Close Menu

Core Grants

The Collaborative’s core grants provide preliminary design services to help nonprofits succeed in the challenging arena of community and economic development.

Preliminary design encompasses the first 10% of the overall design process. Access to preliminary design is critical to the successful outcome of development projects envisioned by nonprofit organizations. Unfortunately, nonprofits rarely have the resources to pay for preliminary design. 

Preliminary design establishes a shared project vision; promotes collaboration, critical thinking, and decision making. It allows nonprofits, communities, and design professionals to explore options prior to beginning intensive design. Preliminary design provides you with a more defined project agenda and scope, which allows design and development to proceed more efficiently.

Preliminary design greatly increases the likelihood that your project will be successfully completed. Core grants prepare you for the next stage of community development: gaining support, raising funds, and building projects. Typically, you cannot build from preliminary design work. However, our services will provide you with powerful tools to advance your project, such as:

  • Conceptual drawings to share your vision
  • Feasibility studies to prove the project can be done
  • Preliminary cost estimates to guide fundraising
  • Organizational and community engagement to build capacity and consensus

The Collaborative provides 10 to 15 core grants each year. When you receive a design grant, we work with you to determine the best approach and scope of services to meet your needs. We then match you with skilled volunteer design professionals, including architects, planners, landscape architects, engineers, interior designers, preservationists, sustainability consultants, development consultants, artists, graphic designers, community engagement specialists, cost estimators, and others. The Collaborative also works with you to engage your community and other stakeholders through the design process.

Core grants typically provide between $20,000 and $50,000 in preliminary design services, donated by design professional volunteers. Core grant recipients pay a $5,000 administrative fee to offset the Collaborative’s direct costs. Scholarships may be available for organizations whose project will:

  • Advance neighborhood economic development in the City of Philadelphia


  • Support Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) activities in service areas approved by the Philadelphia Division of Housing and Community Development

Learn more about Core Grants here.

Interested in accessing design services? We’re currently retooling our process for applying. In the meantime, you can express interest by emailing Jesse Blitzstein at with a brief description of your organization, potential project, and need for assistance.

Our Design Process

Nonprofit partnership and community engagement are hallmarks of our design process.

Nonprofit proposes an idea

Collaborative matches nonprofit with volunteer design team

Design team, nonprofit and community collaborate

Design team creates conceptual design

Nonprofit and community give feedback

Final conceptual design and recommendations compiled

Nonprofit moves forward with project



More Info