UT Collaborative Grant

Request for proposals from Haslam College of Business, University of Tennessee addressing PATHWAYS OUT OF POVERTY:

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. The funds are to be used to support teams of two or more nonprofits addressing issues of poverty and pathways out of it.

The Funds: A total of $30,000 will be distributed in one or more grants. (Last year, four grants were awarded, ranging in size from less than $4,000 to almost $9,000.) The funds students will be awarding are gifts from the Buffet family’s national Learning by Giving Foundation, and by local philanthropists Jim Haslam and Jim Clayton. 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 theme is Pathways out of Poverty. This theme can be interpreted broadly and creatively. Pathways out of poverty could include better access to education and training, developing practical life skills, mentoring, job creation, community building, social justices, economic development, etc. While this is the type of work we hope to enable, given the small amounts of money involved, we seek to leverage our impact by using our grants to fund indirect expenses related to capacity building rather than normal operations or direct expenses for delivery of programs. The grants may be used for staff education and training, equipment and infrastructure, travel, or anything else intended to increase the capacity of the organization to perform its work related to pathways out of poverty. Requests for funding direct delivery or programs or services probably will not be funded.

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 at the first two links below. 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 described in the Lodestar site at the third link:

  1. Knowhow Nonprofit Capacity Building
  2. National Council of Nonprofits: What is Capacity Building?
  3. The Lodestar Foundation Grants

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 10, 2017: Letters of interest (limited to one page) are due. The letter should describe the proposed use of the funds and explain the anticipated outcomes. The senior-most official at each organization on the proposing team must sign the letter and be copied on the letter of intent.

June 15, 2017: Up to 10 proposals will be solicited from the pool of teams that have submitted letters of interest.

August 1, 2017: Solicited proposals are due. These relatively simple proposals should be no more than five pages long (not including tables, exhibits, and supporting documents). Details on the proposal will be included in the proposal invitations sent out by June 15.

Fall Term 2017: Students in UT’s nonprofit management course, working under faculty supervision, will carry out the competitive review process, and make the final selection of grant recipients. As part of student learning and the selection process, students will make site visits and interview applicants during September and October 2017. If the students opt to fund a given team’s work at a scale different from what was proposed, dialogue and negotiations with the team will take place in November 2017.

December 1, 2017: Final decisions and grant awards will be announced.

January 1 to July 1, 2018: 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 10, 2017. 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




  • 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 regional issues of poverty and pathways out of it.
  • Beyond the suggestions to focus on capacity building and poverty, 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.
  • Matching funds are a plus, but not required. Again, creative partnering is encouraged.