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Home > Advancing Wellness Grants Program & Application Process Q&A


Section 1: Understanding the Advancing Wellness Grants Program

With the launch of this grants program, has the mission of Cal Wellness changed?

No. Our mission remains the same: to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention. We are honoring our past work while laying the groundwork for our new direction.

In what areas do you fund?

Through the Advancing Wellness grants program, Cal Wellness seeks to: bridge the gaps in access and quality health care to lead to a healthier California; promote healthy and safe neighborhoods where communities are economically and environmentally vital, socially connected, civically engaged and safe; expand access to education and employment resources and opportunities to advance health equity and outcomes for youth most in need; and support innovative approaches in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors to address health disparities. For more information, see the Advancing Wellness Grants Program Overview section.

What does Cal Wellness mean by the phrase “social determinants of health?”

Our strategic planning was informed by research on the social determinants of health, which reflects our assertion that health is more than just a personal pursuit and is often impacted by external circumstances that create obstacles to living a healthy life. Simply put, where people live and work, their race and/or ethnicity, and their income can impact their health and wellness. Our desire is to help level the playing field so that everyone has access to good-paying jobs, safe neighborhoods and quality health care services.

What does Cal Wellness mean by the phrase “health equity”?

Health equity means that every person has the opportunity to achieve optimal health regardless of his or her race, ethnicity, education level, gender identity, sexual orientation, employment, income, neighborhood or level of disability.

We recognize that the limited political, social and economic power held by marginalized communities has led to significant health inequities. We want to address the root causes of these inequities to help communities build fulfilling, healthy lives.

How did you decide which areas to fund? Why is Cal Wellness continuing to make grants in some areas (e.g., violence prevention) but not others (e.g., healthy aging and women’s health)?

As we made these difficult decisions, we looked at several factors. In some cases, we could point to successes where we felt we had made a significant impact and that the momentum could be sustained without the same level of investment from Cal Wellness. Funding for violence prevention will continue but in a more targeted way. For other areas, such as healthy aging and women’s health, which don’t live on as independent funding areas, our commitment of resources will continue in varying degrees. For example, funding for women and girls cuts across three portfolios, and two initiative opportunities will focus on this population. Seniors will be a key target population within oral health grantmaking. Similarly, the mental health of transition-age youth will be addressed through our Expanding Education and Employment Pathways portfolio.

For some of the areas you have chosen to exit, such as teenage pregnancy prevention, Cal Wellness has been one of the major funders in the state. Did you consider the impact on those grantees?

We have tried to be sensitive to the challenges these grantees may face. We developed a transition strategy to provide bridge funding to select current and former grantees that will likely not be eligible for future grants under Advancing Wellness. This transition strategy supports technical assistance and capacity-building activities to help grantees boost fund development capacity.

Cal Wellness has been known for its responsive grantmaking and having an open door for applications. Has this changed?

No. Building upon our past, we remain committed to what we are calling the “Wellness Approach”: responsive, statewide grantmaking; core operating support; funding of direct services, public policy and capacity building; and prioritizing the health of underserved populations. We value ideas that come from organizations working to promote the health of the people of California. Our suspension on unsolicited letters of interest was lifted on Oct. 1, 2014, and we now accept the online submission of letters of interest through the Cal Wellness Grants Portal on an ongoing basis. Please follow the instructions in the How To Apply section.

What does Cal Wellness mean by “responsive grantmaking”?

We believe that the people working to improve the health of Californians know best how to use their resources. Rather than restricting our funds for certain strategies, we encourage organizations who fall within our grantmaking priorities to come to us with their ideas. We call this being responsive to our grantees’ needs and ideas.

How does Cal Wellness define “core operating support”?

We define core operating support as funding that supports an organization as a whole rather than a specific project or program. Organizations that receive core operating support can make decisions about how to spend the grant money in ways that best support their missions.

What is an LOI?

LOI stands for letter of interest. Completing the online LOI through the Cal Wellness Grants Portal is the first step in applying for funding from Cal Wellness.

Is all of your money going to support implementation of the Affordable Care Act?

No. This is just one component of the Advancing Wellness program. We believe that full and successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act represents a remarkable opportunity to expand access to health care for millions of Californians, and Cal Wellness will continue to make grants to organizations that are working toward this goal.

Do you fund only nonprofit organizations in the field of health?

We believe that health is more than just a personal pursuit and is often impacted by external circumstances that create obstacles to living a healthy life. Our desire is to help level the playing field so that everyone has access to good-paying jobs, safe neighborhoods and quality health care services. For that reason, a number of different types of organizations are eligible for funding. Please review our grantmaking program in the Advancing Wellness Grants Program Overview section to see if your organization falls within our priorities.

Do you have a place-based strategy?

We think it has been strategic for Cal Wellness to make grants statewide, and we will continue do so. Using relevant data, staff may prioritize populations and regions that are disproportionately affected by health inequities, as well as those that do not have strong networks of nonprofit organizations to meet the needs of their communities.

Public policy is emphasized. What will Cal Wellness be doing in this area?

Cal Wellness has supported public policy efforts throughout our history, and we continue to prioritize this type of work through the Advancing Wellness grants program. Through our public policy grantmaking, we support education, advocacy and civic engagement to inform policymakers at both local and statewide levels about policies and programs that address the health of underserved Californians and that are related to our funding portfolios.

If I am requesting a public policy grant, should I apply through a specific grantmaking portfolio or through the Opportunity Fund?

Most public policy related grants are made by the specific portfolios. The Opportunity Fund complements these efforts by supporting public policy-related proposals that address broad based issues affecting the health of underserved communities. The Opportunity Fund may also identify a timely and important policy issue that cuts across all three grantmaking portfolios and seek to fund a cohort of organizations to respond to that policy challenge.

Do you fund mental health services?

We define mental health as the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity. Mental health services cut across all of our funding areas, from helping low-income families rise out of poverty through employment and education to working with youth in correctional facilities. We also believe that mental and physical health are closely linked, and that our support of safety-net providers and a strong health care system will result in healthier Californians, both physically and mentally. 

How do you define “safety-net organizations”?

A safety-net organization is any organization that provides health care services to people who are not able afford them. These can include, but are not limited to, community clinics, clinic consortia, hospitals, mobile clinics and dental clinics.

How will you measure success?

Cal Wellness has an evaluation framework for the Advancing Wellness grants program that will measure progress toward our stated goals. We use this framework to understand community needs and opportunities, measure our progress, calibrate and adjust strategies as needed, and appraise our impact on an ongoing basis.

Section 2: Navigating the Grantmaking Process

Would you explain Cal Wellness’ grantmaking process?

The first step is to submit a letter of interest (LOI) through Cal Wellness’ Grants Portal. (See Section 4: Using the Grants Portal.) When we receive your letter of interest, you will receive an email confirming it was received. The LOI will then be assigned to a program director for review. Typically, a decision is made within 90 days to either invite you to submit a full proposal or to deny the request. You will be notified of this decision by email. Many factors enter into this decision, including availability of funds, alignment with the Foundation’s priorities, assessment of the organization’s capabilities, the region and population served, and the project goals, if applicable.

If you are asked to submit a full proposal, you will receive guidance about how to submit the proposal at that time; you will be given one month to complete the submission. After a full proposal has been received, there are three levels of review. First, a program director conducts a thorough analysis of the proposal that typically includes a face-to-face meeting with you. The program director may deny the request at that time or decide to prepare a written recommendation for funding. Second, if the program director is recommending the request for funding, the Foundation’s president and vice president of programs review the written recommendation with the program director. This happens during a quarterly review, and at that time a decision is made about whether or not to forward the recommendation to the Board. Third, if the recommendation is forwarded, the Board makes the final funding decision at its quarterly Board meeting.

How long does the whole process take, from submitting the letter of interest to being awarded a grant?

If an organization is ultimately awarded a grant, the whole process usually takes between six and nine months from the time the LOI is submitted.

Are there deadlines for grant applications?

No. We employ an open application process and accept letters of interest on an ongoing basis.

Does Cal Wellness give priority to previous or current grantees?

No. Cal Wellness does not give priority to previous or current grantees. Any organization is encouraged to apply if its request fits within the guidelines of our Advancing Wellness grants program.

Does Cal Wellness require an independent financial audit?

If, after submitting a letter of interest, an organization is invited to submit a proposal, two years’ worth of independent financial audits will be requested. If your organization does not have recent audited financial statements (within the last 18 months), the most recent Form 990 (tax return) will suffice.

What is the average grant amount?

The average grant amount is between $120,000 and $200,000 over three years.

If selected for a multiyear grant, do we need to submit a request for each year of the grant?

No. If you are awarded a grant for a certain time period, you will receive information about payment and reporting schedules over the course of the grant period.

What are the reporting requirements once a grant is awarded?

We ask for annual progress reports and a final comprehensive report at the end of the grant period. Cal Wellness is sensitive to the time it takes to provide reports and tries to keep the requirements confined to what is relevant and necessary.

If my request is denied, may I talk to someone at Cal Wellness to find out why?

If your request is denied, you will receive an email with the name of the person who reviewed your LOI. You are welcome to call or email this person to gain a better understanding of the reason(s) for the denial. Staff’s email addresses can be found in the About Us section of our website at, or you may call Cal Wellness’ headquarters at (818) 702-1900.

Section 3: Determining Eligibility

My funding request doesn’t fall neatly into one of the four portfolios. May I speak to someone to help me determine what to select?

Yes. You are welcome to contact Cal Wellness’ staff regarding questions you may have at (818) 702-1900. We encourage you to first visit’s Grants section.

My request doesn’t fit within the Foundation’s grantmaking programs, but we think it’s something Cal Wellness might fund. May we still apply?

Yes. But if the request does not match our funding guidelines, the chances of receiving funding may be low.

If I submit a request for one funding area, but it fits better within a different funding area, will my request be denied or reassigned?

Program directors work together to reassign a request if it is a better match for a different funding area. You will be notified if a reassignment takes place. A reassignment means only that a different program director will review your request. It is not a guarantee of funding.

Are you interested in funding organizations with particular budget sizes or that serve particular geographic areas?

We encourage organizations from all parts of the state and with varying budget sizes to apply for funding.

Are past grantees good examples of what types of organizations will be funded in the future?

Since Cal Wellness recently launched its current Advancing Wellness grantmaking program, the best place to look for information about our funding priorities is’s Grants section.

Can a program under an umbrella organization or fiscal sponsor apply for funding?

Yes. The organization doing the work may apply for funding. If invited to submit a proposal, more information will be requested to clarify the relationship with the umbrella organization or fiscal sponsor.

Are government entities eligible to apply directly or do they need to partner with 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations?

Government entities, including public school districts, may apply directly for a grant from Cal Wellness without a nonprofit partner.

May we request funding for a program that has been funded by Cal Wellness in the past?

As long as the request still fits within the Advancing Wellness grantmaking guidelines, you may apply. However, former grantees do not receive any special priority.

Does a current grantee have an option to simply renew its grant?

No. Cal Wellness does not have a renewal process for grants. Any grantee interested in receiving additional funding after its current grant period ends is required to submit a new letter of interest. We recommend that an LOI be submitted at least six months prior to the end of the current grant. Please note that a second grant is not guaranteed.

My organization has received two consecutive core operating support grants from Cal Wellness. May we apply for a third grant?

Because we want to respond to as many requests as we can, we ask that a grantee that has received two consecutive grants wait at least one year before submitting a new request for funding.

Our organization has never received funding from Cal Wellness. Are we at a disadvantage compared to other organizations that have received funding?

No. We encourage all organizations whose work fits within our funding priorities to apply. Our decisions are based on the availability of funds, alignment with the Foundation’s priorities, assessment of the organization’s capabilities, the region and population served, and the project goals, if applicable.

May we apply for funds to be used in different geographic or programmatic areas at the same time?

Yes. An organization may submit more than one application at the same time for different geographic areas in California or different program areas.

May we apply to more than one portfolio at the same time?

It is not necessary to submit the same LOI to different funding areas if you think the request fits in more than one category. If a program director feels your request would be a better fit for a different funding area, he or she will forward it as appropriate. However, if you have two or more different requests for funding that would be used for different purposes, feel free to submit separate LOIs.

If we have a current grant from Cal Wellness, may we apply for funding for a different program or do we have to wait until the end of this grant period?

Current grantees may apply for funding without having to wait for the grant period to end.

Are we eligible for funding if our headquarters is not in California but we have an active program or presence in California?

Yes. An organization with headquarters outside of California may apply for funding for work that is focused on California.

May a collaborative apply for funding?

Yes. Usually there is a lead organization that is responsible for submitting the application. The nature of the collaborative can be described in the letter of interest.

My organization’s LOI was denied. Do we need to wait a certain amount of time before applying again?

No. You are welcome to apply again any time. However, it might be helpful for you to look closely at the denial letter and review the funding priorities on our website. We also encourage organizations to contact the program director who reviewed your request before you apply again.

Is there a limit to how many times an organization may apply in a year?

No. There is no limit to the number of times you may apply.

Does an organization need to be in existence for a certain length of time to be considered for funding?

No. An organization does not need to have been in existence for a certain amount of time to apply for a grant.

If we request an amount that is too high for Cal Wellness to consider, will our request be denied or will we be giving partial funding?

It is possible to be awarded a different amount than what is requested. If you are invited to submit a proposal, the program director will provide more information about adjusting the amount if necessary at that time.

Does Cal Wellness provide matching grants?

Cal Wellness will consider providing matching grants, however, it is often difficult to align our timeline with those of other organizations.  For further information, please email us at or call (818) 702-1900 and ask for the Grants Management Department.

Section 4: Using the Grants Portal

I see that my organization can now submit an online grant application. How do I get started?

We are pleased to accept online submissions of letters of interest (LOI) through the Cal Wellness Grants Portal in an effort to streamline the grant request process and expedite our internal reviews. This is part of a new customer service initiative that includes looking at a variety of ways to streamline other internal processes.

First, read about Cal Wellness’ Advancing Wellness Grants Program on our website,, or in our brochure, How To Apply. If you feel your organization falls within our grantmaking guidelines, please follow the instructions in the How To Apply section. All applicants new to the Cal Wellness Grants Portal must create a password-protected account before completing a letter of interest. Be sure to first review the questions and answers in this section.

How do I begin the online application process?

From the How to Apply page, click the Start a New LOI link. If you are new to the Cal Wellness Grants Portal, you will need to create an account. (See the Create a New Account portion of the How to Apply page). Use your account email address and password to sign in. Once you successfully sign in, you will be asked if your organization meets the funding eligibility criteria before moving forward.

If we have received funding from Cal Wellness before, do we still need to set up a new account in the Grants Portal?

If you received a previous grant from Cal Wellness but have not used the online Grants Portal, you still need to create a password-protected account. However, once you have created that account, you may continue to use the account for all future submissions.

If we have a current grant from Cal Wellness, should we submit our progress reports online now?

If you received a grant under the Responsive Grantmaking Program that is about to sunset, you will continue to submit progress reports the way you have in the past. New grantees under the Advancing Wellness grants program will be submitting reports online. If you are not sure how to submit your reports, please contact your program director.

Can multiple accounts be created for one organization? We have several offices and programs in different parts of the state, and we may want to submit multiple requests for different funding areas.

It is best for there to be one account per organization. All LOIs and proposals that are in progress or submitted to Cal Wellness by your organization will be listed on the account.

Universities have multiple schools, departments, centers and other entities. Should all of these entities share a university account or maintain separate accounts?

Each school, department, center or entity doing the work should create its own account. In this situation, the university is often considered an umbrella organization.

My organization or project is under an umbrella organization (sometimes called a fiscal sponsor). Do I use the umbrella organization’s information or my organization’s information?

You will enter your organization’s or project’s information only, unless otherwise indicated. If a proposal is requested, the umbrella organization’s/fiscal sponsor’s information will be requested at that time.

If we are requesting funds for a collaborative, should the collaborative have its own account, or should we use the account of the lead organization?

This is up to the discretion of the organizations in the collaborative. Setting up a separate account for the collaborative or using the lead organization’s account are both acceptable to Cal Wellness.

If we apply for funds with partner organizations, will the partner organizations then be ineligible for requesting funding on their own?

No. Partner organizations may still apply for their own funding.

If someone in my organization tries to set up a new account when one already exists, will that person be blocked from the system?

If you try to create a new account using an email address already associated with an existing account, then you will receive a message stating that the email address is invalid.

What if I forget my password?

Click Return to Your Account on the How to Apply page. Once you reach the sign-in page, click the Forgot Password? link (under the password box) and follow the instructions to reset your password.

The person who wrote our grant application(s) is no longer with the organization, and I do not know our online account login or password. How can I access our account?

Contact Cal Wellness at to transfer the account.

How long should my Request Narrative be and how should I submit it?

The Request Narrative should be no more than two pages, using a 12-point font and one-inch margins. Accepted file types are Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) and Adobe PDF (.pdf). You will be asked to upload the Request Narrative as part of the online LOI submission process. Please note that submissions beyond two pages will not be accepted. Please refer to the LOI Application Guide for detailed instructions.

Is there a place to identify my request as either for core operating support or for project support?

Yes, there is a section in the LOI application to identify the request. For more details, please refer to the LOI Application Guide.

If I am in the middle of writing my LOI, can I save it and continue working later?

Yes. Click “Save & Finish Later,” which appears at the bottom of each page of the online LOI application, and the information you have entered will be stored for later retrieval. You will also receive an email of the saved LOI. If you do not click the “Save & Finish Later” button and just close the LOI by clicking the “X” in the upper right-hand corner, you may lose your work.

I saved my LOI from a previous session. How do I get back to it?

Click Return to Your Account on the How to Apply page. Log in to your account using your email address and password. Choose “In-Progress Applications” from the “Show” drop-down menu in the lower right-hand corner and click on the name of the LOI you are working on.

Can my colleagues review the LOI before it is submitted?

Yes. Within your account you may grant “view only” access to your colleagues and/or email them copies. You may also transfer ownership of an application to a colleague. Please refer to the instructions at the end of the LOI Application Guide for details.

Our organization is not yet in a position to submit information and documents electronically. May we mail or fax our letter of interest?

Cal Wellness now has a standardized online grant request application process. Paper letters of interest will be accepted under extenuating circumstances. For further information, please email us at or call (818) 702-1900 and ask for the Grants Management Department.

How do I submit the LOI once I am done?

Click “Submit” on the Review My Application page of the online LOI application.

Once an LOI has been submitted, can I change it?

No. Once submitted, an LOI cannot be modified.

What if my system crashes while I am submitting my application online?

Cal Wellness recommends using the “Save & Finish Later” option frequently to avoid loss of information as you work on your application. You can easily resume your LOI by clicking Return to Your Account. At any time during the online process, you can also use the “Printer Friendly Version” function to print your LOI for your reference.

How can I tell if my LOI has been received by Cal Wellness?

Once you have submitted an LOI, you will see a pop-up message that reads: “Thank You! Your application has been successfully submitted. You will receive an email notification shortly.” Immediately after that you will receive an email that summarizes the contents of your LOI. Within a few days of your online submission, Cal Wellness’ Grants Management Department will send you an email letting you know that your LOI is under review and that you will be notified about the status of your LOI approximately three months from the date of the email.

Is it possible to access the proposal requirements online?

The first step in the process is to submit an LOI. If you are invited to submit a proposal, you will be given proposal instructions and requirements at that time.

I have read the LOI Application Guide and these questions and answers and I still need help. How do I contact you?

You may email the Grants Management Department at or call (818) 702-1900 and ask for Grants Management. We are happy to answer your questions.

Section 5: Contacting The California Wellness Foundation

How can I contact Cal Wellness?

Call our headquarters in Woodland Hills at (818) 702-1900 or the San Francisco branch at (415) 908-3000, or click Contact Us on to submit a question. Also, as part of our customer service initiative, staff email addresses can be found on’s Board & Staff page.

Our Work

  • We use our resources to advance our mission through grantmaking, investments, sharing our learning and lifting our voice.
  • We fund direct services that address the urgent needs people are facing in their communities, particularly the needs of low-income individuals, people of color, youth and residents of rural areas.
  • We recognize, encourage and strengthen leaders to be powerful agents of change.
  • We support advocacy and civic engagement so that communities can build power and create public policies that reflect their vision, will and needs.
  • We trust and invest in nonprofit organizations so that they can operate at full capacity.
  • We partner with community-led organizations, philanthropic organizations, businesses, government and individuals who want to improve health and wellness for Californians.

Our Mission

To protect and improve the health and wellness of the people of California by increasing access to health care, quality education, good jobs, healthy environments and safe neighborhoods.

The California Wellness Foundation • City National Plaza, 515 S. Flower Street, Suite 1100 • Los Angeles, CA, 90071 • Tel: (818)­ 702–1900

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