Competitive Innovation Grants Awarded to Seven Area Nonprofits

SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) announced its first competitive Innovation Grant award recipients this week. Seven organizations from throughout the Pioneer Valley received grants totaling $300,000. Individual grant awards range from $35,000 to $50,000.

The awardees and innovation projects these initiatives target include:

• Clinical & Support Options: Building Resilience by Creating Trauma Sensitive Schools, Franklin County;

• Five Colleges Inc.: the Diverse Teacher Workforce Coalition, Hampden and Hampshire counties;

• The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts: Achieving Hunger Free Communities, Hampden and Franklin counties;

• Just Roots Inc.: Healthy Farms, Healthy Communities: Expanding the Community Sustainable Agriculture Model as a Health Intervention, Franklin County;

• Nuestras Raices: the Holyoke Food and Agriculture Innovation Center, Hampden County;

• Pioneer Valley Habitat For Humanity: Big Enough: Pioneering the Small Home Revolution in the Pioneer Valley, Hampshire County; and

• Wellspring Cooperative Corp.: Springfield Worker Cooperative, Hampden County.

These are the first awards of the CFWM’s new competitive Innovation Grant program. The program is designed to promote focused, creative problem-solving, taking advantage of the expertise within nonprofits to address pressing concerns in the region. Awardee organizations are 501(c)(3) nonprofits in the Pioneer Valley.

Semifinalists were invited to participate in a meetup at which they presented their proposals to small groups of volunteer reviewers in a speed-round format. Springfield-based Valley Venture Mentors provided coaching to presenters on making an effective pitch and co-hosted the event with the CFWM.

“We’re inspired by the promise of this new program,” said CFWM Vice President for Programs & Strategy Janet Daisley. “As we’d hoped, it brought to our attention potential new ways of looking at challenges. We asked applicants to think big and collaborate with other organizations to develop their ideas, and we’re thrilled to support the work it takes to turn those ideas into action.”

She added that the meetup was a new approach to gather community input to assess the merits of proposals. “It was a dynamic event that reflects our commitment to community philanthropy. It convened people from around the region, gave applicants the chance to hear feedback, and volunteers the opportunity to probe deeper about the region’s needs and the outstanding organizations seeking solutions to these challenges. The Community Foundation is thrilled to help get these ideas off the ground and see where the planning leads.”

Each grant funds the planning stage, supporting the work involved in exploring the innovative idea and designing a project that, once implemented, can respond to the need. These planning-grant recipients will be eligible to apply for implementation grants through the CFWM’s Innovation Grant program later this year.

CFWM awards approximately $9 million each year in grants and scholarships to organizations and individuals throughout the Pioneer Valley. Mission Grants and scholarship applications are both available online at communityfoundation.org.

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