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Colorado’s Common Grant Toolkit and Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to the online home for Colorado’s:

The Common Grant Application and Common Grant Report allow Colorado grantmakers and grantseekers to work from a common set of questions that reinforce solid nonprofit practices. At the same time, the CGA and CGR save grantseekers time and effort by enabling them to use a single form for many different applications and reports. Please be aware that grantmakers may accept one of these forms but not all three. Learn which grantmakers accept which form(s).

The Colorado Common Grant Application and Report are excellent teaching tools that outline the critical components of a competitive grant proposal. CRC offers a variety of trainings that focus on using the CGA and CGR for your organization’s fund development needs.

General Information

Who accepts these forms?

Click here for a list of grantmakers that accept the Common Grant Application and/or the Common Grant Report. Some grantmakers give applicants the choice of either using the CGA and CGR or a format specified by the grantmaker. Others on this list accept the common forms – and only use the common forms. Still other grantmakers will require additional information for their applications or reports, or they have made slight modifications to the application or report. Others may require a letter of intent prior to receiving an application. Therefore, it is critical that grantseekers visit grantmaker websites for the most up-to-date information about individual funding entities areas of interest, application requirements, deadlines, modifications to the CGA, reporting requirements, and other pertinent information. It would be a shame to waste time and energy on writing a grant that is quickly dismissed because it doesn’t fit with a grantmaker’s guidelines. Thorough research of your potential new funder is a critical step in the application process.

The Common Grant Application for Capital Campaigns is the newest common form. It was released in September 2009. If you are submitting a capital request and there is no indication that the grantmaker you are applying to accepts the CGA-Capital, it is worth checking with them to determine their interest in using this specialized CGA.

While this list is updated twice a year, we cannot guarantee that it is completely accurate. Again, check each grantmaker’s website prior to submitting an application or report. Where available, a link to the grantmaker’s website is provided.

Note: Each of the grantmakers that accepts the CGA has different funding priorities and areas of interest. Prior to submitting a proposal, it is your responsibility to determine whether your organization meets a grantmaker’s guidelines and funding priorities. Always check each grantmaker’s website for the most current information on their grant application and reporting requirements, and contact them if you have questions.

All information was pulled from the Colorado Grants Guide database. Be sure to check with each funder for their most recent guidelines and requirements. 


History of the Colorado Common Grant

In late 2005, a group of nonprofit organizations and grantmakers met to discuss whether it was time to review, revise, and fine-tune Colorado’s Common Grant Application (CGA) that had been created in 1993. Recognizing that the world had changed considerably in the intervening years, this ad hoc group agreed that it was time to update the CGA and by the middle of 2006, the effort was in full swing, with a new CGA released in April of 2008. Many individuals who served on the committee to revise the Common Grant Application continued their service to Colorado’s nonprofit sector in the revision of the Common Grant Report (CGR) in 2009. The original CGR was launched in 2002.

The revision processes were inclusive and extensive, engaging broad representation from nonprofits, grantmakers, academicians, and capacity-building organizations. These stakeholders worked together to ensure the creation of tools that would be valuable to both grantseekers and grantmakers.

Three driving principles guided the process:

  1. Build upon the success of the past
  2. Actively engage people in a deliberate and objective process
  3. Enhance the opportunity for nonprofit organizations to tell their story while reinforcing “best practices” of nonprofit management and leadership

How was this done? Deliberately, patiently, objectively. At each step, there were surveys, focus groups, expert working groups, testing, re-testing, piloting, and hours of discussions. The deliberate outreach included nonprofit executives, development staff, neophytes, experts, CEOs of grantmaking organizations, program officers, grants management staff, capacity building trainers, and consultants. The Colorado group contrasted its efforts with others nationally, conducted a comprehensive literature review and then puzzled, scrutinized, reviewed, and debated some more.

During the same time period that the CGA was undergoing revision, the Colorado Nonprofit Association produced a publication titled Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Colorado. The document serves as a resource for organizations by covering best practices related to nonprofit management issues, accountability, and transparency. The revised CGA and CGR and the Principles and Practices document share common goals — to increase the capacity of the nonprofit sector to deliver on its mission and to help elevate the recognition of the sector as a force absolutely vital to the well-being of Coloradans.

In 2008, recognizing the importance of these efforts, Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers and Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman endorsed the use of the revised CGA in recognition of its value in reinforcing best practices and ultimately leading to a strengthened nonprofit sector.

In late 2009, the Common Grant Application for Capital Campaigns (CGA-Capital) was created by tweaking the CGA to make it more suitable for grantmakers reviewing capital campaign requests.

Efforts related to the Colorado’s Common Grant Forms have occurred on an ad hoc basis based on the interests and energy of grantmakers, technical assistance providers, and grantseekers.

Frequently Asked Questions: Grantseekers

How do the common grant forms benefit me?
  • The Common Grant forms are cost effective: Grantseekers are able to complete one application or report that can be tailored to meet the reporting needs of multiple grantmakers, freeing up more time to focus on mission, instead of spending time complying with unique application and reporting requirements.
  • The Common Grant Forms lead to better grant applications and reports: The teams that created the forms strove to eliminate repetitions between the application and the reporting document, creating more succinct and streamlined tools. The intention is to provide grantseekers the opportunity to tell their story fluidly and avoid redundancies.
  • The existence of a centralized location for information: The Common Grant Applications, Common Grant Report, and User’s Guides are available on a standalone website in an easy-to-use, fillable format.
  • The Common Grant Forms come with supplemental materials: User’s Guides have been created to accompany the Common Grant Application and Report. These comprehensive documents provide clarity on the intention of each component of the forms and offer resources for further exploration and education.
If a grantmaker accepts one or all of the Common Grant Forms, does that imply they don’t have special requirements of their own?

No. While many grantmakers will use the Common Grant Forms as a stand-alone tool, others will choose to adapt it to meet their own needs. This is why it is critical that each grantseeker research each grantmaker’s application and reporting requirements.

Is it possible that grantmakers will accept the Common Grant Forms and also have their own format?

Yes. Some grantmakers will only use a Common Grant Form for their application and/or reporting requirements. Others give grantseekers the choice of submitting a Common Grant Form OR an application or reporting format stipulated by the grantmaker.

Will you help me find a grant?

No. Nonprofit grant guides and many other grant-writing resources are available in the community. The Colorado Grants Guide, a product of Community Resource Center, has over 750 profiles of funders who fund initiatives and organizations in Colorado.

Who do I contact if I have questions about Common Grant Forms?

There is no single person to contact regarding questions about the Common Grant Forms. Part of the reason for developing the User’s Guides was to provide clarity on the questions asked. It is always appropriate to contact specific grantmakers with questions that arise when applying or reporting to them.

I called the IRS to get an updated “Determination Letter” dated within the past 5 years (per the CGA guidelines) and I was told the IRS does not issue new determination letters. What am I doing wrong?

Many grantmakers, particularly those that accept the Colorado Common Grant Application (CGA), require “proof of IRS federal tax-exempt status, dated within the last five years.” Proof is generally the organization’s 501(c)(3) IRS Determination Letter. Since an organization’s exempt-status can change (i.e. reclassified under a different IRS code or completely revoked for non-compliance), it is necessary for grantseekers to provide a letter from the IRS dated within the last five years, even though technically, the IRS says they don’t “re-issue new determination letters as an organization’s original determination letter does not expire and is always still valid until the point in which an organization’s exempt status changes.” In this instance the IRS would issue a brand new determination letter.

Rather than requesting a “new determination letter” and confusing the IRS agent, it is best to ask for an “Affirmation Letter” which simply affirms that the organization’s original tax-exempt status is still valid. The “Affirmation Letter” dated within the last five years, in most cases, is acceptable proof for grantmakers. The IRS typically sends affirmation letters within 10-14 business days of the request date.

For a step-by-step explanation of how to request an “Affirmation Letter” from the IRS, please contact Katy Pepinsky, Director of Grant Services at [email protected].

How can I control access to my information?

You are in control of your information. This website does not store your information, nor does it distribute or forward your information on to others.

Frequently Asked Questions: Grantmakers

How do the Common Grant Forms benefit me?
  • The forms are designed to result in succinct and streamlined applications that avoid duplicative and meaningless responses.
  • By accepting Common Grant Forms, you allow grantseekers to spend more time focused on mission and less time complying with multiple grant applications and reporting requirements.
  • The User’s Guides add clarity to the process and hopefully answer many of the questions that you and your staff had to field regarding application or report preparation. The User’s Guide is designed to mitigate fears many grantseekers have about the grantmaking process by being as transparent and articulate as possible about what grantmakers are looking for. The User’s Guides also provide a critical body of knowledge and reinforce the Colorado Nonprofit Association’s Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Colorado. The beta-testing revealed that grantmakers and grantseekers found the User’s Guide extremely helpful in improving the clarity and quality of grant applications and reports.
  • The stand-alone website houses all of the Common Grant Forms and provides a “one-stop shop” for grantmakers and grantseekers. Grantmakers are encouraged to create a link on their website to the Common Grant Forms website. The CGA and CGR logos are available for your use and can be used as a hotlink button on your website. Be sure to specify on your website any modifications you have to the Common Grant Forms to ensure applicants comply with your requirements.
  • The Summary Pages for each of the forms ease data management and entry.
Who can use the Common Grant Forms?

All grantmakers are encouraged to use the Common Grant Forms. The benefit to our nonprofit partners increases considerably as the number of grantmakers accepting the Common Grant Forms increases. You need not be based in Colorado, or even do the majority of your funding in Colorado to use these materials.

How do I get our foundation included on the Common Grant Forms website to let nonprofits know that we are accepting one or all of the Common Grant Forms?

Contact Community Resource Center’s Grants Guide Manager, Kristi Smith at [email protected] 

Can groups of grantmakers use the Common Grant Forms?

Of course! There is no restriction on groups of grantmakers such as associations of grantmakers, interest groups, coalitions, alliances, etc. In addition, donor advised funds and private family foundations/trusts are encouraged to use the Common Grant Forms as well.

Are there tools to help me adopt the Common Grant Forms or assist me in making changes to my processes?

On the website, grantmakers will find a Toolkit that includes sample language for communicating to grantseekers about your use of the Common Grant Forms. Our intention is to help you adopt the Common Grant Forms easily and seamlessly.

What if we use a a modified version of the Common Grant Forms?

Most grantmakers will use the Common Grant Forms as a stand-alone tool, while others will choose to adapt it to meet the needs of their organization. It is perfectly okay to adapt the Common Grant Forms to your needs and requirements. Grantseekers are instructed throughout this website, as well as in trainings to “always check your grantmakers website for specific instructions.

Can I accept the CGA or CGR in addition to our own guidelines?

Yes. Some grantmakers will only accept the CGA or CGR (i.e., it is the only application and reporting mechanism they use). Other foundations give nonprofits the choice of submitting a Common Grant Form OR an application or final report in a format specific to the grantmaker.

We have current application and/or reporting guidelines. How do we make the switch to the new CGA and/or CGR?

We encourage you to consider providing a 6 – 12 month transition period during which you will accept either the CGA and/or CGR or the foundation’s previous application or reporting requirements. It may be challenging for nonprofits to have to immediately prepare a new CGA/CGR. Many foundations will simply send an email, postcard or letter to their current and former grantees alerting them to the change. These communications generally include the first date on which the grantmaker will accept or require the CGA or CGR. The Grantmaker Toolkit provides sample language for communicating with your nonprofit partners to make this step as easy as possible for you.

Are there Common Grant Forms and logos and how do I use them?

Yes, there are! The logos were created to help identify and brand the Common Grant Forms among grantmakers and nonprofits. We encourage you to use the logos on your website and in any print materials that you have. The logo is available in the Grantmaker Toolkit.

Grantmaker’s Toolkit

What is the Grantmaker’s Toolkit?

The Grantmaker’s Toolkit contains material to assist you in communicating to your grantees that you are accepting the Common Grant Application and/or the Common Grant Report.

Logo Information

We encourage you to use the Common Grant Form logos on your website as a way to link grantseekers to this website where they can access fillable forms and the User’s Guides. Also feel free to use the logos in any of your print materials. It is an easy way to alert grantseekers that your organization accepts one or more of the Common Grant Forms.

Click here to download the archive file with the CGA logo in a variety of sizes and file formats.

Click here to download the archive file with the CGR logo in a variety of sizes and file formats.

Sample Text

This Sample Text is offered to help ease the process of changing your grantmaking procedures if you have recently decided to accept any or all of the Common Grant Forms. This template for communicating to your grantees is provided to help ease the requirements of making a transition to different grantmaking procedures. You may want to send out a formal letter to current grantees, post an announcement on your website and/or annual report, or send out a blast email or postcard to your constituents. Please cut-and-paste as is relevant for your purposes.