Grants and student awards

Participatory Granting Pilot

HCF’s Participatory Granting Pilot – Capacity-building for equity-deserving community-led (EDC-led) organizations in Hamilton.

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Timeline update: Due to the high number of EOIs received, we expect to advise applicants of decisions by May 1, 2024

Application is closed.

Participatory granting is a trust-based, community-engaged approach to granting that shifts decision-making power to those most impacted by the funding.

Hamilton Community Foundation’s Participatory Granting Pilot invites applications from organizations who serve and are led by equity-deserving communities (EDCs) to join a granting circle to determine community needs and allocate funds. The focus and purpose of funds is capacity building for equity-deserving community-led  (EDC-led) organizations. These organizations are uniquely positioned to respond to pressing local needs and have the knowledge and expertise to make the most positive impact on the lives and health of EDCs.

The funding available for the Participatory Granting Pilot in 2024 is $500,000. Organizations participating in the Granting Circle will receive a minimum grant of $10,000. The remaining funding allocations will be determined by the Granting Circle.

Eligibility: who can apply?

HCF’s Participatory Granting Pilot EOI process is open to Equity Deserving Community-led (EDC-led) organizations operating and delivering services in Hamilton.

To be eligible, the organization must represent at least one of the six priority EDC communities listed below for the project and have an annual operating budget of less than $1,000,000.

Who are the priority EDC communities for HCF’s Participatory Granting Pilot?

  • 2SLGBTQ+
  • Black
  • Deaf and disability
  • Indigenous
  • Racialized
  • Women, girls and gender diverse

What is an EDC-led organization?

To be eligible for this expression of interest, EDC-led organizations must have each of these aspects:

  • An explicit mandate to serve the EDC population.
  • A majority of leadership, board and staff that reflect the EDC.
  • A mission and activities that are informed by the EDC’s experience and knowledge.

In addition, eligible organizations will demonstrate the following:

  • An operating budget of less than $1M.
  • Capacity-building needs related to operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity.
  • A willingness to participate in a collaborative granting experience that will determine priorities and allocation of available funds. We anticipate that this will take place over two half-days between April 8, 2024, and April 26, 2024.
  • Charitable status or fiscal sponsorship. Organizations without a fiscal sponsor are encouraged to contact Elizabeth Webb, Grants Co-ordinator by email at to explore options. 
How does HCF’s Participatory Granting Pilot model work?

There are two decision-making groups in HCF’s Participatory Granting Project: 1) the Community Panel and 2) the Granting Circle.  The Community Panel has designed the Call for expressions of interest (EOIs) and will review all eligible EOIs received by the deadline. The Granting Circle will be made up of the organizations that are selected by the Community Panel through the EOI process. The following are key steps in the process:

  1. EDC-led organizations submit EOIs.
  2. HCF staff review all EOIs/organizations for eligibility.
  3. All eligible EOIs are passed to the Community Panel for review.
  4. The Community Panel reviews EOIs and selects up to 10 organizations to make up the Granting Circle.
  5. The Granting Circle meets over two half-day sessions and, together with the support of a facilitator, determines how to distribute the available funding among themselves. Organizations selected for the Granting Circle will receive a minimum grant of $10,000.
  6. The Granting Circle will convene again in 2025 and 2026 to review capacity-building needs and distribute available funds among Circle members.
Funding purpose and priorities

This funding aims to support capacity-building for Equity-deserving community-led (EDC-led) organizations.

The Community Panel has defined capacity building as whatever is needed to bring an organization to the next level of operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity. The following are examples of capacity building activities:

Nurturing people:

  • Activities to strengthen, build and support human resources, such as developing HR, operational or governance policies and structures; developing recruitment and retention strategies; providing internal mental health support, mentorship and coaching; volunteer management and upskilling; youth leadership expansion such as convening advisory boards; and increasing knowledge of labour/workers’ rights.
  • Planning and implementing EDI and Reconciliation initiatives and building networks and collaboration.

Nurturing systems and structures:

  • Building or acquiring systems and structures to increase capacity and becoming trained in those systems. For example, contact management systems, financial administration and accounting systems, systems for digital operations and communication tools and systems.
  • Building plans and structures to enable growth, such as developing a communications strategy and/or fundraising strategy; and conducting a governance review and governance training.
  • Building systems and structures for compliance and responsiveness to established and emerging accountabilities, for example data management and privacy, health and safety responsibilities, and accessibility and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) compliance.

Nurturing program and service capacity:

  • Acquiring the skills, knowledge and or/resources needed to support quality improvement and/or cultural practice capacity to meet community needs.

Acquiring the skills and knowledge and or resources to support program and service growth, for example evaluation and redesign, communications and public relations skills including grant writing.

How to apply

Organizations can apply by completing an Expression of Interest in HCF’s portal. Sections 1 and 2 must be completed in writing, through the portal. Section 3 may be completed in in writing in the portal, or can be submitted by video or interview. Instructions for completing Section 3 are provided in the portal.

Organizations selecting an oral interview for Section 3 of the EOI must advise HCF of their intention by Thursday, March 14, 2024, in order to arrange an interview before the application deadline. Interviews will be held from March 21 to March 26, 2024.  Contact Elizabeth Webb, Grants Co-ordinator, by email at, to arrange an interview or if you have questions about applying.

For planning purposes, the application questions can be found here; submissions must be made to the portal, which can be accessed through the link below:

Apply online here.

Application deadline is Tuesday, March 26, 2024 at 5:00 p.m. EST

Information sessions will be held on Thursday, March 7th at 10:00 a.m. and Monday, March 18th at 3:30 p.m.

Before you apply, please read the following carefully:

  • To avoid last minute technical challenges, do not wait until the last moment to submit your application. The portal is designed to close at precisely 5:00 p.m.
  • Content in your Application and Requirement forms WILL NOT AUTOSAVE as you type. Please be sure click “SAVE” periodically so you don’t lose your work. We suggest you type your content in a Word document, then copy and paste it into the online form.
  • Make sure you have the following before you begin your application:
    • Registered Charitable Number (for either the applicant organization or fiscal sponsor)
    • Annual operating budget for your organization
  • In order to complete your application, you must submit the following:
    • List of current board members (of the organization holding charitable status)
    • A copy of this year’s operating budget (of the organization holding charitable status)
  • The following are activities or costs are not eligible for funding:
    • Major capital projects/campaigns
    • Fundraising campaign costs and contributions
    • Grants to individuals
    • Endowment requests or deficit reduction
    • Retroactive requests (expenses incurred prior to funding period)
    • Team sponsorships
    • Political activities that are prohibited by the Canada Revenue Agency
    • Event sponsorships
    • Activities outside of Hamilton or without specific benefit to residents of Hamilton
    • Activities or services that include faith-based programming
    • Activities delivered by faith-based organizations that cannot ensure benefit is going beyond the congregation. In addition, faith may not be a requirement for participation.
    • Activities that undermine, restrict or infringe on human rights legally protected in Canada.
How Expressions of Interest will be assessed

Expressions of Interest from eligible organizations will be reviewed by the Community Panel, and assessed on the following criteria:

  • Alignment (25% of score): The EOI aligns with the funding priorities, with a clear connection to capacity building and organizational maturity. The aim or achievements of work proposed are realistic based on the funding available.
  • Need (20% of score): The organizations and EOIs demonstrate alignment with the funding priorities to support capacity building for EDC-led organizations.
  • Potential impact (35% of score): The organizations seek funds to support capacity- building efforts that will have considerable impact on ability to serve EDC communities and respond to current and future community needs and issues.
  • Engagement and collaboration (20% of score): The organizations demonstrate a willingness and ability to participate in a collaborative experience. Organizations have experience working with diverse community partners and/or intend to collaborate with partners to enhance capacity to serve new populations. 

The Community Panel is made up of local community leaders with deep experience in social and community services, and lived experience across diverse EDCs. Panel members are:

Kojo Damptey, McMaster University Sessional Instructor & Musician
Sophie Geffros, Community Organizer
NaWalka Geeshy Meegwun – lyndon george
Pauline Kajiura, Co-Director, Intersecting Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression Consultant
Kim Martin, Executive Director, Social Planning and Research Council Hamilton
Medora Uppal, CEO, YWCA Hamilton

Important Dates
  • Information sessions: Thursday, March 7th at 10:00 a.m. and Monday, March 18th at 3:30 p.m. Register here.
  • Expression of Interest deadline: Tuesday, March 26, 2024 at 5:00 p.m.
  • Applicants informed: Monday, May 1, 2024
  • Closed Collective/Granting Circle: Meeting dates TBD, between May 13 and May 31, 2024.
Apply now

Click to apply

Information sessions

Thursday, March 7th at 10:00 a.m.
Monday, March 18th at 3:30 p.m.


For the purpose of this EOI, the following are defined as:

Expression of Interest (EOI): An organization’s statement of interest in participating in the project’s Granting Circle. EOIs will answer specific questions generated by the Community Panel, and must be submitted through HCF’s grants portal.

EDC-Led: Organizations that demonstrate the following three characteristics: (1) the majority of leadership, board and staff reflect the EDC population(s) served; (2) a specific mandate to serve the EDC population(s); and (3) a mission and activities that are informed by the EDC’s experience and knowledge.

Capacity-building: whatever is needed to bring an organization to the next level of operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity. See full description and examples in the “Funding purpose and priorities” section, below.

Participatory Granting: A range of practices through which a funder shifts decision-making about distribution of funds to those most impacted.

Priority EDC: The equity-deserving communities identified as priority for this participatory granting project, communities that have experienced chronic under-funding by philanthropic institutions.

  • 2SLGBTQ+
  • Indigenous
  • Black
  • Deaf and disability
  • Racialized
  • Women, girls and gender-diverse

Please check the Frequently Asked Questions – here

The FAQ will be updated every Monday up to and including March 25, 2024 with common questions and answered received up to the close of the EOI submission period.

Questions can be submitted by email to


Elizabeth Webb, Grants Co-ordinator
905.523.5600 x 249