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NiSource Charitable Foundation Fund for Merrimack Valley

To demonstrate a collaborative and sustainable investment in the region, NiSource has established the NiSource Charitable Foundation Fund for Merrimack Valley, a Field of Interest Fund at Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF). This responsive grantmaking program invites nonprofits to apply for grants between $25,000-200,000 to develop or expand programs that focus on the core areas of Basic Needs & Hardship Assistance, Economic & Workforce Development, Safety, STEM and Energy Education and Environmental Stewardship.


virtual info sessions

In this session, we will review the Fund guidelines, timelines and answer any questions. The sessions will be recorded and published on our website for future review.

Wednesday, November 4 | Watch the live recording
Wednesday, November 18 | Watch the live recording

grant guidelines


Applications are welcome from:

  • 501(c)(3) organizations*
  • Collaborations of two or more 501(c)(3) organizations
  • Municipal applicants (City of Lawrence, the Town of Andover, and the Town of North Andover) only in partnership with a 501(c)(3) organization **

* Preference will be given to applications/nonprofit organizations based in Andover, Lawrence and North Andover. However, applicants based outside of the area will be allowed on two conditions:

  1. If the nonprofit applicant is based outside of the three communities, they must demonstrate a successful history of working within those three communities
  2. If the nonprofit is based outside of the region and has yet to work within these three communities, applications will only be considered if they can demonstrate an innovative solution to an unmet need that will positively impact the people and places of three communities of the Merrimack Valley.

Individual programs as well as cross-sector/cross-organization collaborations are all encouraged to apply.
**Municipal/501(c)(3) partnership applications must fall within the funding guidelines. Appropriate municipal approval is required per each proposal that falls within the category of municipal/nonprofit partnerships.

funding guidelines

Grant requests must be consistent with the purpose of the program and could include requests for existing programs that address continued need, new programs or collaborative efforts in the following areas and sub-categories:

  • Basic Needs & Hardship Assistance: Food, Shelter, Heating Assistance, Social Service and Mental Health
  • Economic & Workforce Development: Retention and Attraction of Job Opportunities; Energy Infrastructure; Community Vitality
  • Safety: Emergency Assistance & Disaster Preparedness, First Aid, Safety Education & Energy Safety
  • STEM and Energy Education: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Energy Education
  • Environmental Stewardship: Protection and Restoration of Natural Resources, Energy Conservation and Environmental Education

Each application is eligible to apply for a grant between $25,000-200,000 per year. These grants are designed to be a one-time, one-year grant for funding within the next 12 months. This Fund will incent cross-organization and cross-sector collaboration.

selection criteria

A Fund Advisory Committee of local leaders from all three communities has been assembled to review applications. In addition to the funding priorities listed above, grant reviewers also look for the following:

  • Clearly defined objectives that will positively impact the people and places of the three communities
  • The potential impact of the proposed work on the population served
  • Quality of programming
  • Management staff with considerable administrative experience
  • Fiscally sound programs/organizations with balanced budgets

Grants will not be awarded:

  • Directly to individuals
  • For sectarian or religious purposes. Note: NiSource Charitable Foundation/Columbia Gas Fund for Merrimack Valley is limited to non-sectarian programming for residents of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. Programs sponsored by religious organizations are eligible, if service is open to all and the program is free of mandatory religious instruction, worship, or other sectarian activities.
  • For political purposes
  • For debt or deficit reduction
  • For capital campaigns for buildings, land acquisition, or endowment
  • To support academic research
application deadline

Proposals must be submitted online by no later than Friday, December 4, 2020 at 5 PM. Late proposals will not be accepted.

application procedures

Proposals must be submitted through ECCF’s Application Portal.

If you do not yet have a login for our application Portal, please read our Grant Application Process page which will give you access to the Portal.

review process

ECCF staff, together with the Advisors of the NiSource Charitable Foundation/Columbia Gas Fund for Merrimack Valley review proposals to the Fund. The committee makes grant recommendations to the ECCF Board of Trustees for approval. Our goal is to notify applicants of grant decisions by mid-March 2021.

Proposals that do not meet deadlines or guidelines will be screened out by the ECCF staff and receive early notification.

ECCF will host three community information sessions on the Fund between mid-March and mid-April. Please see our website for exact dates, times and locations. Email and social media notification will be shared on these open sessions early in March as well.

An ECCF staff person may contact applicants for additional information about a proposal or to arrange a site visit during the review process. The staff may also contact other funders, community leaders, or other local agencies to learn more about the organization applying for funds and to discuss the outlined plans. Copies of proposals submitted to ECCF may be shared with others during the review process.

As part of the review process, final applicants may be asked to make a presentation to Fund Advisors. These presentations will occur between mid-January and mid-February, 2021. An ECCF staff person will reach out to your directly to organize these presentations should your proposal make it through the first round of reviews.

reporting requirements

Grantees of the NiSource Charitable Foundation/Columbia Gas Fund for Merrimack Valley must submit a final report at the close of the grant.



December 4, 2020 at 5pm


Mid-March 2021


$25,000 – $200,000


Preference will be given to applications/nonprofit organizations based in Andover, Lawrence and North Andover. However, applications based outside of the area will be allowed under specific conditions.


Final reports should be submitted through the Application Portal.

nonprofits & grants

get in touch

Carol Lavoie Schuster

Carol Lavoie Schuster

Vice President for Grants, Nonprofit & Donor Services
(978) 777-8876 x133

how can we help?

We would love to hear from you.

ECCF Logo in White Overlay


  1. 175 Andover Street, Suite 101
    Danvers, Massachusetts 01923