Essential Human Services

Flexible support to human services and safety net providers working to improve the quality of life for low-income residents of the Valley.

The Sobrato Family Foundation has made general operating support (GOS) grants since 2004. In 2018, the Foundation completed its first-ever review of its GOS grants, which are summarized in this GOS assessment report

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. For details, view the announcement of 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: emergency 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 organizations focused on 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 and evaluation, and communications); organization size; organization need; prior Sobrato Family Foundation (SFF) grant amount, if applicable; and our internal EHS program budget. 

The EHS review process includes an 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 we require grantees to report on their ability to match their first-year grant amount with new, increased, or lapsed private donor dollars before the second year payment is released. We cap our EHS grants at $250,000/year, and our average EHS grant currently sits at about $62,000/year.

Who To Contact

If you feel your organization is eligible for an EHS grant, please complete the EHS inquiry form. We anticipate accepting applications for the program three times in 2019 – in January, May, and September. 

Inquiries about the Essential Human Services program can be sent to grants@sobrato.org.