Essential Human Services [GOS Grants]


The Sobrato Family Foundation has made general operating support (GOS) grants since 2004. In 2018, the Foundation completed its first ever review of its general operating support grants. If you are interested in reading more about the assessment, please click here


In response to feedback from the assessment, the unique realities of Silicon Valley, and additional input from community stakeholders, the Foundation implemented a few key changes to this program in early 2019. These changes amplify the most positive aspects of the historic GOS program, while also addressing the changing landscape in Silicon Valley. 


Key changes include:


  1. Deepening of the program’s focus on human services and social safety net services. 
  2. Deepening of the program’s focus on serving low-income communities in Silicon Valley. 
  3. Improving the application process and timeline for portfolio applicants. 


In order to positively convey the work being done by grantees in the portfolio, the program has been renamed Essential Human Services. Click here to read the letter from SFF’s CEO Rick Williams announcing these program changes.


Eligibility Criteria


Essential Human Services (EHS) grants are made to independent 501(c)(3) organizations that serve low-income clients in Silicon Valley with essential human services and safety net services. The grants are two years in length and the funds are for general operating support.


Common services funded through this program include: housing and shelter, community health services, food services, senior care, domestic violence response and legal aid, emergency assistance, and agencies providing multiple forms of family and children services.


To qualify for the program, at least 50% of an organization’s clients must be in Silicon Valley, California; which SFF views as encompassing Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, and the southern region of Alameda County (Hayward, Newark, Fremont & Union City). EHS grantees must be explicitly focused on serving low-income clients. 


Ineligible Activities


Organizations with over 50% of their programs in mental health, the environment, or the arts are specifically ineligible.


We also do not support the following activities:

  • Fundraising events or endowment campaigns
  • School-managed clubs or individual schools (except by invitation only)
  • Medical research or specific diseases
  • Projects created or operated by public government agencies or departments
  • Public libraries or their foundations
  • Type III Supporting Organizations unless “functionally integrated”
  • Organizations with fiscal sponsors

Our list of current EHS grantees can be found here.


Decision Process


We award EHS grants based on a thorough review of a variety of factors, including: measures of organizational strength (leadership, fundraising & development, finances, data & evaluation, and communications); organization size; organization need; prior SFF grant amount, if applicable; and our internal EHS program budget. 


The EHS review process includes SFF staff review of the submitted application materials and an in-person meeting with your organization’s leadership. You can expect a grant decision approximately three months after your application is submitted. 


Our EHS grants are always awarded for a two-year period.  Please note that the second year of the two-year grant is contingent on the grantee successfully raising new or increased cash funds from non-governmental sources (i.e., individuals, corporations, and foundations). We cap our EHS grants at $250,000/year, and our average EHS grant currently sits at about $62,000/year. 


Who To Contact


To learn more about EHS grant opportunities and how to apply for an EHS grant, click here. We anticipate accepting applications for the program three times in 2019 – in January, May, and September. 


Please direct any question about the Essential Human Services program to Jazmin Gonzalez.