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Organizational Capacity Building Grants Standard OCB Grants

Standard OCB Grants — Overview

The Retirement Research Foundation provides Standard OCB Grants to help nonprofits make long-term improvements in their management, governance, or organizational capacity.  These grants may be used to support capacity building activities that include, but are not limited to:

  • Strategic planning
  • Financial management, including cash flow, budget development, financial controls
  • Program evaluation planning
  • Communications and marketing, including Website development, public relations, use of social media
  • Resource development and fundraising
  • Human resources, including professional development, succession planning, staffing structure, assessment, and retention
  • Information systems management, including technology enhancements
  • Board development including assessment, recruitment, training, and structuring
  • Restructuring and building relationships with other nonprofit organizations to strengthen service delivery, reduce costs, share resources, etc.

Standard OCB funds generally support consulting, training fees, information technology, staffing, and other costs directly related to capacity building activities. Additional funding is available to OCB grantees for technical assistance support for seminars, workshops, short-term courses, publications, or other training related to organizational capacity building.

Standard OCB Grants — Eligibility

Standard OCB Grants are provided to nonprofit organizations that are:

  • Tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • In operation for at least three years and have annual revenue of at least $75,000
  • Located in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, or McHenry counties in Illinois
  • Placing a high priority on providing services to the elderly


RRF’s Standard OCB Grants do not fund:

  • Renovations or capital improvements
  • Financial deficits
  • One-time events that do not build long-term capacity (such as fundraising events or conferences).

First Step – Letter of Inquiry

The Retirement Research Foundation acknowledges the time and effort needed to submit a proposal and invites interested applicants to submit a brief Letter of Inquiry (LOI).

This step is optional, but may offer valuable feedback as you prepare a full proposal.

An LOI may be emailed to as a Word or PDF attachment.  Kindly use a 12 point Arial font. To allow enough time for feedback, please submit LOIs at least six to eight weeks prior to the proposal deadline. For example:

Submit LOI by:           For the Following Proposal Deadline:
December 1                  February 1
March 15                       May 1
June 15                         August 1

Include the following information in your three-page Letter of Inquiry:

  • The issue your capacity building project will address
  • Brief description of the project
  • Proposed activities
  • Why this project is needed at this time and how it will impact the organization
  • Timeframe
  • Project consultant(s) and description of how they were selected
  • Estimated cost of the project, the amount of funding already secured (if applicable), and the amount requested from RRF

Standard OCB Grants — Apply

RRF requests that proposals include the following components as outlined in 1-4.  After you have completed the online application form, you will be asked to upload each of these documents as individual Microsoft or PDF files.  Kindly use a 12 point Arial font. Budgets are to be uploaded as Microsoft Excel files. Please note that, except for the Executive Summary and Bios/Resumes, there is no page or length restriction.

  1. The Executive Summary is a separate two- to three-page summary that concisely describes the project. The Executive Summary offers a succinct overview of your project and allows RRF to better understand what you are trying to accomplish. Include brief information about the project’s need, objectives, methods, total project cost, and amount requested from RRF.
  2. The Proposal Narrative provides an opportunity for you to describe your project thoroughly to RRF by addressing the following:
    • Organizational Background
      • Mission, history, community, and senior population served
      • Evidence that your organization places a high priority on services for the elderly
      • Information regarding the Board of Directors, including business/community affiliations; percentage of members who made financial contributions; and the total Board contribution made in the last fiscal year
    • Project Description
      • Capacity issue to be addressed
      • Why the project is needed at this time
      • Steps already taken to address this issue (if any)
    • SMART Objectives
    • Proposed Methods
      • Workplan with activities placed in priority order
      • How staff, board, and other stakeholders will be engaged in the project and prepared for the changes that may occur as a result of the project
      • If applicable, information regarding the consultant(s) for the proposed project, including description of bid, interview, and selection processes
    • Personnel
      Capacity building projects generally involve a working team of staff, board, and volunteers. Please describe:

      • Who will oversee the project
      • Who will serve on your project team and their responsibilities related to the project
      • How existing staff involved in the project will handle their responsibilities in addition to their current duties
      • If applicable, other staff the organization intends to engage for the project
    • Evaluation
      • How you will measure progress toward objectives
      • Identify quantifiable indicators you will use to gauge progress
    • Plans for Continued Support
      • If the proposed capacity building activities require additional funding after the grant ends, indicate your organization’s plans for securing additional funds.
    • OCB Coaching
      If a grant is awarded, the services of an OCB coach may be available. These services are provided in addition to the grant award. See a description of the role a coach can play in a capacity building project. If your organization is interested in a coach, please respond to the following:

      • How your organization could benefit from the services of a coach
      • Particular issues you would like the coach to address
      • Any concerns you may have about working with a coach
  3. Budget, Budget Narrative, and Timeline – While RRF does not require a standard form for these documents, samples are provided for illustrative purposes. If possible, please start each of these documents on a new page. You may use more than one page for each.
    • The Line Item Budget includes all expenses and income, including grant funds requested from RRF and funds received and/or requested from other sources for this project, if any. Up to 10 percent of the budget may be requested from RRF for indirect project costs. See RRF’s Budget Sample.
    • The Budget Narrative describes how the budget relates to the proposed project activities. Budget narratives generally contain a description for each line item identified in the budget. See RRF’s Budget Narrative Sample.
    • The Timeline corresponds directly to the activities that are described in the proposal. See RRF’s Timeline Sample.
  4. In addition to the documents listed above, you will also be asked to upload:
    • The Signature Page to provide proof of who in your organization has authorized this project
    • Bios or Resumes of no more than 2-3 pages for the project director(s), key personnel, and consultants (if applicable). Upload in one file.
    • Project bid from consultant(s), if applicable
    • Current Board of Directors roster with names and affiliations. Upload in one file.
    • Minutes from the last three Board meetings. Upload in one file.
    • Signed memoranda of understanding or detailed project bids from consultants that may be involved with the project (if applicable)
    • Current operating budget showing income and expenses
    • IRS 501(c)(3) designation letter or other evidence of federal non-profit status
    • Most recent audited financial report (preferred) or most recent IRS 990

The Foundation has an online application form to guide organizations in preparing and presenting their proposals.


A. How To Create An RRF Online Application Account And Obtain a New Application Form:

  1. Using the Print function in your Internet Browser, print these instructions for reference.
  2. CAUTION: You should use Edge, Internet Explorer or Firefox as your Internet Browser to minimize issues while working in your online application account. Google’s Chrome will not work properly with RRF’s online application form.
  3. Click on this button:
  4. CAUTION: Only click on this button ONCE to create your RRF Online Application Account and obtain an application form for your first online Standard OCB Grant Proposal submission to RRF.
    Clicking on this button more than once will result in multiple blank application forms, which may cause confusion.
    NOTE: In the future when you are ready to submit another proposal, return to this web page and use this button again to log back into your account to obtain and start a new application.
  5. The Please Sign In screen from The Retirement Research Foundation will display. The first time you apply, you will need to click on the New Applicant? button located below the E-mail field to create your account.
    New Applicant Button Image
  6. The New Applicant? screen will then display. Enter your email address and create your password according to the instructions on the screen. Then click on the Continue button at the bottom of the screen to finish creation of your account.
  7. A blank online application form will display. You may now start filling in the application form. Once you finish a section of the form, click on the Next button displayed at the bottom of the screen to begin the next section of the form. If you need to stop working on the form, click on the Save & Finish Later button, so that you can return to the application at a later date. We recommend saving your application regularly (every thirty minutes) to avoid timeout errors.
    Save And Finish Later Button Image
  8. A screen listing your application form will display. Notice that your application form will have a unique five-digit ID number. You will enter that ID number in your application form where indicated. Also, make note of that number, because it may be useful when corresponding with RRF after submission of your application.

B. Tips For Continuing To Work On An RRF Standard OCB Grant Proposal Online Application Form:

(Please note that the software program will purge unfinished applications following 120 days of inactivity.)

  1. To continue working on an RRF online application form, click on this button:
  2. NOTE: If you save the following web address to your Favorites in your Internet Browser, you can use it to continue filling in your application; then you will not have to return to the RRF website to access your application.
  3. The Please Sign In screen will appear. To log into your account, type in the email address and password that you used to create your account and then click on the Login button.
    Login Button in the Please Sign Screen
  4. Upon opening your online application account, you will see a listing of your online application forms that are in progress. To open the application form that you are currently working on, click on the listing with its five-digit ID number.
  5. If you have multiple application forms listed, please delete each blank, unneeded form by clicking on the garbage can icon displayed to the right of the application form’s listing in your online account. Deleting these unnecessary application forms will help avoid confusion about which application you are working on.
  6. If you need help, please contact The Retirement Research Foundation at 773-714-8080 or via this email address: