West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC) is the recipient of funds contributed, and yet to be contributed, by Columbia University under a 2009 Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). WHDC’s staff and its Board’s Grants Review Committee evaluate all grant applications, and submit recommendations to WHDC’s Board. The WHDC Board makes final decisions on grant awards.

The CBA contains several categories of commitments from Columbia University. One of these is a Benefits Fund of $76 million payable in installments over 16 years that began in 2009. The grant-making procedures in this document refer to disbursements from the Benefits Fund only.


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WHDC'S Grant Making Program

WHDC’s priority is to support activities aimed at benefitting West Harlem by deploying funds pursuant to the CBA through WHDC’s Grant-Making Program and other activities. WHDC’s strategy is to address the needs of West Harlem through project specific collaborations supporting capacity enhancements of nonprofit organizations and institutions. WHDC requires its grantees to meet specified or negotiated measurable goals within WHDC’s vision. Funded projects of organizations must be located in, or provide services to Manhattan Community District 9 (MCD9) in West Harlem, bounded as: South to North: from 110th Street to 155th Street; and East to West: from Manhattan, Morningside, St. Nicholas, Bradhurst and Edgecombe Avenues to the Hudson River.

The CBA contains a list of activities for which its original $76 million, payable over 16 years, may be spent. Included are activities to address eight need categories: Arts and Culture, Community Facilities, Education, Environment, Transportation, Workforce and Economic Development, Environment, Historic Preservation and Housing. WHDC’s board has subsequently decided to condense these into four categories: Education and Youth Development, Housing and Community Facilities, and Workforce and Economic Development, in 2015. The prioritization aims to ameliorate the endemic issues of public school failure, rising unemployment and limited skills, and diminishing affordable housing. WHDC continues to examine the impact of its grant-making and thus reserves the right to set new priorities, and invite selected organizations to respond to specific requests for proposals (RFP) in addition to other grant-making and contractual activities.

Types of WHDC Grants

Small Grants

Currently, WHDC has two types of competitive grants dubbed large and small grants. The Small Grants have the following characteristics and requirements:

  • The Small Grants aim to support organizational capacity building in order for them to provide more of their services to residents of MCD9.
  • The minimum award is $5,000 and the maximum amount is $25,000. The amounts are subject to change by WHDC and will be announced in each grant cycle.
  • Only nonprofit organizations that are substantially-based in MCD9 can apply. Substantial location means: (a) being headquartered and physically located with organizational staff in MCD9 and providing services to residents of MCD9, or (b) not being headquartered but having an office with staff in MCD9 and providing services to residents of MCD9.
  • At least 75% of the services funded by WHDC must be provided to residents of MCD9. Programs that are based in public schools that are located in MCD9 do not have to meet this qualification. All applicants will be required to submit participant information to WHDC.
  • If applicants must use a fiscal sponsor, applicants must still have to demonstrate at the time of the application that their organization is duly incorporated as a nonprofit and has authority to do business in New York State. Failure to comply with this requirement will result in the application being disqualified.
  • Similarly if an organization is a nonprofit but their (501)(c)(3) tax exempt status has been revoked by the IRS at the time of application, they should not apply. The application will be disqualified.
  • Only organizations with total organizational budgets of $1 million or less can apply.
  • The categories for application are: Education and Youth Development, Housing and Community Facilities, and Workforce & Economic Development. Community Facilities include any of the eight need categories listed above that are not specifically singled out.
  • Even though the Small Grants are for capacity building, successful applicants would be required to demonstrate the level of measurable outcomes that their programs will achieve.
  • Grants are for one year.
  • WHDC does not fund start-ups, and amounts applied for should not exceed WHDC’s maximum, or 50% of the organization’s current year’s overall budget.

Large Grants

The Large Grants are accessed via proposals to WHDC issued requests for proposals (RFPs). They have the following characteristics and requirements:

  • The Large Grants aim to have applicants respond to specific Requests for Proposals issued by WHDC to address specific needs spelled out in the RFPs. Currently the three priority areas are Education (including youth development), Affordable Housing, and Workforce & Economic Development.
  • The minimum award is $25,000 and the maximum amount is $50,000. The amounts are subject to change by WHDC and will be announced in each cycle of Larger RFP Grants.
  • Only nonprofit organizations that can demonstrate at the time of the application that the organizations are duly incorporated as nonprofit and have authority to do business in New York State can apply. Failure to comply with this requirement will result in the application not being reviewed and being disqualified.
  • Similarly if an organization is a nonprofit but their (501) (c) (3) tax exempt status has been revoked by the IRS at the time of application, they should not apply, or be disqualified.
  • Applicant organizations do not have to be based in MCD9, However a demonstration of prior engagement with services to MCD9 residents would be preferred.
  • At least 75% of the services funded by WHDC must be provided to residents of MCD9. Programs that are based in public schools that are located in MCD9 do not have to meet this qualification. All applicants will be required to submit participant information to WHDC.
  • There is no limit on organizational budget. Demonstration of leveraged funds to achieve the program’s objectives would be preferred.
  • WHDC does not fund start-ups and amounts applied for should not exceed WHDC’s maximum, or 50% of the organization’s current year’s overall budget.
  • WHDC does not encourage the use of fiscal sponsors for the Large Grants.
  • Successful applicants will be required to demonstrate impact via measurements of project goals, milestones, outputs, and outcomes.
    • Project goals are overarching achievements that you will pursue.
    • Milestones are key markers of grant progress- these are typically expressed in the form of an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.
    • Outputs measure production resulting from grant activities such as curriculum developed, new initiatives created, and new leveraged and partnership opportunities, etc. Basic numbers of participants recruited (irrespective of whether they experienced outcomes or not), is another example of an output. Outputs should not be confused with outcomes.
    • Outcomes focus on the desired result of your interventions and the changes you hope to see in participants, organizations, or systems. Examples of outcomes include measurable knowledge and skill gains, wage increases, and lengths of periods worked over a base period.
  • Grants are for one year.

Projects not funded by WHDC

Projects not funded from WHDC’s Benefits Fund at this time include the following:

  • Pilot or start-up projects that are not based on, or modeled after other existing projects with strong evidence of successful outcomes.
  • Construction of buildings and major capital expenditures defined as outside the normal contribution towards office equipment.
  • Projects that are sponsored by religious organizations and schools with bias to a particular religion and are not open to the entire community.
  • Non-project specific proposals (except that WHDC funds capacity-building for nonprofits through its Small Grants program).
  • Endowment funding requests.
  • Private for-profit schools.
  • Proposals to fund individuals, private foundations, and donor advised funds.
  • Proposals to give grants to for-profit entities whether incorporated as C corporations, Sub Chapter S, or LLC.

Grant Process

Grant Cycles

At the beginning of each grant cycle, WHDC makes a general announcement that is posted on its website about the details of the upcoming grant cycle. WHDC regularly holds community meetings for the purpose of disseminating information to clarify the process, especially when new initiatives are being launched. The WHDC Grant Review Committee and WHDC’s staff review all qualified grant applications to ensure that each reviewable application is seen by at least two persons. The Board’s Grant Review Committee makes grant recommendations for WHDC’s full board discussion and approval, and transmission to Tides Foundation for their further review and final approval. Each year, WHDC endeavors to run two cycles of grant-making- one for the Smaller Grants, and the other for the Larger RFP grants.

Grant Cycle Application Release Applications Due WHDC's Review Decision Notification Payment Date
SMALL GRANTS March April May June July/August
LARGE GRANTS September October October/November * December January/February **

* Including site visits
** School-based payment date is scheduled in May.

The actual dates and deadlines in the months are part of the announcement that WHDC makes. WHDC may require an intent to apply via a simple e-mail.

WHDC’s Board reserves the right to fund one or more grant cycles or fund no grants at all in any one year, as appropriate and permissible under its ongoing strategic plans. The Board also reserves the right to change its grants review and approval processes that may include the involvement of outside experts paid, or on volunteer basis.

How to Apply for a WHDC Grant

Application and Evaluation Steps

STEP 1: Visit WHDC’s Website or Check Your E-Mail for Announcements
WHDC posts announcements of its upcoming grants, availability of applications, and RFPs on its website - In addition, an e-mail blast is sent to all organizations on WHDC’s mailing list. This is done for each grant cycle.

STEP 2: Submit a Grant Application
WHDC uses a grant management software through which eligible organizations submit their applications. The burden of ensuring that the application has properly uploaded and sent to WHDC by the relevant deadline with all required documents is on the applicant.  WHDC does not confirm applications' completeness.

STEP 3: Grant Evaluation by WHDC

  • Eligibility Review
    WHDC’s staff reviews all applications for basic eligibility. Particular emphasis is placed on the organizations furnishing WHDC with their proof of nonprofit status. Even though organizations may have applied to WHDC before, we require this proof with every application. We also check for preliminary evidence that the organization’s or the fiscal sponsor’s IRS tax exempt status has not been revoked. Additional documentation that are required such as budgets and latest IRS Form 990 are also checked.
  • Application Content Review and Scoring
    WHDC has a policy that each application must be reviewed by at least two people independently. The combinations can be Staff/Grant Review Committee member, or Staff 1/Staff 2. The scores are averaged.
  • Core Overall Evaluation Criteria
    WHDC’s core evaluation questions are:
    • Does the proposal align with stated WHDC’s mission, vision, and strategic plan?
    • If implemented, will the project have measurable impact on addressing the needs of MCD9? This is of special consequence to the Large grant applications. WHDC insists that at least 75% of the participants in a WHDC-sponsored program should be residents of MCD9. This will be demonstrated through the submission of the names and at least the zip codes of participants. In Large grants with multiple funding streams, applicants may negotiate the substantial numbers of MCD9 residents that will be served.
    • Does the applicant demonstrate financial sustainability beyond WHDC’s funding for the organization? WHDC generally requires that the amounts requested by applicants should be no more than 50% of their organizational budget.
    • Does the applicant commit to quantitative measures of impact such as: the number of MCD9 residents to be served, numbers of jobs placements and skill training certificates, percentage increases in academic achievements, etc.?

STEP 4: Grant Approvals by WHDC's Boards
WHDC’s Grant Review Committee makes recommendations to the WHDC full board. Additional information may be requested during the WHDC vetting process. Funding decisions by the WHDC Board for the grant cycle are final and there is no appeal process. Applicants should note that the funding for their awards come from WHDC via the Community Benefits Agreement with Columbia University.

Notification & Payment

WHDC endeavors to notify successful applicants of their awards soon after WHDC's full board approval. Concurrently, all applicants that were not successful are notified with a note that they can request feedback on their application’s evaluation from WHDC. All duly qualified applicants are eligible to apply to WHDC for funding in subsequent grant cycles.

The maximum size of grants considered by WHDC for approval by its Board shall be determined for each grant cycle and announced  ahead of time.  Applicants can ascertain the maximum, minimum, and average sizes and types of WHDC grant awards from the listing of awards for each past grant cycle posted on the WHDC website under Grants.  WHDC makes one-year grants for both small and large grants. WHDC reserves the right to put a limit on the maximum number of years that one organization can be funded.

All grants are paid in two installments. The first with the award letter and/or receipt of any required signed agreements. The second installment is paid after satisfactory attainment of milestones as agreed and noted in the interim report. WHDC strongly encourages organizations to seek funding from additional sources to supplement requested support from WHDC. WHDC reserves the right to add additional requirements for the payments of the first and second installments.

Avoidance of Conflicts of Interest

It is critical that all funding decisions be made objectively, based on the grant applications submitted and not for the benefit of any WHDC Board Member and/or WHDC staff. Funding is made exclusively to maximize benefits for MCD9.  WHDC follows a conflict of interest policy for its staff, directors, and those principals who may appoint directors.

Grant Monitoring

Desk Monitoring and Site Visits

WHDC conducts two types of monitoring: (a) a desk monitoring for all grantees and (b) site visits for select grantees.

(a) Desk Monitoring: involves (a) all grantees submitting required semi-annual or periodic reports to WHDC, (b) all grantees reporting their numerical commitments and expectations to WHDC, and via the WHDC online software available to them, (c) WHDC internal analyses of all grantee applications and subsequent achievements, (d) WHDC staff analyses of additional information about grantees subsequent to grant awards, and (e) Telephone exchanges between WHDC’s staff and grantees to resolve questions and obtain updates. Grantees are required to send press clippings, pictures and videos of their programs to WHDC.

(b) Site Visits: Giving priority to the Large grants, WHDC attempts to pay site visits to all grantees within one year in a two-year cycle. The site visits aim to supplement the Desk Monitoring and to achieve the following purposes: (a) build relationships, (b) learn innovative approaches and successes being employed grantees to help solve the community’s problems, and (c) learn the challenges being faced by grantees in their attempts to implement the programs for which they were funded in a proactive basis. In this instance, grantees are encouraged to take the initiative to inform WHDC of their incipient challenges.

Withholding of Grants
WHDC will choose to withhold a grant installment payment to a grantee whose interim report is unsatisfactory. Generally, this would occur when interim accomplishments fall short of expected and funded outcomes considering elapsed time. WHDC gives organizations opportunities to make up their demerits. When this fails, WHDC will terminate the payment of future grant installments.

Termination of Grants
If at any time the grantee is not in compliance with the terms and conditions of the grant award, WHDC notifies the grantee and provides a reasonable period for the grantee to cure the deficiency.  If an acceptable corrective action is not taken by the grantee, WHDC reserves the right to terminate the grant before additional installments are paid. Grantees will be notified in writing if their grants have been terminated.  In some cases, WHDC may require a return of the funds paid to the organization.  Such cases would be caused by incidence of fraud, theft, and financial malfeasance that may subsequently come to the attention of WHDC and/or Tides.

WHDC publishes a list of all grant awardees, amounts, dates of grants, and organizational contact on its website. In addition, WHDC may choose to publicize grant-funded activities on its website, social media, printed materials, and videos which may include the names and other identifying information of grantee organizations and grant activity recipients. By application, grantees agree to such publications and waive privacy rights, or rights of publicity.

Grant Technical Assistance

In its commitment to help grantees achieve their objectives to have positive and life-changing impact on MCD9, WHDC provides the following technical assistance activities to nonprofits that are substantially located in MCD9 and its grantees.

Grant Writing and Technical Workshops
Each year WHDC hosts a free grant writing workshop that has been hailed by attendees. It is free to all nonprofit organizations that are substantially located in MCD9. Admission is on a first come- first served basis. The details are posted on WHDC’s website and also sent through WHDC’s e-mail blast. WHDC collaborates or contracts other  experts to offer workshops and forums to promote excellence in nonprofit management.

Collective Impact · Meetings for Grantees
Grantee Meetings to foster collaborations and eventual collective impact

Fostering Collaborations · Meetings for Grantees
Periodically WHDC convenes meetings of grantees around common themes with the aim of introducing grantees to each other and to foster collaborations.

Space for Nonprofit Activities
The 2009 Community Benefits Agreement contains a commitment for Columbia University to provide in-kind benefits in the form of facilities, amenities, and services to benefit MCD9. Twice a year WHDC solicits space needs from the community’s nonprofits.  Success for the use of free space and amenities, (not including food) depends on availability from Columbia University.

Third Party Evaluation
WHDC reserves the right to contract with a third-party evaluator. The program evaluation would entail: (a) review of WHDC’s theory of change, (b) design of RFPs to solicit applications to address community needs in the theory of change, (c) review of measurable metrics, (d) review of data collection instruments, (e) monitoring for continuous improvement, and (f) positioning WHDC to increase its success when applying for leveraged funding.