UT Learning by Giving Initiative

Request for Proposals From University of Tennessee Learning by Giving Initiative:

What: Proposals for capacity building in support of health, education, and financial security are solicited for grants to be awarded by University of Tennessee students studying nonprofits and philanthropy.

The Funds: We anticipate $10,000-$20,000 will be distributed in one to five grants. (Over the past three years, 13 grants have been made, ranging in size from less than $1,500 to almost $9,000.) The funds students will be giving away are gifts from the Learning by Giving Foundation 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 evaluating and funding nonprofits.

Use of Grants: This year’s focus for our grant making covers health, education, and financial security, all broadly defined. 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.

Why: The primary purpose of these grants is to provide students with hands-on experience in evaluating and funding nonprofits. 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.

Please Note: Proposals for support of ongoing operations and/or program delivery are less likely to be funded than proposals seeking to improve organizational capacity.

We are especially interested in supporting efforts to foster collaboration between two or more nonprofits as illustrated HERE.

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


May 21, 2019: Letters of interest (limited to one page) are due. The letter should describe the capacity development students are being asked to fund, and how this funding would build the team’s capacity for addressing education, health, or financial security.

June 10, 2019: Up to 12 proposals will be solicited from the pool of teams that have submitted letters of interest.

August 12, 2019: Solicited proposals are due. These relatively simple proposals should be no more than five pages long (not including tables, exhibits, and supporting documents). Further details on the proposal will be included in the second round proposal solicitation sent out June 10, 2019.

September-October 2019: As part of the competitive process, students will conduct site visits and interviews.

November 2019: 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.

November 27, 2019: Grant awards will be announced.

January 1, 2020: Funds will be distributed.

July 1, 2020: Work funded by the grant should be completed. A brief report on the work accomplished through use of the funds will be due 30 days after the deadline for completing the work as specified in the proposal.

Letters of Interest

Letters of interest (limited to one page) are due May 21, 2019. They should briefly 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 its 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


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


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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 some element of health, education, or financial security, all broadly defined.
  • Beyond the suggestions to focus on capacity building, the only restrictions on the use of the funds requested is that they 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.