all the questions.
We currently have a grant from CRFSF–can we apply again?
Yes, any recipient of past CRFSF funding, including regranted funds or the recent Omicron Response funding, may apply.
When will we be notified about a possible grant?
We anticipate that decisions will be made, and grantees notified, in in late-May or early June 2022.
Who else has been funded by the Chicago Region Food System Fund?
Since June 2020, the Fund has awarded grants totaling $8.4M to 105 non-profit organizations. Learn more about previous CRFSF grants here and here or by visiting the grantee section of the home page.
What does BIPOC mean?
BIPOC is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. You can learn more about the history and usage of BIPOC here and here.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE NEW ONLINE APPLICATION SYSTEM
How do I use the online application system?
- If you are a previous applicant or grantee—CRFSF recently transitioned to a new online application system. If you applied to CRFSF for a grant prior to January 2022, please create a new account to apply for this round of funding. We’ll export information from the old system to the new once the transition is completed. Thanks for your patience.
- If this is your first time applying for a grant from CRFSF, go to the online application system, create a new account, and set up your password.
When you set up your account, you’ll see a screen with information about the confirmation email sent to you from “Forefront <firstname.lastname@example.org>” and how to ensure you’ve received it.
We’re an organization applying for funding through a fiscal sponsor. How do we register and apply?
The registration form includes fields for providing your fiscal sponsor information. You will list your organization and include the fiscal sponsor in parentheses. For example: Fresh Taste (Forefront).
What if I forgot my username and/or password?
If you don’t know your password, please select the reset password link on the login screen. Your username is the email you used to create your account. If you don’t know which email you used, contact email@example.com.
I’ve logged in and would like to start a new application. Please help!
After logging in, you can start a new application by selecting “Apply” in the upper menu next to the Forefront logo. Look for the funding round you’re interested in and select the “Apply” button on the right side.
Can I log out of the online application system and return to my grant request at a later time?
Yes – just remember to save your draft request in the bottom right-hand corner of the application. Once saved, you can return at any time to complete your request by looking for your draft in the “Active Requests” section. Look for the “Edit Application” link to the right. Please do not begin a separate application every time you log in. When a funding round closes, all applications still in “draft” status will be marked as ‘abandoned.”
Does the online system automatically save my work as I go?
The system autosaves each time you click into a new question, but if you are not ready to submit your application it is advisable to save your work before logging out to ensure no information is lost. This is done by selecting the “Save” button in the bottom right-hand corner. Some applicants find that it’s easier to type out answers in a separate Word document and then copy/paste into the online system before submitting.
I added the wrong document to my grant request or report. How do I remove it and add the correct one?
If you’re still in draft form, you can remove the attachment and reattach different documents. If you notice an error after you have submitted your application, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know, and we’ll work with you on the correction.
I accidentally started multiple drafts of a grant request. How do I remove the ones I don’t need?
To edit drafts you have already started, click Edit next to the draft on your dashboard rather than returning to the Apply page and starting over. To avoid starting multiple requests in the future, please check your active requests folder before beginning a new request and be sure to save your request as you go. When a funding round closes, all applications still in “draft” status will be marked as ‘abandoned.”
How can I be sure I’ve submitted my application?
First, when you’re done editing, always “Save” your request using the button at the bottom. Saving ensures you can return to our application and continue editing. When your application is complete, be sure to click the “Submit” button at the bottom of the page. Once you submit, you’ll receive a confirmation email. You can also log into the online application system, look to the “Active Requests” section. A submitted application will have a link that says “View” rather than “Edit.”
How do I save and download a copy of my application for my records?
While you are logged-in and viewing your application look for the “Application Packet” button and follow the instructions.
Are there any manuals or guides to using the online application system?
For all other questions and assistance with the online application system not answered above, visit these links:
- Written Guide
- Video 1: Site Access & Account Creation (3 mins.)
- Video 2: Applying for Funding (5 mins.)
- Video 3: Your Applicant Dashboard (3 mins.)
- Video 4: Apply for a Grant – Applicant Overview/Summary (4 mins.)