Grantmaking FAQ

What are the major funding priorities of the Foundation?

How can I know if my organization is eligible to apply for a grant?

We have just incorporated as a nonprofit, but have not received a letter from the IRS about our application for nonprofit status.  The state has said that we don't have to pay sales tax.  Can we still apply to the Dyson Foundation?

Does the Foundation ever fund projects outside its stated program priority areas and can I apply for grants outside of the Foundation's guidelines?

If my organization received a grant through the Legacy & Family Interest or Directors' Discretionary programs in the past, can I reapply?

Are there any kinds of grants that you do not make?

Does the Foundation fund religious or faith-based organizations?

Before I submit a proposal, can you tell me if the Foundation is interested in or would consider the type of grant I am looking for?

How do I get a copy of the guidelines?

I'm a new organization and don't have all the information requested in the guidelines. Can I still apply?

What is the process for applying for a grant?

How long does it take to complete the grantmaking process, and if my project is approved when will I receive funding?

What are the deadlines for applying for grants?

Can we meet with someone to discuss a possible proposal?

How will I know you received my letter of inquiry?

When and how will I know if my letter of inquiry has been accepted or rejected?

Can I check on the status of a letter of inquiry or a grant application?

We recently submitted a letter of inquiry and were declined. Can you tell me why? May we re-submit?

If my organization receives a grant from the Dyson Foundation, will there be any conditions that we have to meet or reports to submit?

How are decisions on inquiries or proposals made?

Do you fund general operating expenses?

Do you fund capital or building projects?

Do you fund emergency requests?

Will the Foundation consider loans?

Do you give grants or scholarships directly to individuals?

What is the Mid-Hudson Valley Management Assistance Program?

We are in the early stages of developing a program.  Do you fund start-up costs?

How much money should I ask for?

I am preparing the grant application for project support.  Can the Project Budget Form include indirect costs?

Should we include letters of support or other materials such as videos?

Will you do a site visit?

Are grants funded over multiple years and is there a limit to the number of consecutive years of funding?

Can I apply for multiple projects in the same year?

I have never written a proposal, where can I get help?


What are the major funding priorities of the Foundation?
The Dyson Foundation has a major funding program in the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York State that aims to improve and enhance the quality of life in the region for all of its residents, especially those most vulnerable or economically disadvantaged.  We define the Mid-Hudson region as including Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, and Ulster counties.  We have a particular emphasis on Dutchess County, our home community. 

The Foundation also awards grants to organizations or towards issues that are of particular interest to members of the family of Robert R. Dyson through Legacy & Family Interest grants, and the Board of Directors can direct a limited amount of discretionary grant funding to other organizations through the Directors' Discretionary Program.

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How can I know if my organization is eligible to apply for a grant?
You can take our eligibility questionnaire online right now.  It will help you identify whether you are eligible to apply, and if the work your organization is doing fits our guidelines.

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We have just incorporated as a nonprofit, but have not received a letter from the IRS about our application for nonprofit status.  The state has said that we don't have to pay sales tax.  Can we still apply to the Dyson Foundation?
No, in most cases we require that you have a tax status determination letter from the federal Internal Revenue Service.  Whether you pay state sales tax is a different question, and not related to whether you can receive a grant from a private foundation.

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Does the Foundation ever fund projects outside its stated program priority areas and can I apply for grants outside of the Foundation's guidelines?
The only funds awarded outside of our program areas are for Legacy & Family Interest grants or Directors' Discretionary grants.  Unfortunately, you cannot apply for a grant in these areas.  We do not accepted unsolicited proposals in these funding areas.

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If my organization received a grant through the Legacy & Family Interest or Directors' Discretionary programs in the past, can I reapply?
You can submit a letter of inquiry to us by following the instructions on our Grants Portal.

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Are there any kinds of grants that you do not make?
Yes, the Foundation does not generally make grants for the following purposes:

  • To individuals for any purpose;
  • For dinners, fundraising events, tickets, or benefit advertising (read our Statement Regarding Special Events Funding);
  • In response to direct mail campaigns;
  • To service clubs and similar organizations;
  • For debt or deficit reduction;
  • Grants to capital projects or campaigns;
  • Grants for environmental projects;
  • Grants for arts programs, other than those that provide support or training to other arts organizations, or that have demonstrated and significant positive impacts on job opportunities and the local economy.
  • Grants for historic preservation;
  • To governmental units (for certain exceptions see our guidelines for public schools and Management Assistance Program grants for libraries);
  • For international projects or to organizations outside of the United States.

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Does the Foundation fund religious or faith-based organizations?
Yes, but only under certain circumstances. You can review our policy regarding funding to faith-based organizations.

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Before I submit a proposal, can you tell me if the Foundation is interested in or would consider the type of grant I am looking for?
We actually ask that you not submit a proposal before first submitting a letter of inquiry online or through the postal mail.  If your request appears to meet our guidelines and be of potential interest to us, we will invite you to submit a full proposal.  Please review the How To Apply For a Grant section of this website for more information about our application process.

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How do I get a copy of the guidelines?
Our General Funding Guidelines are available here and are also included in our annual report.  You may view our most recent annual report online.  To receive a printed copy of our annual report by mail, send an email request or call our office at 845.677.0644.

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I'm a new organization and don't have all the information requested in the guidelines. Can I still apply?
Yes, you can still apply. However, you will need to provide your organization's 501 (c) 3 tax status determination letter from the federal Internal Revenue Service and also document the organization's financial resources.

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What is the process for applying for a grant?
You can review the steps to follow in the How to Apply for a Grant section of this website.

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How long does it take to complete the grantmaking process, and if my project is approved when will I receive funding?
Depending on the size and kind of grant you are requesting, the process can take from three to six months.  We do try to make every effort to review submissions as quickly as possible, but the Foundation has only a small staff.

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What are the deadlines for applying for grants?
There are no deadlines.  Letters of inquiry and proposals are reviewed on a rolling basis. However, applicants for youth summer programming should be aware of an application timeline found here.

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Can we meet with someone to discuss a possible proposal?
If you would like to talk with a Foundation program officer before submitting your letter of inquiry, please feel free to call.  However, our experience is that we can have more informed and helpful conversations after an initial letter of inquiry has been reviewed.

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How will I know if you received my letter of inquiry?
You will receive an immediate acknowledgement by email.

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When and how will I know if my letter of inquiry has been accepted or rejected?
Generally, once your letter of inquiry has been acknowledged, it can take between two and six weeks for a preliminary decision to be made.  You will either receive correspondence declining the inquiry, or we will contact you to ask for a full proposal.

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Can I check on the status of a letter of inquiry or a grant application?
After submitting a letter of inquiry or application through the Grants Portal, the status of that submission will be displayed.  If it is very important to get more information than this about status of a submission (such as to let another funder know the status), you can email us and we will try to help.  Otherwise, we ask that you be as patient as possible.  

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We recently submitted a letter of inquiry and were declined. Can you tell me why? May we re-submit?
We try to let all applicants know why their inquiry was declined in the letter or email we send out.  Sometimes these reasons may sound vague, but in most cases, the top reason for declination of an inquiry is that it does not fit our guidelines.  The Dyson Foundation receives many more proposals than we can possibly fund, and we regret that we cannot fund every proposal that is submitted to us.

You can reapply with a new project inquiry at any time, but you should be sure that your organization is in fact eligible for funding.  You can do that by using our online eligibility questionnaire.

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If my organization receives a grant from the Dyson Foundation, will there be any conditions that we have to meet or reports to submit?
Yes, our grantees may be asked to sign a "grant agreement" that will include standard conditions and any special requirements that accompany the grant.  Any other obligations or terms may also be spelled out in a signed grant letter from the Foundation.  You can read a sample copy of our standard grant agreement in the Forms & Reports section of this website.  The agreement or letter will also detail what reports we require and when they are due.  Usually we ask for periodic reports on the project, financial reports and audits, and an annual report from the organization.  We may also request prior approval of any press releases announcing the grant.

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How are decisions on inquiries or proposals made?
Foundation staff will review your inquiry or proposal with care.  The first thing that we will do is consider whether the proposed project or request meets the Foundation's funding guidelines.  From there, we will consider the following criteria:

  • Significance of the need to be addressed;
  • Potential to achieve significant and enduring results;
  • Fiscal and management capacity of the applicant organization;
  • Track record of applicant in accomplishing its goals and objectives; and
  • Appropriateness of the budget.

During this review, the Foundation will research the proposal through telephone inquiries, site visits, and meetings with agency staff, board, volunteers, and clients as necessary.  On occasion, outside experts may be asked to help review a particular proposal.

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Do you fund general operating expenses?
Yes.  However, general operating support grants are restricted to organizations that: have received project support funding in the past 3 years from the Dyson Foundation, have a mission and programs that are consistent with our core funding interests, and that meet specific principles of best practice as established by the Dyson Foundation.  Visit the General Operating Support guidelines page for more details.

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Do you fund capital or building projects?
While we have funded capital projects in the past, we do not generally accept unsolicited proposals for capital funding.

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Do you fund emergency requests?
In most cases no, but you can still submit a letter of inquiry by following the instructions on our Grants Portal.  If you are a current Dyson Foundation grantee and are seeking an emergency cash flow loan, learn more about our Cash Flow Loan Program.

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Will the Foundation consider loans?
The Dyson Foundation makes cash flow loans available to grantees of the Dyson Foundation.  Learn more about the Cash Flow Loan Program. The Foundation does not make any other loans.

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Do you give grants or scholarships directly to individuals?
No, the Dyson Foundation cannot make financial awards directly to individuals, nor can it earmark funds given to an institution for the benefit of a particular individual.  The Foundation does make grants to several colleges and universities for scholarships, but interested individuals must apply to those institutions directly for financial aid.  Current scholarship funds are active at the following institutions: Bard College, SUNY-New Paltz, and Cornell University.  An excellent source of information about funding for individuals (including scholarships) is available at Foundation Grants to Individuals Online (there is a small charge for this online service).

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What is the Mid-Hudson Valley Management Assistance Program?
In addition to our general grants funding in the Mid-Hudson Valley, the Dyson Foundation has a regional Management Assistance Program that aims to improve the organizational effectiveness of nonprofits in the Mid-Hudson Valley by providing capacity-building management assistance services.  Nonprofits throughout the six-county region are eligible to apply for small grants to improve their internal operations, administration, and management. Current Dyson Foundation grantees may also be eligible for other services through MAP.  Grants and other services through MAP have their own guidelines and application procedures.

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We are in the early stages of developing a program.  Do you fund start-up costs?
Yes, the Foundation will consider applications for start-up costs if the newly formed program or organization does not substantially duplicate services or organizations already available in the community, and has a 501 (c) 3 tax status determination letter from the Federal Internal Revenue Service.

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How much money should I ask for?
There is no dollar limit to our grants, which range from $1,000 to over $1,000,000.  Our average grant payment in 2016 was $47,696, and the median was $16,250. You should make your request for the amount of money that you need to accomplish the project objectives.  It is rare that Dyson Foundation will support the total costs of any given project, so we will want to know about your other funding sources.  Note that when considering the size of a grant request to any foundation, you should be aware of the IRS public support test or "tipping".  Learn more about the public support test.

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I am preparing the grant application for project support.  Can the Project Budget Form include indirect costs?
Yes.  The Dyson Foundation will allow indirect costs for most project support applicants (costs that are not project-specific but support the organization's overhead), up to a maximum of 12% of the grant request.  The Dyson Foundation will not fund indirect costs for organizations with budgets of greater than $15 million.  Read our Indirect Costs Guidelines.

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Should we include letters of support or other materials such as videos?
Generally, we ask that you don't send any additional materials with your proposal beyond what is asked for in the instructions for our grant application.  If letters of support or other materials are needed, the staff person reviewing your proposal will contact you.

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Will you do a site visit?
We often will do site visits, especially with new applicants.  Usually these are done by Foundation staff, occasionally accompanied by board members.  If a site visit is a necessary part of reviewing your proposal, staff will let you know that.

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Are grants funded over multiple years and is there a limit to the number of consecutive years of funding?
Yes, we are often willing to fund multi-year grants as long as you have made a strong case.  Please indicate that you are making a multi-year request in your letter of inquiry or grant application form. Also keep in mind that the Foundation will most often limit its funding to an organization to six years or less.

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Can I apply for multiple projects in the same year?
With the exception of Management Assistance Program mini-grants and strategic restructuring grants, the Dyson Foundation generally only makes one grant per twelve-month period to an organization.  There may be compelling reasons for multiple grants, but they are not common.  Learn more about our Management Assistance Program grants.

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I have never written a proposal, where can I get help?
Writing a proposal is not that difficult, but we understand that it can be daunting for many applicants.  Please know that we do not look for a slick presentation, but we do care about organized thinking, following our directions, and a clear presentation.  Most organizations do not need to hire professional grant writers to receive grant funding from the Dyson Foundation.  There are many sources, especially on the Internet, to help you develop your proposal writing or grant seeking skills.  One of the best is the Foundation Center.  You can also review the Resource Development links in the Resources section of this website for other sources of help.  Many local groups, including our management support partner, the New York Council of Nonprofits, offer training opportunities in grant writing and fundraising, as do many local colleges and universities.

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