Please note that the information on this page pertains to all Internet Society Foundation funding programmes, except for the Beyond the Net programme. For information on the Beyond the Net Small or Beyond the Net Large grants, please consult their individual funding pages.

A core value held by the Internet Society Foundation is transparency. We seek to be transparent in our programmatic decisions, funding choices and interactions with others. To this end, we are providing the below information so that all applicants have a clear understanding of our funding process.

Funding Requirements

Basic requirements applicable to all applicants

In order to receive funding from the Internet Society Foundation, all applicant organizations must meet the following three (3) requirements:

  • Be a legally registered 501(c)(3) OR equivalent. (Before awarding funds to any organization, the Foundation will verify this equivalency)
  • Possess mission alignment with both the Internet Society Foundation and the Internet Society (ISOC), the Foundation’s supported organization
  • Have an official bank account in their name (based on their legal registration)

What we don't fund

  • Projects that are unrelated to the Internet and the mission of the Internet Society
  • Projects that provide personal monetary gain
  • Political campaigns, voter registration, lobbying efforts or other attempts to influence legislation
  • Endowments, buildings, or capital campaigns
  • Projects that exclusively serve religious purposes
  • Activities completed or costs incurred prior to the award, without prior approval
  • Tuition assistance
  • Transactions or grants prohibited by the Internet Society Foundation’s Bylaws, Conflict of Interest Policy, or other governing document.

Dissertations and postdoctoral research will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

What is a 501(c)3?

A 501(c)3 is a United States nonprofit organization that has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to act as a tax-exempt, charitable organization. The Internet Society Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization.

Registering

If you are not a registered 501(c)(3), your organization may be eligible for Equivalency Determination Certification. To better understand how an Equivalency Determination is made, please consult the Equivalency Determination section below.  

NOTE: Before awarding funds to an organization, the Foundation will verify equivalency. If you are not a 501(c)(3), and we determine your organization cannot, or is not likely to get an Equivalency Determination, the Foundation cannot award you a grant.

Equivalency Determination

An Equivalency Determination is a process where a U.S. grantmaker evaluates whether an intended international grantee is the equivalent of a U.S. public charity, a 501(c)(3). The certification process is conducted by independent partner organizations and their legal counsel, contracted by the Foundation. The designation is typically documented on a certificate and is valid for up to two years.

The Foundation’s bylaws require that we fund only 501(c)3 organizations or their equivalent. To better understand how an Equivalency Determination is made, and what documents your organization would need to provide to supplement the certification process, please consult this guidance.

Attaining an Equivalency Determination  

The Foundation has partnered with NGOsource and Paragon Philanthropy to confirm all international grantee organizations meet the Equivalency Determination qualification.

You do not need to obtain Equivalency Determination prior to applying for Internet Society Foundation funding.

If the Foundation decides to award funds to your organization, and your organization is not a 501(c)(3) OR does not hold a current Equivalency Determination Certificate, the Foundation will apply for and cover the cost of Equivalency Determination certification on your organization’s behalf.

If you have a current Equivalency Determination certificate on file with NGOsource or Paragon Philanthropy, the Foundation will request a copy and keep it on file with your organization’s record in our grants management system. If your determination must be renewed, or you have never pursued an equivalency determination, the Foundation will request either NGOsource or Paragon Philanthropy to work directly with you to ensure they have all the necessary paperwork and documents.

What is Mission Alignment?

The Foundation was created to further the mission of ISOC. Therefore, our grantees’ missions and purposes must also further ISOC’s mission in some way. In order to receive funds from the Foundation, you must use funds to provide one of the following activities:

  • Facilitate or support the technical evolution of the Internet as a research and education infrastructure
  • Stimulate the community in the evolution of the Internet or educate them in its use and application
  • Promote educational applications of the Internet
  • Help to promote open development, evolution, or use of the Internet to benefit people
  • Connect unconnected communities and individuals to the Internet
  • Advocate for policy that is consistent with ISOC’s view of the Internet
  • Advance the development and application of Internet infrastructure, technologies, or open standards, etc.

Legal & Tax Considerations

When an organization applies for a grant with the Foundation, we are obligated to determine if the organization applying was created for charitable purposes only and that it is a true nonprofit (or deemed equivalent via an Equivalency Determination) and thus, potentially U.S. tax exempt.

Prior to making a grant award and issuing payment to an organization, we will do an Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) check to ensure applicants are compliant with U.S. Treasury protocols. We are required to do so by law. We may check information like the names of key staff and board members, the organization’s legal name and common name, prominent volunteers, and any fiscal sponsors (if applicable).

Fiscal Sponsorship

The Foundation can make grants to Fiscal Sponsors to support innovative and important work being implemented by Sponsored Organizations or Individuals that may not yet have the proper financial or organizational controls in place.  In this way, Fiscal Sponsors provide a cost-effective, efficient, and impactful benefit to Sponsored Projects.

A Fiscal Sponsor is required when an Organization or Individual does not hold or cannot obtain tax exemption status under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service code – or its equivalent – due to age, location, current legal registration, or other factor.

Potential Fiscal Sponsors and Sponsored Organizations/ Individuals may refer to the Foundation’s Fiscal Sponsorship Guidance for an overview of responsibilities and the application process.

What We’re Looking for on Your Funding Application

First and foremost, your application should specifically answer each question asked. Secondly, it should be as concise and succinct as possible. For example, when we ask about mission alignment, beyond just stating what your mission is, we would like you to draw comparisons between the two missions and show us how they are truly aligned.

Programme Specific Requirements

In order to receive a grant(s) from the Foundation, applicants must be legally eligible, programmatically appropriate, and share an aligned mission with us and ISOC, the Foundation’s supported organization.

In addition to meeting the above basic requirements, each funding area has its own unique requirements that reflect the goals and focus areas of that specific programme. We invite you to consult the detailed description of the funding area for which you plan to apply as it contains important details on focus areas and eligibility. Applications that do not meet the individual programme-specific requirements will not be considered for funding, even if they meet the basic requirements.

Working with Our Staff Before Funding Your Organization

From the time you submit a grant application, to just before your organization is formally awarded a grant, the Foundation has a series of screenings like those we’ve outlined above. You may hear from the Foundation during this period if we seek more information to confirm whether your organization meets all of the eligibility criteria.