Building Bridges

Building Bridges Frequently Asked Questions

Jump to FAQs about: Eligibility Criteria, The Applicant Pool and Grant AmountsAssessing Project Criteria and Aligning with the Program's Mission, Submitting the Letter of InterestSubmitting the Application Online and Submitting the Full Proposal


Please note that incomplete applications will not be reviewed under any circumstances.

Eligibility Criteria

My organization has an annual operating budget of less than $100,000 and/or dedicates less than $25,000 annually to professional arts- or media-based programming. Can we still apply for a Building Bridges Program grant?

A smaller organization that does not fulfill financial eligibility criteria may qualify by partnering with an organization that does. One way to do so is to seek out another organization that has the necessary qualifications and that may, therefore, act as a fiscal sponsor. In this scenario, the partner organization that meets the eligibility criteria must be the direct applicant. The total grant requested may not exceed 25 percent of the fiscally sponsored organization’s annual expenses. Additionally, please note that if the LOI results in an invitation to submit a full proposal, the fiscal sponsor must be able to document that it has agreed to fiscally sponsor the project. Please refer to the eligibility criteria section of the Building Bridges 2018-19 Grants Program overview for more information on the necessary financial qualifications.

What size organizations have typically been funded in past grant competition cycles?

Organizations of all sizes, from small to large, local community-based to long established national institutions have received grants. Extremely small institutions that partnered with a larger entity have also been grant recipients. In such a partnership, the organization that meets the eligibility requirements would be the applicant organization as only one organization per project may apply. 

We are part of a larger organization and have little experience in this field. How might we qualify for a Building Bridges Program grant?

The organization may consider partnering with an organization which has experience with programs or projects that engage U.S.-based Muslim and non-Muslim populations through arts- and/or media-based experiences. In addition, or as an alternative, organizations may consider hiring a consultant to aid the curatorial process for project activities. Engaging a consultant is an allowable cost of the project. Please refer to the eligibility criteria section of the Building Bridges 2018-19 Grants Program overview to help clarify which organization involved with the project should be the official applicant.  

Is the continuation or expansion of a previously funded project eligible? 

Yes, as long as the previous and requested grants together do not exceed $300,000.

My organization recently submitted its Form 1023 request to the IRS for recognition as tax exempt under IRC 501(c)(3); it is likely we will receive our exempt status by the earliest project start date of May 1, 2019.  Are we eligible to apply?

No. Only organizations that have received determinations by the IRS that it is tax exempt under IRC 501(c)(3) are eligible to submit an LOI. In order to access the LOI form, the organization’s EIN must be matched to a database of tax-exempt organizations.

Can an organization be associated with more than one LOI (e.g., by partnering with other organizations on more than one LOI or submitting its own LOI in addition to being a partner on another organization’s LOI)?

No. Although the program recognizes that an organization may have a plethora of ideas for projects and/or that they may be in high demand to partner with other applicants, an organization can be associated with only one LOI.

My organization offers fiscal sponsorship as a service; can we apply on behalf of more than one sponsored project?

Yes. You must be able to document that you provide fiscal sponsorship as a service and that the projects for which you are submitting LOIs are distinct and separate projects for which your organization's role is solely as fiscal sponsor.

Are public institutions eligible to apply?  

Yes, however, the foundation can make grants only to organizations that have been determined by the IRS to be tax exempt under IRC 501(c)(3). Public institutions that have received the required IRS determination may access the LOI by using their EIN.  Those that do not have the required IRS determination will need to apply through their institutions’ affiliated nonprofit/foundation arm that can receive private funding on their behalf. Information about how to apply for funding through an affiliated entity should be available through your institution’s development or contracts offices. 


The Applicant Pool and Grant Amounts

How many letters of interest (LOI) were received in previous cycles of this grant competition?

In the previous cycle of this grant competition over 200 LOIs were received.

How many LOIs advanced to final review?

On average, about 60 percent of organizations were invited to advance to the full proposal stage.

How many grants are awarded annually?

It differs every year, depending on the collective size of the projects selected. In the last grants cycle, 15 organizations received funding. This year, we expect to award grants to ten to 15 organizations. 

What is the average amount of the grants awarded in previous cycles?

In the 2017-18 cycle, the average grant award amount was $153,000; five of 15 grantees received awards of less than $100,000. Across all previous competitions, the average grant award amount was $172,000.


Assessing Project Criteria and Aligning with the Program's Mission

Can Building Bridges Program funding be used for both Muslim and non-Muslim artists?

Artists may be Muslim or non-Muslim, but must ultimately have cultural roots in Muslim regions. Projects that align with the program’s mission and the program’s criteria for support and meet its eligibility criteria may apply for funding.   

Can the project be multidisciplinary? 


Do you fund visual art exhibitions?

The Building Bridges Program does not fund visual art exhibitions. However, public education programs that deepen and contextualize a viewer’s experience of an exhibition are eligible for support.

Do you fund development and/or maintenance of buildings or facilities?

No. The Building Bridges Program does not support an organization’s capital campaigns or ongoing expenses for building maintenance.  

How important is a project’s sustainability after the grant period has ended?

The Building Bridges Program grant competition does not have specific requirements for sustaining the project beyond the grant period. However, it is hoped that related programming will continue. Please feel free to include any details you may have regarding your project’s life beyond the grant period.

My organization has received Building Bridges Program funding totaling $300,000 from past competition rounds. Are we eligible to apply in the 2018-19 round?

Organizations that have received previous Building Bridges Program grant support totaling $300,000 must wait three years from the end of grant period of the last grant before reapplying. 


Stage 1: Submitting the Letter of Interest

If working with artists, does an applicant organization need a confirmed list of participating artists at the LOI stage?

At the LOI stage, the artists do not have to be confirmed. However, applications are more competitive if they can indicate that a conversation has been initiated with the proposed artists to determine their interest in and availability for the project. (The full proposal stage will require applicants to clearly identify participating artists. At that stage, letters of intent to participate from the artists are requested.)

Does every partnering organization need to submit an individual LOI, or should the primary organization submit an LOI? 

Only one organization per project can submit an LOI. The submitting organization should be the organization that meets all the organizational eligibility criteria and could receive and manage the grant, if funded.  

Can one or more campus or department of a university system apply for funding?

Internal collaboration between multiple departments, centers or branch campuses within a larger organizational system is acceptable; however, only one may apply on behalf of the project.  In all cases, the application should describe and clarify all partnerships involved in the project. At the same time, there can only be one project submitted from a large organizational system regardless of how many branch campuses it may have. 

What components of the LOI carry the most weight in the evaluation to advance to full proposals?

Each application is assessed based on the strength of its alignment with the guidelines, criteria and mission of the Building Bridges Program. All applications are reviewed by a panel of external experts who then provide recommendations to the Building Bridges Program staff on which applicants should advance to the next stage.

What financial information is required for the LOI? 

Organizational information: The LOI budget form requires the following information for the current and past two fiscal years: 

  1. Total operating income.
  2. Total operating expenses.
  3. Total surplus and/or deficit per fiscal year.
  4. Arts/media-based programming and related expenses. 
  5. A list of up to 10 of the largest grants received in the last three years.

Project Information: The total amount budgeted for the project and the requested grant amount (the latter can be no more than 75 percent of the former). A line-item project budget is not required at the LOI stage. Please note: The total budget amount requested for the project that you include at the LOI stage may be adjusted upwards at the Full Proposal stage if needed. However, the budget can be increased no more than an additional 20 percent at that second stage. 


Submitting the application online

While working on the online application, is there a way to save our work?

Two great features to take advantage of while working on the application are the “Save and Finish Later” tool and the “Email Draft” function. These features are helpful to applicants as they take time to fine-tune all the components of their submission, but are not quite ready to hit “Submit” yet.

If we have further questions about the online application, who should we contact?

You can reach out to Building Bridges Program staff, via email at Before doing so, please take time to familiarize yourself with the application form, the requirements for upload and the proposal budget template. That way, if questions arise, staff will be able to properly address your concerns. 


Stage 2: Submitting the Full Proposal

What are the components of a Full Proposal?

• Total grant amount requested.

• Full project description.

• Project Timeline.

• Line item budget.

• Budget narrative.

• Organizational documents (audited financials, board list, etc.).

• Letter of intent to participate from partners and/or artists.

How much of the project budget must the applicant be able to cover?

The applicant must be able to cover at least 25 percent of the overall project budget with funds from sources other than the Building Bridges Program. 

Should we include program staff salaries in the budget?

Yes, the budget should include the salaries of all staff spending 100 percent of their time on this project and can also include the relevant percentage of the salary of any staff members that devote a substantial portion of their time to specific parts of the project. 

The budget should not include the salaries for any staff performing non-project-related tasks or devoting only an incidental amount of time to the project (e.g., accounting staff, fundraising staff, operations, etc.). Such expenditures would instead be covered by the indirect cost allowance.

What is the indirect cost allowance for Building Bridges Program grants?

Indirect costs cannot exceed 12 percent of direct costs. Indirect costs include rent, mortgage, support equipment, support service departments (e.g., general administration, development, finance), or other organizational costs applicable to all programs and activities of the organization that are not directly attributable to this project.

In the Full Proposal Budget Template, applicants should:

  1. Provide the total project budget.
  2. Provide a breakdown of funds expected from other sources.
  3. Specify the exact amount requested from the Building Bridges Program.
  4. Specify how funds from the Building Bridges Program will be used for each year of the project.
  5. Budget narrative including cost assumption and calculations.

Please note that at the Full Proposal stage, the Budget Template will include instructions as well as formulas that are already installed to aid applicants in their calculations. There are several different worksheets for the applicant to complete. It is in the applicant’s interest to be as thorough as possible in completing the template. Having a clear financial plan at the onset of a project facilitates its implementation.

My organization does not have audited financial statements. What documents can be submitted in their place?

Organizations can submit their IRS 990 Tax Filings, Income and Expense statements that have been reviewed by an accountant, or annual budget reports provided to their boards. In all cases, an explanation of why no audited statements are available must also be submitted. 

What is the Building Bridges Program’s definition of "impact"? How will this be achieved? What kind of information should an applicant include with regard to impact?

The Building Bridges Program defines impact as assessable results, whether these outcomes are measured quantitatively, qualitatively, or both. A description about this element as well as tracking short-term and/or long-term goals will be needed for the full proposal application. 

The proposed project may be the first in a series of future projects that lead toward a larger goal. Applicants should be clear about what they hope to accomplish during the grant period itself and, if applicable, beyond it.