Frequently Asked Questions

Borealis Philanthropy was established in 2014 with the goal of improving funder effectiveness. We provide a high level of service to grantmakers and grantees, and provide that service collaboratively and with speed and respect.

Borealis serves as an intermediary to grantmakers interested in funding innovative projects and grantees.

Borealis staff works with our funder partners to determine our strategy for our respective funds. Based on that strategy, we identify the grantees that best fit the criteria. For examples of grantee organizations, see our grantmaking pages.

Borealis does not provide grants to political parties or partisan organizations. We do not fund individuals directly, although we provide leadership development and technical support for advocates housed in grantee organizations.

Although we receive many requests to fundraise on behalf of issues, organizations and causes, Borealis is not a fundraising organization and does not fundraise for specific causes. As a philanthropic intermediary, our focus is on funding the issues that our funders seek to address.

Each of our grantmaking initiatives has specific requirements. Most of our funds are by invitation-only, while some allow for unsolicited requests. Please see the individual page for each grantmaking initiative to find out more.

Philanthropic intermediaries are both grantseekers and grantmakers. They raise funds from donors (institutional foundations, private donors) and make grants or manage projects accordingly.

There are many reasons that grantmakers turn to a philanthropic intermediary for grantmaking. One reason is economies of scale – some large private foundations, for example, cannot make small grants – it is easier for them to make one large grant to an intermediary and have that organization make numerous, smaller grants. Borealis is also able to to administer “rapid response” funds, which are typically one component of our collaborative funds. These rapid response funds make grants quickly (typically 10 days or less) for critical unanticipated needs or moments that require immediate resources to leverage strategic opportunities.

Another reason is that some grantmakers cannot provide supportive services to these smaller grants – they use intermediaries to provide a suite of services – grants plus coaching, plus organizational development support, for example. The suite of services that Borealis provides in most of its collaborative funds is an example of the types of supportive services some grantmakers cannot make on their own.

Another reason grantmakers may use philanthropic intermediaries is because they want to create a “pooled fund” with other donors. A pooled fund requires extensive staffing for fundraising, development of guidelines, identification of grantees, grantee and donor relations and coordination. Most donor collaboratives are housed at intermediaries that can handle the staffing that this requires.

Every intermediary is different. There are “program-specific” intermediaries that develop expertise and programs on a specific issue or population and through that expertise, may be tapped to provide grants as well. As a “general service” intermediary, Borealis does not focus on a particular issue or population, but works closely with funder partners to determine the strategy and guidelines for each respective fund. Once a fund or initative is established, Borealis hires individuals with extensive program expertise to staff it.

Intermediaries allow grantmakers the opportunity to make grants they could not otherwise make. They can provide expertise in a particular issue area if a funder has not yet developed that expertise internally. They can also serve as capacity-builders for grantmakers by working closely with grantees, by providing coaching, training and organizational development support at an individual grantee level, which many large foundations cannot do to scale. Overall, intermediaries allow grantmakers to expand their range of grantees and services beyond what each of those grantmakers could do on its own.

Pooled funds, or “collaborative funds,” as they are also known, are established by pooling resources from multiple grantmakers. Pooled funds offer grantmakers the opportunity to work collaboratively with likeminded donors, strategize collectively, learn from their respective experiences and have a concerted impact on a specific field or issue. Pooled funds also reduce costs, and scale the impact of grantmaking resources in an efficient manner.