Cummings Coaches

Cummings Coaches

A component of the Cummings $30 Million Grant Program providing grant-writing mentorship to a limited number of small nonprofits

Following a survey of prior grant applicants, several respondents strongly encouraged Cummings Foundation to offer coaching to help organizations more effectively navigate the grant application process. It was suggested that providing this type of support to small nonprofits with limited experience, resources, and/or professional networks could help address disparities and make the process more accessible, equitable, and inclusive.

As a direct result of this feedback, Cummings Foundation is delighted to offer one-on-one coaching to a limited number of applicants during the LOI and full application stages of each grants cycle. To date, the Foundation has received highly positive impressions from participating nonprofits:

“As an organization operating in a resource scarce environment, our development committee, mostly board-led, lacks the sophisticated fundraising capacity or connections that more frequently benefit our larger peers. My organization submitted a stronger, more competitive proposals as a result of the coaching experience.

“This was so amazing. Even if we do not get this grant it will help with other future applications. I would definitely encourage other nonprofits to participate in Cummings Coaches.”

“The coach was a huge help in helping us to clarify our ask and demonstrate our need. Because of her feedback and helpful framing, we feel like we have a shot at an award, whereas without her input, we would not have even applied.”

“We have a much better understanding of the Foundation’s grant process now and I am 100 percent confident that our LOI is stronger than it would have been otherwise. The knowledge that our coach so willingly shared will benefit our organization for a long time to come regardless of the outcome of our Cummings Foundation application.”

LOI Coaching Timeline
July 1:

LOI submission window opens.

July 24:

Applicants complete this brief form by Wednesday, July 24 to request coaching and, while awaiting response, begin to draft an LOI.

July 31:

Cummings sends an introductory email to each assigned applicant and its coach. Those organizations not selected to participate in Cummings Coaches will also be notified.

July 31 – Sept 6:

Each applicant contacts its coach to schedule an introductory meeting, share a working draft of the LOI, and discuss how they would like to structure their meetings. Applicants and coaches will then meet over this four-week period.

Sept 6:

Applicants submit LOIs by 5:00 PM.

Application Coaching Timeline
Week of October 21:

Applicants receive invitation to the full application stage and to submit a brief form by Friday, November 1 to request coaching.

Nov 1:

Submissions to express interest in coaching due.

Nov 8:

CFI sends introductory email to each assigned applicant and its coach. Those organizations not selected to participate in Cummings Coaches will also be notified.

Nov 8 – Dec 18:

Applicant contacts coach to schedule introductory meeting. Applicant and coach meet.

Dec 18:

Applicant submits application by 5:00 PM.

Who is eligible?

Eligible nonprofits must:

  • operate with an annual budget of $500,000 or less,
  • meet all eligibility requirements of the Cummings $30 Million Grant Program, and
  • use their own staff or volunteers (rather than a third-party professional) for their grant writing.

Because space is limited, preference is given to:

  • applicants that have not previously participated in Cummings Coaches
  • nonprofits with limited experience, resources, and/or professional networks, and
  • applicants that have not received a prior award through Cummings’ primary annual grant program (smaller awards, such as through Cummings Community Giving, are not disqualifying).

To ensure a diverse pool of applicants for this program, the Foundation highly encourages requests from from Black- and Brown-led nonprofits led by historically underrepresented groups.

Who are the coaches and how much time will they dedicate?

The coaches are community volunteers who have previously served on a Cummings grant selection committee and are very familiar with both the Foundation and its selection process. The list below shows the diverse backgrounds and knowledge that prior Cummings Coaches have brought to this program.

Volunteer coaches will attend an orientation session with Cummings staff, receive a guidebook, and commit to at least two hours of meeting time (virtually or in person), which can be broken up over multiple meetings. It is up to each coach and nonprofit pair to determine when, where, and for how long to meet. Some coaches may choose to dedicate more than two hours, but not all of them will have that ability.

Prior Cummings Coaches
  • Adele Fleet Bacowfounder, Community Partners Consultants
  • Sharyn Bahnfundraising consultant
  • Margot Botsford, JDassociate justice (retired), Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
  • Betsy Busch, M.D.developmental pediatrician, Tufts University
  • Paul Carberrynonprofit fundraising and development consultant
  • Lisa Craigformer V.P., Boston Private Bank & Trust Co.; nonprofit advisor
  • Gale Druga, PhD, fundraising professional (retired)
  • Marcia Hertznonprofit marketing and fundraising consultant
  • Heidi Heinleinsenior program officer, GMA Foundations
  • Robert D. Keefe, JD senior counsel, WilmerHale
  • Andrew Kendallexecutive director, Henry P. Kendall Foundation
  • Debbie Kochevar, DVM, PhDformer Cummings School dean, Tufts University
  • Jim Kraussenior consultant, Development Guild
  • Patricia McCauley, DNPdirector (retired), Clinical Resource & Simulation, Regis College
  • Kara McLaughlin, interim executive director, Destination Salem
  • Gerry & Tony Sobkowiczprocurement coordinator (retired), commonwealth of Massachusetts; and environmental engineer (retired)
  • Norman SteinCEO, Development Solutions; SVP development (retired), Boston Medical Center

What will the coaches offer?

Coaches will:

  • Serve as a sounding board and help the applicant think through how it presents itself—and conveys the impact of its work—in writing.
  • Help ensure that the applicant is providing information that will be valuable to the grant evaluators.
  • Provide feedback and recommendations to help improve a draft.
  • Identify potential gaps in a proposal.

Coaches will not:

  • Write any portion of, or provide redline edits for, a draft.
  • Be involved in evaluating an applicant they coached, if they serve on a grant selection committee during the same cycle.
What will the meetings be like?

Coaches will commit to at least two hours of meeting time (virtually or in person), which can be broken up over multiple meetings. Beyond this, Cummings Foundation will not prescribe an approach for them to follow.

We encourage each coach and nonprofit pair to conduct their meetings in the manner that seems most helpful for the nonprofit. We always welcome feedback from both coaches and nonprofits that might benefit future coaching programs.

Will participants of this program receive special consideration?

Participants will, hopefully, be able to submit a stronger proposal as a result of the coaching. They will, however, go through the standard competitive process and will not receive any special consideration for advancement.

How do I sign up?

Simply complete this brief form by Wednesday, July 24. Cummings expects to reach out to every applicant who expressed interest by July 31 to either connect them with their coach or notify them that space did not permit their participation.


Contact Deputy Director Andrew Bishop (, 781-569-2337) or Executive Director Joyce Vyriotes (, 781-932-7072).