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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: ABACUS+ (Guidelines for ABACUS Liftoff! program for students in Grades 4 and 5 are here.)

This call is for programs that support the overall development of children, focusing on social, emotional and academic learning. Programs must serve students in the middle-school years (Grades 6, 7 and 8) and/or those transitioning into secondary school (Grade 9 and the start of Grade 10).

ABACUS is based on the understanding that students and their families start thinking about life after high school early – during their middle-school years. Another critical period in a student’s academic journey is the transition into secondary school. Students are adapting to a new environment: a larger group of classmates, more teachers, and a semestered way of learning. Research shows that academic success in Grade 9 is a strong predictor of high school completion and post-secondary access.

HCF’s focus is on funding programs serving students who continue to be underserved in the education system. This includes Indigenous, Black and racialized students; Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ students; students who are first-generation attenders (i.e. whose parents did not attend post-secondary); and students who are: newcomers, male, have special education needs, have disabilities, have disciplinary records or who are from low-income families. HCF will prioritize programs that take an intersectional approach and are focused on the students’ overall development to meet their unique needs.

The ongoing evolution of ABACUS is integral to our broader education goal to strengthen the equity, wellness and academic achievement of Hamilton students.   

Grants up to a maximum of $65,000 annually are available; organizations may apply for up to two years of funding for their program. Grants are based on a school year and funding will be allocated prior to the September 2022 school year. Funding is also available to support program planning and evaluation costs, as well as year-round programming that aims to retain connections with students and bridge learning gaps over the summer.

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

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”.
  • Serves 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+, 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 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 program in schools would incorporate different learning styles of students and 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 evidence 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 a consistent adult present, reliable hours and location, and welcomes youth regardless of how often they participate. The program staff also invites youth to participate in the development of the program’s governance, design and delivery. 
  • 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 (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 project results 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.)

Successful applicants will be invited to become part of a Community of Practice and will be expected to participate in evaluation and information-sharing activities as requested by HCF.

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 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