Opening the Outdoors Grant

The San Diego Foundation

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Grant amount: US $25,000 - US $65,000

Next anticipated deadline: Mar 6, 2020 12:00pm PST (Letter of inquiry)

Later anticipated deadlines: Apr 15, 2020 12:00pm PDT (Full proposal)

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: Capital Project, Project / Program, Education / Outreach

Location of project: San Diego County, California

Location of residency: San Diego County, California

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About this funder:




The San Diego Foundation launched the Opening the Outdoors program in 2013 to better protect, connect and increase equitable access to nature throughout San Diego County. Since then, The San Diego Foundation has worked with a diverse set of donors and foundations to award almost $2 million through 45 grants for projects involving more than 60 organizations working in partnership to increase San Diego’s natural amenities, promote community ownership of local green spaces and inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, as shown in the 2018 Impact Report. Through this 2019 Opening the Outdoors program, we continue our commitment to invest in community solutions that protect, connect and increase equitable access to nature for today’s communities and future generations.

2019 Grant Cycle

The San Diego Foundation is inviting Letters of Interest (LOI) from nonprofit organizations working to protect and connect outdoor spaces and improve equitable access to the outdoors, especially for our most park-poor and underserved communities.

Nonprofits may apply for grants between $25,000 to $65,000 to support projects and collaborations that contribute to one or more of the goals listed below:

  • Create and sustain new natural amenities in low-income communities where access to green space is most limited, as defined in resources such as the Parks for Everyone report and the Parks for All Californians.
  • Build community support for timely public policies or funding measures that will significantly expand more equitable access to green space in communities with the greatest needs.
  • Implement programs offering repeat, reinforcing opportunities for youth from communities with low park access to positively engage in nature.

For the 2019 OTO grant cycle, The Foundation has $75,000 in funding specifically reserved for “capital” expenses (i.e. funding spent to buy, maintain or improve fixed assets such as buildings, vehicles, equipment or land). If you anticipate your project having any capital expenses, please be sure to mention in the appropriate question in your LOI. If invited to submit a full proposal, you will need to identify which expenses are capital in your budget

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


  • To be eligible:
    • Each proposal must be led by a nonprofit with 501(c)(3) public charity status, located in and serving San Diego County.
    • A 501(c)(3) public charity may serve as a fiscal sponsor for another applicant to administer the grant and provide regular financial reporting to The Foundation.
    • Any organization may be part of more than one proposal but may only serve as lead applicant for one proposal.
    • Projects must be completed within a 12-month timeline. 


  • This year, the Opening the Outdoors program will prioritize applications that:
    • Demonstrate they are developing long-lasting solutions to overcoming the underlying barriers preventing low-income, park poor populations from accessing the outdoors, with a particular focus on the communities of El Cajon, Escondido, Lemon Grove, National City and other areas of San Diego County with limited access to green space; AND 
    • Are led by organizations or partnerships with a well-established history of leadership in the community they are serving.
  • We believe that intentional, strategic partnerships can be essential to maximizing the impact and value of this funding. As was the case in past OTO grant cycles, we will continue prioritizing applications with thoughtful collaborations and partnerships in place. Nonprofits and their partners may apply for a grant between $25,000 and $65,000. A partnership is defined by shared roles and a shared budget, where at least one-third (no upper limit) of the budget is going to partner(s) rather than the lead applicant.


  • We will not fund - endowments, existing obligations/debt, scholarships, or projects that promote religious or political doctrine.
  • Given our focus on building long-lasting solutions and the capacity of this sector, we will also not fund one-time youth engagement trips or projects such as community gardens that do not demonstrate having other significant resources or plans in place to ensure their longevity into the future.
  • Given limited funding, this grant opportunity is also not intended to fund programs of universities or large cultural institutions not based in communities with low park access.