What if….Mini Grants

The “What if…” mini grant program started in 2011 as an outgrowth of the Foundation’s longtime initiatives working on the grassroots level in Syracuse neighborhoods. “What if…” is designed to foster growth in neighborhoods, strengthen the capacity of Syracuse residents who seek to make positive changes in their neighborhood and increase community participation, awareness and partnerships.


Since we encourage inclusion of diverse populations in decisions that affect their community, projects must be neighborhood/community based and initiated or implemented by residents, grassroots organizations or neighborhood stakeholders. “What if…” grants are given for projects with a total budget of $5,000 or less for neighborhoods within the City of Syracuse. The average grant size is $3,193.


One of the keystones of the “What if…” mini grant program is community involvement, so previous recipients of these small, grassroots grants are invited to serve on our Resident Review Committee to review, advise and play a role in evaluating “What if…” proposals.

We look to support efforts to build community capacity through the following:

  • Projects that create a clean, safe physical environment, promote sustainability, and protect the natural environment such as gardens,  neighborhood clean-ups, tree planting, etc.
  • Projects that create opportunities for learning and skill development such as workshops, trainings, afterschool programs, etc.
  • Projects that preserve a strong local, cultural and spiritual heritage such as celebrations, art projects/programs, street festivals, etc.
  • Projects that are supportive of individual and family well-being such as food programs, neighborhood watch programs, youth employment, etc.

In order to receive application guidelines you must attend an informational meeting on the second Thursday of every month from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm in the Gifford Offices on the 3rd Floor of the First Niagara building, 126 North Salina Street (corner of James and North Salina.) Registration is required – no walk-ins, please. Please complete the form below, call 315-474-2489 or email

The 2016 deadlines for What If… Mini Grant applications are as follows:

  • April 4th, 2016
  • June 6th, 2016
  • August 1st, 2016
  • November 7th, 2016

Register for What if… Mini Grant Orientation

Read about the impact of a Mini Grant.

Learn more about our Resident Review Committee, which advises us on grant recommendations.

Two girls reading

Grand opening of the Northside Learning Center library

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  • Gifford Foundation on TwitterA Tech Center for youth! Lovely use of a "What if..." mini grant @SciExcite!
  • Gifford Foundation on TwitterNot only great to see @shenarashley of @urbaninstitute but to hear her wisdom as well. link
  • Gifford Foundation on TwitterThoughtful discussion & conversation on #philanthropicimpact w/ Shena Ashley of @urbaninstitute. Thx @NYFunders
  • Gifford Foundation on TwitterLots of "What if..." mini grants were awarded this month! Seven grants support gardens, music, community... link
  • Gifford Foundation on TwitterBeautiful day for a trip to the Great Swamp Conservancy! Thx for hosting, Mike and Rusty. link