Greater Mercer Grants Guidelines

Greater Mercer Grants is a competitive program benefiting residents of Mercer County, New Jersey. The Community Foundation incorporates social justice into its grantmaking by supporting programs and organizations that strive to create opportunity for and with people with the fewest societal resources. We seek to build the strength and capacity of communities, and bring about lasting change over time by both meeting immediate needs and investing in programs and organizations for long term impact.

Grant applications are accepted twice annually from tax-exempt 501(c) 3 nonprofits. Grants are awarded three months later. Please check our website for upcoming grant deadlines.

Pursuant to our new strategic priorities at the Community Foundation, the Greater Mercer Grants Fund will focus 75 percent of its grantmaking toward addressing child and adolescent poverty.  We are currently reviewing the broad and ample feedback provided by nonprofit and stakeholder attendees at our Forum for Action in November.  We will be utilizing this feedback to inform our new grantmaking guidelines and community activities.  We anticipate information about our new guidelines will be available in the second quarter of 2017.

Assistance with Preparing Applications

The Community Foundation offers Grant Information Sessions at its office, located at 15 Princess Road, Lawrenceville, New Jersey. These sessions walk participants through the grant guidelines and application forms, and provide an opportunity to ask questions. Please check our website event page for dates and registration.

Applications must be completed online on or before proposal deadline:

Note: you will need to create a log in before accessing the application. The online portal is PC and Mac friendly. Only online applications will be accepted beginning February 2016.

2016: What We Fund

Category 1:

Organizations that Address the Needs of Low-Income Individuals and Families

Grants are made to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations whose applications demonstrate they are capable of making a sustainable difference in the lives of low-income individuals and/or families in Mercer County. Applications can be submitted for program support or operating support.

  1.  Program Support of up to $25,000 may be directed at one or more project areas, such as economic self-sufficiency, education, health, housing, nutrition, safety, supportive services, or youth development, among others.
  2.  Operating Support of up to $50,000 is available to organizations demonstrating strong management, including use of best practices in program delivery, financial management and good governance, keen thinking about their capacity, and a strong strategic focus as evidenced by having a current, board-approved strategic plan in place. Grants are limited to organizations with a focus on serving Mercer County residents.

Category 2:

Building Strong Communities

Grants up to $50,000 are made to 501(c)(3) nonprofits for efforts designed to build or enhance communities by addressing a problem, strengthening networks, and/or taking advantage of a shared opportunity, among multiple municipalities or within a single borough, city, or township in Mercer County. Projects might address planning, economic development, civic engagement, philanthropy, volunteerism, care of the environment, and the arts, among others. Projects in these areas are eligible for support, as are activities that bring people together to explore and address barriers to relating to each other. Ongoing activities, as opposed to one-time events, receive priority.

If you have questions as to whether your project falls under Building Strong Communities, please feel free to reach out to us by telephone or email.

Please note that you may only apply in ONE category.


2016 Eligibility Criteria

Nonprofit organizations that have tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code are eligible. They must be registered with the State of New Jersey as a charity, unless they are religious organizations, or schools that file their curricula with the Department of Education and are exempt from the provisions of the New Jersey Charitable Registration and Investigation Act. (For more information on New Jersey charitable registration, go to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs web site at )

Selection Criteria for All Categories

  • How well the request fits with the Greater Mercer Grants guidelines
  • The quality of the application (on time, complete, clearly written)
  • Clear statement of the need for the project and/or services
  • Evidence based on research or documented success that the approach outlined in the proposal has a reasonable chance for success. Provide references.
  • How success will be defined, measured, and documented
  • Appropriate, realistic budget

Additional Selection Criteria for Program Support Grants

  • How well the project is conceptualized and planned
  • How well the applicant has researched and understands what others have tried and what works best
  • Involvement of the people who will benefit from the project
  • Ability of the project to continue beyond grant, if applicable

Additional Selection Criteria for Operating Support Grants

  • Quality of a current strategic plan (within the grant period in which you are applying) and description of strategic focus and goal setting
  • Clearly articulated strategic goals and realistic plans to achieve those goals and measure results
  • Progress in achieving strategic plan goals
  • Extent to which your organization can demonstrate its operating capacity and ability to address its mission
  • Demonstrated knowledge and use of best practices
  • Inform us of any upcoming changes in funding sources that may be ending soon

Additional Selection Criteria for Building Strong Communities Grants

  • How well the project is conceptualized and planned
  • How well the applicant has researched and understands what others have tried and what works best
  • Involvement of the people who will benefit from the project
  • Ability to attract other funding and support
  • Ability of the project to continue beyond grant, if applicable


Grant Term

Grant applications must be submitted for one year. Following submission, at the discretion of the Community Foundation, a limited number of organizations may be invited to apply for multi-year grants of up to three years.

Renewal Funding

Current grantees are welcome to submit applications. Organizations that have received prior-year funding, or funding for consecutive years, are not guaranteed continued support. All reporting requirements for previous funding must have been met. Organizations that have received funding for five consecutive years are not eligible for funding for two years.

What We Do NOT Fund

  • Building renovations and new facility construction
  • Capital and endowment campaigns and projects
  • Fundraising appeals, events, and sponsorships
  • Scholarships and individual sponsorships
  • Field trips, unless part of a larger educational effort
  • Sports activities, unless part of a larger educational effort
  • Sponsorship of events (Sponsorships are occasionally made as part of the Community Foundation’s marketing efforts, and solely at the Foundation’s initiation.)
  • Lobbying and other political activities
  • Fraternal and religious activities
  • Tax-supported and government-operated basic programs and services, such as core curricular school activities, and essential police and fire services

Application Restrictions

Nonprofits may submit one application to Greater Mercer Grants per calendar year.


The Community Foundation supports projects that promote inclusiveness and that do not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, age, national origin, disability, or any other characteristics protected by law.

Follow-up Questions and Site Visits

Follow-up questions from the Community Foundation and site visits by members of its staff and volunteer Grants Committee are a routine part of the application process.

How Grants Are Announced

The Community Foundation first notifies all applicants of its decisions by mail, and then posts a full listing on its web site. Grantees are encouraged to publicize their awards themselves through press releases, newsletters, web sites, and annual reports, and to acknowledge Community Foundation support.

Use of Grant Money

Grant money must be used exclusively for the purposes and activities specified in the grant application. Grantees may be required to return grant funds not used in the manner described in their grant proposal. Grantees should notify the Community Foundation as soon as possible if their needs or circumstances change.

Reporting Requirements

Grantees are required to submit brief six-month and end-of-grant narrative, including financial reports and all project evaluation data, lessons learned, changes that will be made in future endeavors that are similar, and unintended consequences, if any. Report forms are posted on the Community Foundation web site. Failure to complete and submit reports will result in your ineligibility to apply for future funding. Building Strong Communities grantees may be asked to present a status report in person during and/or after the completion of the grant year.

Grantees with multi-year grants are required to submit reports annually. Subsequent years’ funding will depend on appropriate progress.