Home » Grantmaking 101: Types of Grants & How They're Made

Grantmaking 101: Types of Grants & How They're Made

All About Impact

Grantmaking is kind of our thing. And it's our donors' thing.

Thanks to our donors and the power of endowment, The Community Foundation of Abilene has awarded more than $130 million in grants from 1985-2021!

So, how exactly is all that money doled out? We're happy to explain.

Endowed Philanthropy

Let's start by clarifying how endowment funds work. In short, a donor makes a gift to establish a fund. We invest that gift, the fund grows, and a percentage from the fund is used to make grants.

Grant Opportunities

CFA has four competitive grant cycles each year -- Future Fund, Field of Interest and two Discretionary cycles. These are opportunities for local nonprofits to apply for grant money.

Outside of those cycles, donors with certain types of funds can recommend grants to any charitable cause throughout the year.

To make it plain, we've broken down the different types of grants that each of our funds makes.

Types of Grants


Discretionary grants are made from our Unrestricted funds. These funds allow us to respond to emerging needs in our community, as they are not restricted to a specific cause.

We have two discretionary grant cycles each year -- one in the spring and one in the fall. Most 501(c)(3) nonprofits serving Abilene can apply for funding during these cycles.

Who chooses the grant recipients? A grant committee comprised of CFA board members and community volunteers reviews and evaluates the grant applications and meets to determine how to allocate the available discretionary funding for that grant cycle.

Bonus! We also send the list of grant applicants to all of our Donor-Advised fundholders, giving them the option of making a gift from their fund to support any of the grant applicant projects.


With that segue, let's talk Donor-Advised funds. Donors establish this type of fund, because it gives them the flexibility to use revenue from their fund to support the causes they care about throughout the year.

Donors simply recommend a grant be made from their fund to a charitable organization of their choosing, and the CFA staff takes care of the rest.

Field of Interest

This fund type is what its name denotes. Grants are made from these funds to support the specific fields of interest that that matter to the donors.

Local nonprofits with a project serving a fund's specified field of interest (like animals or mental health, for instance) can apply for grants from that fund.

These grant applications are reviewed by a selection committee.

Future Fund

Future Fund grants work just like the Discretionary cycles, only they're restricted to nonprofit programs serving children and youth in the Abilene community.

What makes Future Fund special is that it's a membership-based endowment fund, rather than one established by a single donor or family. Future Fund members pay annual dues, and these dollars are pooled into the endowment fund.

Our members also get to attend swanky events and have opportunities to serve on the grant committee and participate in nonprofit service projects, so you should definitely click here to learn more about becoming a member.


A Designated endowment fund is designed to support a specific nonprofit organization.

Donors establish these funds to benefit the organizations they love, giving those organizations a source of income even after the donor is no longer living. Grants from these funds are paid out to the designated nonprofits each year.

Or, a nonprofit can establish its own designated agency endowment as a sustainable source of annual income.


Oh, the beloved scholarship fund! There's little guessing as to what this fund does.

Revenue from these endowment funds is used to grant college scholarships to graduating high school seniors in Abilene and the surrounding areas.

The donor can determine the eligibility requirements for students who apply to receive a scholarship from the fund.

Students apply for these scholarships at the beginning of the year, and awards are announced in the spring.

That's the stuff.

And now you know the stuff grants are made of.

Ready to start your own impact fund? There's a foundation for that! Shoot us an email or call us at 325-676-3883.