Building Bridges

Building Bridges Frequently Asked Questions

Jump to FAQs about: Eligibility Criteria, The Applicant Pool and Grant Amounts, Stage 1: Submitting the Letter of Interest, Assessing Project Criteria and Aligning with the Program's MissionSubmitting the Application Online and Stage 2: Submitting the Full Proposal

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


What’s new for the 2020 grant competition:

Updated criteria include:

  • Application submission deadline extension: The letter of interest (LOI) deadline is now Monday, July 13, 2020 to better accommodate applicants with uncertainties brought on by COVID-19;
  • Addition of a pre-LOI submission learning module: The immersive module will be held over three Mondays in June 2020 to address needs identified by potential applicants surveyed in March 2020;
  • Grant period change: All grant awards will be for two years instead of one to three years in prior competition cycles;
  • Additional flexible funding: General operating support of 15% beyond project funds will be added to each grant awarded.


Eligibility Criteria

My organization has an annual operating budget of less than $100,000. 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% 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 Building Bridges Program’s eligibility criteria 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 or long established national institutions have received grants. Extremely small institutions that partnered with a larger entity have also been funded but the larger entity is the grantee of record. 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 Muslims and their neighbors 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. Consultant fees are an allowable project cost. Please refer to the Building Bridges Program’s eligibility criteria 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 January 1, 2021. Are we eligible to apply?

No. Only organizations that have received determinations by the IRS that they are 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 multiple 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 arms that do, and which 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.

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.


The Applicant Pool and Grant Amounts

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

In previous cycles of this grant competition we have received 150-200 LOIs.

How many LOIs advanced to final review?

On average, about 60% of the applicants 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 10 to 15 organizations.

What is the average amount of grants awarded?

In the 2018-19 cycle, the average grant was $165,000; four of 15 grantees received awards of less than $100,000. Across all previous competitions, the average grant was $171,000.


Stage 1: Submitting the Letter of Interest

If the proposed project includes working with creative partners, does an applicant organization need a confirmed list of who they are at the LOI stage?

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

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 three fiscal years, starting with the current year: 

  1. Total operating income.
  2. Total operating expenses.
  3. Total surplus and/or deficit per fiscal year.
  4. Creative arts/multimedia grounded 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 requested grant amount should be no more than 75% of the total project budget. The remaining 25% of the total project budget can be provided through in-kind contributions. A line-item project budget is not required at the LOI stage. Please note, however, that the total project budget provided at the LOI stage should be a reasoned estimate of costs required to support the proposed programmatic activity, as the total project budget may be increased by no more than 20% over the LOI amount at the Full Proposal stage.

* Organizations that submitted an LOI application based on the original     
   deadline of April 17, please take note: The deadline has been revised to better
   accommodate applicants contending with uncertainties brought on by COVID-
   19; the new LOI deadline is Monday, July 13, 2020.

Do I need to resubmit an LOI if I submitted one based on the original deadline?

Organizations do not need to resubmit an LOI. However, upon request, we will give access to the LOI form if you want to make changes, considering the updated guidelines and revised deadline. Access to the previously submitted LOI will be made available only once and this exception will be given only to organizations that submitted LOIs by the original deadline.

If I started an LOI application but did not complete or submit it, will I still have access to work on it?

No. Any unsubmitted applications have been deactivated and you will need to start a fresh application.

Is it mandatory to attend the pre-application learning modules?

Attendance is optional and will have no bearing on submitted applications. The Program understands that some applicants may already have experience with digital programming. However, we encourage participation by applicants who indicated on the needs assessment survey that they have an urgent need to learn how to pivot to online programming.


Assessing Project Criteria and Aligning with the Program's Mission

Must creative partners supported by Building Bridges Program be Muslim or can they be from other spiritual philosophies?

The creative partners may be Muslim or those with other affinities within Muslim cultures but, should 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 online gaming and/or comedy projects?

Yes, if their content aligns with the mission and goals of the Building Bridges Program. We have supported both art forms and they are in our portfolio of approved grants.  

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 for buildings or facilities?

No. The Building Bridges Program does not support 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 2020 round?

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


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 creative partner(s)

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

The applicant should be able to cover at least 25% of the overall project budget, whether through outside sources or in-kind contributions.  

Should we include program staff salaries in the budget?

Yes, the budget should include the salaries of all staff spending 100% of their time on the 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 be covered by the indirect cost allowance.

Can the total project budget in the full proposal be changed from the amount provided in the LOI?

Yes, but it can be increased by no more than 20% over the amount projected in the LOI.

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

Indirect costs of up to 12% of the project’s direct costs are allowed. 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. 

Is the general operating support in addition to direct project funding and indirect costs?

Yes, the general operating support of 15% is in addition to support for the direct and indirect costs of the project.

What else is required in order to submit the Full Proposal Budget Template?

Applicants will also be asked to provide a narrative description of the budget including cost assumptions/calculations in addition to completing all applicable line items in the Full Proposal Budget Template.

How will the budget sheet be organized?

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 budget template. Having a clear financial plan at the onset of a project facilitates its implementation.

In the Full Proposal Budget Template, applicants should:

  1. Provide the total project budget.
  2. Provide a breakdown of funds expected from other sources that, together with the requested grant, will fully fund the total project budget.
  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.

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.