Civil Society Grants: Strengthening the Civic Space

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

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Grant amount: US $4,000 - US $1,000,000

Deadline: Rolling

Applicant type: Indigenous Group Government Entity College / University Nonprofit

Funding uses: Research, Education / Outreach, General Operating Expense, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: United States

Location of residency: United States

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About this funder:

View past grantees & full 990 summary


Note: While we’re open to new ideas and projects, funding for unsolicited requests is very limited.

Civil Society

We work to foster engaged, empowered and equitable communities throughout the world.

When people get involved in their communities, things change for the better.

How it Works

Mott supports efforts to bring about positive change in communities.

Local communities are where people most directly relate to the social, economic and political processes taking place in their countries, and where they can be most active in shaping them. That’s why our Civil Society grantmaking focuses on building vibrant communities where all people can engage in decision-making that affects their day-to-day lives.

We work with grantees to strengthen the space for civic engagement, enhance local philanthropy and increase access to justice so all communities can address challenges and seize opportunities that lie ahead.

Strengthening Civic Space

We strive to promote, protect and reinvigorate the space for civic engagement.

We envision a society where all people can freely participate in processes to improve their communities and societies.

Protecting, expanding and enhancing the environment for civic engagement, or “civic space” as we call it, is at the core of Mott’s work to strengthen civil society. A free and open civic space allows people to actively participate in initiatives that improve and strengthen their communities and societies. But our experience has taught us that civic space cannot be taken for granted. We’ve seen it expand in some cases, only to regress as more and more restrictive laws are enacted to silence the independent voice of the philanthropic and nonprofit sector. We also have witnessed it narrowing as an unintended consequence of well-meaning policies, such as anti-terrorism regulations, in established democracies.

One way to promote positive, open civic space is to strengthen infrastructure organizations that help foundations and nonprofits improve their work, build capacity and share knowledge with each other. By building and maintaining the associations, information providers, research institutions, advocacy groups and other organizations that the sector is built upon, we ensure that everyone in the charitable community is equipped to respond to challenges and opportunities facing our communities when they arise.

Our grantmaking in the Civic Space program area is organized under two objectives:

  • Advocacy and Outreach
    • We support effective advocacy and outreach to help strengthen the policy environment for civil society.
    • We make grants to:
      • National and Michigan-based infrastructure organizations leading policy development and advocacy for the philanthropic and nonprofit sector.
      • Global, regional and selected national infrastructure organizations outside the United States leading advocacy efforts for their sectors.
  • Research and Innovation
    • We support research, policy analysis and innovative practices that help advance civil society development.
    • We make grants to:
      • Organizations carrying out research, collecting data and/or providing policy analysis and recommendations in the U.S., in selected countries and regions, and at the global level.
      • Organizations with innovative approaches to addressing the closing space challenge.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • No grants or loans to individuals.
  • No grants (except in the Flint area) for capital development, research, project replication or endowment unless these activities grow out of work already being funded by Mott.
  • No grants for religious activities or programs serving specific religious groups or denominations. However, faith-based organizations may submit inquiries if the project falls within our guidelines and serves a broad segment of the population.
  • No grants (except in the Flint area) for local projects unless they are part of a Mott-planned national demonstration or network of grants.
  • No grants for projects that duplicate, or significantly overlap, the work of federal, state or local governmental agencies.
  • Film and video projects, books, scholarships and fellowships rarely are funded.