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Request for Proposal

We are excited to announce our Racial Equity and Community Partnership Grants program. We are committing more than $500,000 to advance racial equity in our home communities of Evanston and Chicago. Our goal is to foster mutually beneficial partnerships between community-based organizations* and Northwestern University representatives that work towards making our communities fairer and more equitable. We invite you to consider applying for either a partnership or incubator grant. 

The Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations is hosting several information sessions on Zoom to answer questions about this program. Attendance is not required in order to apply. Register in advance for one of these sessions at the links below:

*Please note that school districts and colleges are not eligible to apply to either grant this year. 

Why University-Community Partnerships

Northwestern is committed to becoming a national model for how a major research university engages with the communities where it resides. To reach that goal, we intend to expand strategic, meaningful partnerships between community-based organizations and Northwestern University that:

  • Build the capacity of local neighborhoods to develop and grow community-driven solutions to structural problems
  • Advance the University's academic and research mission while also strengthening local communities
We want to support projects fully co-created and co-managed by both community organizations and Northwestern representatives as well as create a pipeline for new projects. 

Our Working Definition of Racial Equity

We believe racial equity is the foundation for a just and fair society where all people can participate to reach their full potential. Advancing racial equity means doing things differently than they have done before. We mean: 

  • Investing in communities of color, especially underserved and underinvested areas
  • Making changes to institutions to address root causes of inequities
  • Racial healing and acknowledgment of past harms to communities of color 

What We Want To Fund

We want to fund proposals that work toward making structural changes which address racial equity. Ideas should focus on one or more of the following areas: 

  • Health equity 
  • Economic and social empowerment such as expanding work opportunities, increasing access to wealth for families and individuals, or developing community leadership opportunities
  • Children and youth learning
Here are the two grant opportunities currently available: 
Grants Descriptions
These are examples of current community/Northwestern projects that demonstrate the kind of partnerships that we seek of fund or help develop.  

How the Submission and Selection Process Works

Grants will be selected through a two-stage process, including an LOI and a full proposal for those invited to move forward. Here are important steps and dates in the process: 

  1. Apply for a Partnership grant: Community-based organizations or Northwestern students, faculty, or staff are invited to submit a Letter of Interest (LOI) by February 11 to our online application system. This is a simple application that asks for you to describe your idea. For Partnership grants, either community-based organizations or Northwestern representatives can submit the LOI for their joint project.


    Apply for an Incubator grant: Community-based organizations are invited to submit a Letter of Interest (LOI) by February 11 to our online application system. This is a simple application that asks for you to describe your idea.

  2. Our committee will review the LOIs and select applications to move to the second stage, either for Partnership or Incubator Grants. That decision will be made by February 25.

  3. Those selected to continue will complete a final, full proposal for either a Partnership or Incubator Grant and submit it by March 25.

  4. We will announce grantees in May 2021.

  5. The grant cycle will run from June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022. We will distribute the first half of funding after the grant agreement is signed; the second half will be distributed after completion of a mid-term report.

What You Will Need to Submit

Letter of Interest: To submit your LOI, please visit the Evanston Community Foundation grant portal. You may need to create an account. Below are questions you will need to answer when submitting your LOI. 

For all applicants: 

  • Your idea: Tell us about your idea and how it addresses racial equity. Is this a new idea or is it building on something your organization is already working on? 
  • What you do: If you are a community-based organization: What is your organization's mission? What areas do you serve? If you are a Northwestern University representative: What are your areas of interest?
  • Addressing structural racism: How would this project work to address structural racism? 
  • Project goals: During one year of funding, what would you expect to accomplish? How would you define success at the end of that year?
For Partnership Grants only: 
  • Tell us about the partnership between the community-based organization and the Northwestern representatives: Is it already in place or is it a developing relationship? What are the roles or potential roles for the community-based organization and the Northwestern representative? What do you each bring to this partnership? Why is this partnership meaningful to both sides?
For Incubator Grants only: 
  • Potential partnerships: Have you ever partnered with Northwestern? How would partnering with Northwestern faculty, staff, or students advance your project?
  • Current work in this area: Have you already begun work on this idea? If so, please describe. If not, what do you think the first steps should be?
You must submit the LOI to the portal by February 11,2021 at 11:59pm CST.
Full Proposal: If your idea is invited to the full proposal stage, we will ask your team to explain your vision further, including your community-based organization/Northwestern partnership if applicable. Final proposals are due by March 25, 2021 at 11:59pm CST.


This presentation was shared with community partners to provide feedback on creating a strong grant application.
If you have questions, please contact Thank you for your interest!