Frequently Asked Questions
How can my organization apply for funding during the transition to the new strategic framework?
We will continue to accept and review letters of inquiry on a rolling basis as we transition away from our College Success and Career Readiness strategies and implement our new strategic framework. All new requests for funding will be required to meet one or more of the strategic priorities under the strategic framework.
To apply for funding, visit How to Apply to learn more about the Foundation’s grantmaking and investing processes. There is no deadline to submit a concept for consideration; ECMC Foundation accepts and reviews letter of inquiry submissions on a rolling basis.
Why did the Foundation create a new strategic framework?
As we continue to expand our impact on postsecondary education and career success, Foundation leadership launched a strategic planning process in early 2022 to establish a strong foundation for our next chapter. Instead of dividing our work into two focus areas: Career Readiness and College Success, our new strategic framework accounts for the significant overlap between the two.
How does ECMC Foundation define the postsecondary ecosystem?
The postsecondary ecosystem includes learners, educators, employers, higher education institutions and systems, workforce education providers and agencies, and nongovernmental organizations and intermediaries that connect with or support learners across their postsecondary experiences. It includes the landscape of funding for postsecondary education from public and private sources, and the policies and policymakers that focus on education and workforce training pursued after high school. The ecosystem also includes the interactions between these groups and the ways that they communicate, for example the skills that learners develop in postsecondary education, and the evidence and portability of their learning. For the purposes of the Foundation’s strategic focus and grantmaking, the boundaries of the ecosystem must remain focused on postsecondary education and workforce readiness. At the same time, we recognize that the postsecondary ecosystem exists within a broader continuum that is shaped by K-12 transitions into higher education and workforce training, as well as by labor-market outcomes and societal impacts related to postsecondary attainment.
How does the Foundation define systemic change?
A systemic change approach aims to shift the conditions that hold a problem in place, rather than merely alleviate the symptoms of the problem. Big, complex challenges, like those that the Foundation intends to tackle in higher education, are resolved through long-term, collaborative, intentional, multi-level, multi-channel change work. To ensure that grants and program-related investments advance the systemic change goals of the Foundation, we will consider the extent to which grant or investment opportunities incorporate key levers for systemic change. As the Foundation continues to grow a robust learning and evaluation function, its understanding of the levers for change will also evolve. Levers currently include but are not necessarily limited to: shifting and realigning incentives and resources, building new relationships through partnerships and collaborations, supporting courageous change leadership, contributing to the knowledge of the field, changing key practices in scalable ways, informing policy, contributing to and shaping a public discourse that centers the needs and experiences of today’s learners, and strengthening transparency and accountability around institutional impacts on learners and their outcomes.
What does the new focus on initiatives mean?
We see initiatives as discrete efforts with a specific point of view and learning and evaluation framework, each with aligned activities, articulated timeframes and earmarked budgets. A number of the Foundation’s existing and emerging bodies of work have been deepened and expanded as initiatives, and as the Foundation evolves in its learning, new initiatives will be identified. While transitioning to this level of focused grantmaking will take time, a substantial part of our grantmaking will be directed into initiatives, with the remainder of the grantmaking budget reserved for responsive grantmaking and exploratory groundwork for potential initiatives. Initiatives will generally be established for a minimum of three years, with a commitment of significant funding for that period.
Can you provide a little additional information about what the Foundation encompasses within the phrase “career outcomes”?
ECMC Foundation’s theory of change posits learners who complete accredited postsecondary programs and earn academic credentials will experience improved economic stability and increased social mobility. We fund efforts to improve postsecondary persistence and degree completion for students from underserved backgrounds, as we believe higher education will position them for fulfilling careers paying family-sustaining wages.
Can you expand upon what you mean by "building the capacity of institutions, systems and organizations"?
This strategic priority focuses on ensuring higher education institutions, postsecondary systems and nonprofit organizations evolve to meet the changing needs of today’s learners and improve student outcomes.
What if I am a current grantee and have questions about my grant?
Grantees should contact their current program officer with questions.
If I am a current grantee, will my program officer change?
Unless you receive a direct communication from ECMC Foundation, your program officer will stay the same.
Are program officers available to speak with potential grantees and investees about a project?
A program officer may be available to discuss a concept before submitting an LOI, depending on the nature of the proposed project and the availability of the program officer. The Foundation always responds to letters of inquiry submitted via our online portal, whether they are submitted by a potential or existing grantee.
What if my project is no longer eligible for funding under the new strategic framework?
All commitments will carry through per current grant agreements. Your program officer will notify you if your project is not eligible for a new grant. While most of the Foundation’s active grants fall well within the scope of our new strategic framework, renewed funding is not guaranteed.
How do you determine whether a project fits within an initiative or would be considered a strategically responsive grant?
All Letters of Inquiry must demonstrate how the project-based concept fits within one of our three strategic priorities to improve postsecondary persistence and degree completion. When reviewing a Letter of Inquiry, Foundation staff will determine whether a request fits with an existing initiative or falls under our strategically responsive grantmaking.
How can I apply if I have a project which fits in a current initiative?
If you have a proposed project which fits in a current initiative, please note the alignment in your letter of inquiry. We will direct your submission to the appropriate staff member(s) for review, which can take up to six weeks. You may be contacted if a member of our team wants to learn more about your proposed program, although this does not guarantee an invitation to submit a full proposal.
Is the amount allocated per initiative the same or different depending on the initiative?
The number of years and the amount of funding earmarked for each initiative will vary.
Can I still apply for funding if I have a concept which doesn’t fit under a current or future initiative?
We will continue to make strategically responsive grants through our open letter of inquiry (LOI) process. You can submit an LOI here.
My organization is developing a multi-year project that supports students beginning in high school and continuing through college. Is the project ineligible given that a part of the project is dedicated to preparing students in high school for the rigors of college?
ECMC Foundation supports programs that focus on postsecondary persistence and completion. A number of our partners offer services that support both college access and completion. In these situations, ECMC Foundation grants are structured to support the persistence and completion efforts, only.
Would K-12 initiatives be considered if they are aimed at increasing postsecondary success?
While the Foundation recognizes the important role K-12 initiatives play in increasing postsecondary access, this is not a priority at this time.
Do you fund certificate-based programs focused on job readiness placement?
We do not support training programs, boot camps or employer-led initiatives which prepare learners for industry recognized credentials, nor do we support job placement services or internship programs without a direct connection improving postsecondary persistence and degree completion.
Will you consider funding a project with a focus on health career education?
ECMC Foundation is open to funding projects that are tied to health career education, as long as they drive systemic change and are focused on improving higher education for career success among underserved populations through evidence-based innovation. Such projects may fit within one of our five initiatives, or they may be part of our strategically responsive grantmaking portfolio. We primarily support efforts in partnership with community colleges and open access four-year institutions.
Does ECMC Foundation fund policy and advocacy?
ECMC Foundation funds projects aimed to drive systems change, which may include policy research, policy development and advocacy. As a learning organization, ECMC Foundation collaborates closely with grantees to better understand the evolving higher education ecosystem and the policies that may help improve student outcomes.
Have you moved away from prison education support, or is it embedded in one of the listed initiatives?
Over the last eight years, ECMC Foundation has supported higher education programming for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals. Although we do not currently have an initiative specifically focused on higher education in prison and/or for individuals leaving incarceration, we continue to be interested in supporting these efforts as part of our strategically responsive grantmaking.
Where do faculty and teaching (such as in gateway courses) fit in the framework?
We do not currently have an initiative focused on faculty and staff and/or teaching and learning. Therefore, requests with this focus will fall within our strategically responsive grantmaking efforts at this time.
How do you see journalism and media fitting into the new framework?
Journalism and media projects will predominantly receive funding through our strategically responsive grantmaking.
How are you thinking about college leadership development, which touches all of your initiative areas, as you roll out your new strategic framework?
Since inception, we have supported leadership programs and professional development opportunities to ensure a diverse cadre of change-makers are equipped to lead significant improvement in equitable outcomes for their students and communities. Requests with this focus will fall within our strategically responsive grantmaking efforts at this time.
Do you have guidelines regarding grant duration and/or funding amount?
ECMC Foundation makes grants and investments with durations ranging from one year to five years and amounts from $50,000 to over one million dollars. The grant period and funding amount varies based on the proposed request, however our average grant duration is two years and our average grant size is $500,000. You can learn more about our grants and investments on our website.
Is there an emphasis on submitting a request with multiple institutions?
Projects that include multiple organizations and/or institutions are considered along with those from applications from single organizations and institutions.
As your goal is to build capacity, what ways can evaluators get connected to submit letters of interest to provide measurement, learning, and evaluation support?
ECMC Foundation will reach out through RFQs and RFPs for specific evaluations and learning opportunities. In some instances, those opportunities will be posted on our website and in others, it will be through targeted invitations. In addition to checking on our website, we suggest signing up for our newsletter at the bottom of our homepage and connecting with ECMC Foundation via Twitter and LinkedIn since we usually share opportunities through these channels. Finally, organizations applying to the Foundation have the ability to request funding for evaluation and learning as part of the program for which they are seeking a grant.
How can your current investees support the progress and early success of your strategic framework?
Similar to how we make grants, we invest in projects that are tied to one of our three strategic priorities: removing barriers to postsecondary completion; building the capacity of organizations, systems and institutions; and transforming the postsecondary ecosystem. The learnings from our program-related investments will be leveraged to continue to inform our strategic framework and our mission of improving higher education for career success among underserved populations.
My questions about the strategic framework are not answered in this FAQ. To whom should I direct my questions?
Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.