UT Learning by Giving Initiative

Request for proposals from Haslam College of Business, University of Tennessee addressing Childhood Literacy:

What: Proposals are solicited for grants to be awarded by University of Tennessee students studying nonprofits and philanthropy. Students are expected to award 1-5 grants with a combined total of $30,000. In alignment with this year’s Connect Knox community-wide priority, the funding this year will be centered around childhood literacy.

The Funds: A total of $30,000 will be distributed in one or more grants. (Over the past two years, 9 grants have been made, ranging in size from less than $3,000 to almost $9,000.) The funds students will be giving away are gifts from the Buffet family’s Learning by Giving Foundation www.learningbygivingfoundation.org, and local philanthropists. These funds have been given to the Haslam College of Business in order for University of Tennessee students to gain firsthand experience in funding nonprofits.

Use of Grants: This year’s focus for our grant making is Childhood Literacy. This is in keeping with the community priority identified by Connect Knox. Given the small amounts of money involved, we prefer to fund indirect expenses related to capacity building rather than normal operations or direct expenses for delivery of programs. Examples of capacity building include training, improved infrastructure, planning, research, or any other activities meant to enable better program delivery without directly funding program delivery as discussed HERE.

Why: The primary purpose of these grants is to provide students with hands-on experience in evaluating and funding nonprofits. The amounts to be awarded are appropriately small given this primary goal. Applicants are encouraged to creatively consider how these small grants can be leveraged by building organizational capacity.

Given the limited funds available, we prefer to avoid funding ongoing operations or program delivery. Instead, we prefer to leverage our limited funds by supporting capacity building as broadly defined HERE.

We are especially interested in supporting efforts to build resources and knowledge about collaboration between nonprofits as a strategic capacity-building tool for nonprofits as illustrated HERE.

Who: This solicitation is open to any team of two or more nonprofit members of the Alliance for Better Nonprofits. If your organization is not a member of ABN, membership information can be found HERE.


June 15, 2018: Letters of interest (limited to one page) are due. The letter should describe the capacity development students are being asked to fund, and why this funding would address childhood literacy.

June 16, 2018: Up to 12 proposals will be solicited from the pool of teams that have submitted letters of interest.

August 1, 2018: Solicited proposals are due. These proposals should be no more than five pages long, plus supporting documents. Details on the proposal will be included in the proposal invitations sent out by June 16.

Fall Term 2018: Students will conduct site visits and interviews.

December 1, 2018: Grant awards will be announced.

January 1 to July 1, 2019: Work funded by the grant should be completed, with a brief report on outcomes due 30 days after completion of the funded activities.

Contact Info

Email any questions or submissions to:

Kitty Pat Cornett, Program Manager
Consortium for Social Enterprise Effectiveness
Haslam College of Business, University of Tennessee

Letters of Interest

Letters of interest (limited to one page) are due June 15, 2018. They should describe the proposed use of the funds, explain the anticipated impact, and be signed by, and cc’d to, the senior-most executive at each participating nonprofit. Email the letter as a PDF file attached to an email with “Letter of Interest” in the email subject line. Send to: Kitty Pat Cornett, Program Manager, Consortium for Social Enterprise Effectiveness Program, Haslam College of Business, University of Tennessee, at kpcornett@utk.edu.

Download the RFP


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  • Only teams of two or more nonprofit member organizations of the Alliance for Better Nonprofits may submit proposals. Organizations may not participate on more than one proposal team per year.
  • The only restriction on the problems or opportunities targeted for the team’s work is that they address the causes of, or solutions to, childhood literacy.
  • Beyond the suggestions to focus on capacity building and childhood literacy, there are no restrictions on the use of the funds other than that they must comply with all laws normally guiding nonprofits with documented 501(c)(3) status.
  • All nonprofits accepting funds must agree to participate in reasonable press releases and other publicity associated with the grants and the work they support.
  • Past recipients of the Learning by Giving grants are eligible to compete again this year.