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New: ABACUS Liftoff!

ABACUS, a collaborative initiative of Hamilton Community Foundation and The Fairmont Foundation, is a 10-year commitment to education. Its goal is to increase the likelihood that young people facing multiple barriers graduate high school and access postsecondary education, by focusing on the pivotal middle-school years.

Two new granting calls will close May 2, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. for programs that run in the 2022-23 school year. There will be an information session March 10, 2022 for organizations to learn more about the programs and applying to them.

Each of these calls reflects a refocusing of ABACUS to address particular needs uncovered through the Foundation’s research, experience and community consultation, including input from grantees. In particular, the refinements include an increased focus on the transition to high school, reading and numeracy in the earlier years, overall social and emotional wellness, and addressing the needs of students historically underserved in the education system.

Application guidelines for ABACUS Liftoff! Grades 4 and 5 pilot (Guidelines for the ABACUS+ program for students in Grades 6-8 and transition through Grade 9 and into Grade 10 are here)

This call is for programs that support children in Grades 4 and 5 to address reading acquisition and numeracy.  It is our hope that by doing so, students will be better prepared to transition into the critical middle school years.

Every summer, children forget some of what they learned during the previous school year. But now, because of increased interruptions to their learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are warning that students are struggling even more. Students who already face barriers to education (e.g. racialized students, newcomer students, first-generation students, students with disabilities) are facing increased barriers and are struggling the most.

Hamilton Community Foundation’s research, experience and learning gained through ABACUS has reaffirmed that student wellness is central to their academic achievement. The need to focus on students who are already underserved by the education system is equally important. Equity, wellness and academic achievement are three key ingredients to a student achieving their learning goals. A “whole child approach,” one that focuses on a student’s overall development – not just their academic achievement, but their mental, emotional, physical health —  is central, especially at a time like this.

Grants up to a maximum of $25,000 for one year will be available to support initiatives addressing reading acquisition and numeracy for students in Grades 4 and 5.

Eligibility criteria

  • Organizations that are non-profit but that do not have charitable status, may be eligible to apply under a fiscal sponsorship.  Information is available here
  • Grants for one-time special events, individual student sponsorships, or capital will not be considered.
  • All initiatives must be carried out within Hamilton.
  • Grants will not be made to promote political, religious, moral or ethical philosophies or for purposes which may be deemed discriminatory
  • Foundation funds are not intended to be used to fund programs that are the responsibility of the public through the annual Board of Education budget.

Proposal assessment

The following criteria will be used to assess all applications for support from ABACUS Liftoff!

Applications will be assessed to ensure there is demonstrated capacity and credibility to plan, implement, and evaluate the work. Applicants must also demonstrate sound fiscal policies and a commitment to financial accountability. In addition, the following criteria will be used for assessment:   

  • Program works toward ABACUS’ goal “increasing the likelihood that students in their middle school years will graduate high school and access post-secondary opportunities”.
  • Serve student populations that are currently and historically underserved by the education system (i.e. Black and racialized students; first-generation students; Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ students; male students; newcomer students; Indigenous students; students with disabilities; students with disciplinary records; students from families with low socio-economic status; students with special education needs; students from rural and remote locations)
  • Program uses an intersectional approach to meet student needs. This means considering multiple dimensions of a student’s identity and the systems they live in. For example, an intersectional literacy or numeracy program in schools would incorporate different learning styles of students, culturally relevant examples that support students’ connection to material, as well as access points to the program that are tailored to the students (e.g. languages spoken by staff, transportation, food, physical accessibility etc.)
  • Program incorporates elements of successful early intervention programs that are supported by literature, i.e. tailored to meet student needs; makes a conscious effort to identify and address systemic barriers; incorporates the overall development of a student (social, emotional, mental, physical health and wellness); and is also connected to academic readiness and preparation for post-secondary opportunities.
  • Program demonstrates recognition that a trusted adult ally and a sense of belonging are central elements of a student’s ability to navigate the education system and plan for their educational future. For example, a drop-in after-school program has low-staff turnover, reliable hours and location, and welcomes youth regardless of how often they participate.
  • Program is able to demonstrate the impact of their program and has a plan for doing so.
  • Program demonstrates an alignment with HCF’s commitment to learning in different ways (i.e. ongoing program refinement based on lessons learned; sharing questions and approaches with other community-based organizations; engaging with HCF staff on what is and isn’t working)
  • Potential to leverage additional financial support
  • Clear and reasonable budget
  • Level of co-operation and collaboration with other groups that could contribute to improved results in the project with special attention to Boards of Education and schools
  • Evidence of community support for the initiative (e.g. email or letter of support, memorandum of understanding, partnership agreement, etc.)
  • Potential model that could be replicated
  • Need for Hamilton Community Foundation funding

For more information on reading acquisition, numeracy and whole-child approach:

For more information about ABACUS please visit:

To apply:

You are required to complete an online application form which can be accessed here as of 1:00 p.m. March 1, 2022.  Please note that the portal will close on May 2, 2022 at 5:00 p.m.. Applications will not be accepted after that time.

For more information, please check our frequently asked questions page. If your question is not covered, please email us at