Applying to the HMSA Foundation

Applicants must contact the HMSA Foundation office before submitting an online proposal to better understand each other’s priorities and purpose.

HMSA Foundation aims to foster greater empowerment for communities when it comes to our health and wellbeing. The Foundation’s funding priorities include endeavors that aim to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy life; initiatives that seek to strengthen our culture, policies, and practices for a healthier Hawaii; and projects that contribute to building ecosystems of health within our communities. Projects must primarily benefit people within the State of Hawaii. 

We receive many more requests than can be funded and must often turn down even good proposals. Proposals are accepted at any time; however, requests are reviewed at HMSA Foundation Board meetings, which occur in March, June, September, and December. After a decision is made, applicants will receive an email indicating whether their proposal has been approved or declined.

Important Dates

Postmarked By Reviewed In
January 1 March
April 1 June
July 1 September
October 1 December

If the date falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline will be the next working day.


In general, the Foundation only makes grants to organizations that are tax-exempt because 1) they are a unit of government or 2) they are a 501(c)(3) organization that is not a private foundation. The Foundation does not make grants to individuals. All applicant organizations are required to submit proof of their tax-exempt status before their proposal will be considered. 

The Foundation does not generally support requests for endowments, capital campaigns, scholarship funds, lobbying, or voter registration funds.


HMSA Foundation aims to collaborate with all partners seeking to improve community health through mutual exchanges of learning and action. Directors of projects that receive funding may be invited to attend periodic meetings or provide a written report to share their key learnings. The Foundation may also be able to help the project by providing technical support, advocating for related public health issues, helping with events, making connections to other community partners or funders, building lasting relationships, and anything else to help further the project.  


The Foundation evaluates each grant proposal according to the following categories in this order of importance:

  1. Community Engagement: the project has the involvement of community-based leadership, and the broader community is consulted and has the ability to provide feedback. 
  2. Strengths-Based Approach: the project is not solely focused on deficits and is driven by strengths or assets within the community.
  3. Active Partners in Community: the project is supported by a number of partners with substantive roles and is a part of a continuum (meaning it is not a standalone project and it is connected to other projects and organizations).
  4. Target Population: the project is targeting a specific population or community that lacks the supports needed for the opportunity to have a healthy life.
  5. Community Building and Social Determinants of Health: the project, through broader community engagement, looks to address the deeper roots of health problems, and not just the problem itself; for example, safe and nurturing families, access to healthy food, etc.
  6. Ability to Learn and Innovate: the project generates stories, practices, and data to learn and improve over time; the learning from the project can support future health endeavors and is of importance to the state and possibly to a national and international audience.
  7. Likelihood of Success: the project has the organizational capacity and experience to succeed.
  8. Determination: the project will be completed due to the leadership, courage, and commitment of those involved.

How to Apply

Applicants must use the online application form. We emphasize contacting the HMSA Foundation office prior to applying for our staff to better understand the proposal and answer questions for a more successful application. Below are requirements of the application.

  1. Registration information

    • Organization information (including Tax ID number)

    • Contact Information

  2. Copy of your current IRS determination letter indicating 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status or letter stating status as a unit of government (if possible, include a reference to the Act that established the agency as a unit of government)

  3. List of the organization’s officers and directors and their affiliations

  4. Most recent IRS Form 990 and annual financial statements of the organization

  5. Include the following:

    • Statement of Need Why is your project important? What is the desired long-term effect of your project and why is it so important that it have this effect? Stronger proposals cite evidence that address community engagement, a strengths-based approach, active partners, and your target population.

    • Activities & Timeline What exactly do you plan to do and when? What would be the key actions or events during the grant period?

    • Impact and Key Learnings. What differences will you make and how will you know? Include specific anticipated impacts and key learnings, as well as indicators that demonstrate these differences. Examples include “creating and sharing a community map of stores with fresh produce and farmer markets that accept EBT payments” or “50 program participants safely access dental care services through community-based organizations.”

    • Stronger proposals include observable and measurable data that track the impact on your program participants, community engagement strategy, building on your strengths, and growing or deepening relationships with active partners. Well-designed and objective surveys, interviews and analyses, and individuals stories may also produce sufficient indicators.

    • Description of Your Organization and its Qualifications How is your organization able to achieve this plan? Stronger proposals indicate your organizational capacity and commitment, your leadership, and the support of other organizations.

    • Budget. How much will it cost? Indicate the amount you are requesting, the proposed use of funds and other sources of funding secured and/or currently being sought.

  6. Letters of support for your project that demonstrate community engagement and partnerships, and your organization’s ability to succeed.

  7. Other relevant appendices (qualifications of key staff, sample program materials, etc.).

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How much does the HMSA Foundation give in grants?

    • The Foundation has had a grantmaking program since 1998. Each year, we have made between $1.0 and $1.4 million in grants.

  2. What is the average grant size?

    • For a typical one-year project, grants range between $15,000 to $100,000. The Foundation also makes some multi-year grants.

  3. What are the chances of getting funded?

    • Obtaining a grant from the HMSA Foundation is a competitive process. Based on recent experience, about one in four proposals (25%) are funded. In a typical quarter, twenty proposals requesting about $1 million are reviewed. This amounts to many more requests than can be funded.

  4. Does the HMSA Foundation make grants to individuals?

    • No. The Foundation only makes grants to organizations that are tax-exempt because 1) they are a unit of government or 2) they are a 501(c)(3) organization that is not a private foundation.

  5. Can we apply if we are not yet a 501(c)(3) but our application is pending at the IRS?

    • No. The HMSA Foundation requires that you submit proof of 501(c)(3) status (or that you are a unit of government) before your proposal will be considered.

  6. Does the project have to benefit people in Hawai`i?

    • Yes. The primary beneficiaries of the grant must be people within the State of Hawaiʻi.

  7. If I’m interested in applying for a grant, what are the first things I should do?

    • Once you have determined that you meet the minimum eligibility requirements for a grant from the HMSA Foundation, contact the Foundation staff to talk about your idea. The staff may be able to give you some ideas for your proposal strategy.

  8. How long does the proposal have to be?

    • There are character limits within each application section.

  9. If the deadline falls on a weekend or holiday, can the proposal be submitted online by the next day?

    • Yes.

  10. What is the process for reviewing grant proposals?

    • After your grant proposal is submitted, it will be reviewed by staff for connection to what we are looking for. The Foundation staff may schedule a site visit or call for additional information. The grant proposal will then be placed on the HMSA Foundation board agenda for decision making at the next meeting. Board meetings are regularly scheduled in March, June, September and December.

  11. When and how will I find out about the decision on my grant proposal?

    • In a few cases, grant proposals will be administratively declined because the request falls clearly outside foundation guidelines or for lack of foundation funds. If declined, the requester will be notified as soon as possible. In all other cases, a final decision will be given to applicants within one week of the next quarterly meeting. Decisions may be approve, decline, or defer to a future board meeting.

  12. Is it possible my proposal receives less than full funding?

    • Yes, proposals may be approved in full or in part.

  13. Does the Foundation pay for indirect costs?

    • If indirect costs are a concern for you, please contact the Foundation staff.

  14. What is expected if my organization receives a grant?

    • Project directors may be asked to attend periodic meetings and/or provide a report on the project’s learnings for wide dissemination. Grantees are required to provide a final report to be submitted within two months after completion of the grant.

  15. How else might the HMSA Foundation be able to help me?

    • Foundation staff may be aware of other sources of funding or collaborators.

  16. Who should I contact for more information?

    • If you have any questions about the HMSA Foundation, please contact us at 808-380-3727.