Community Foundation Awards 15 Nonprofit Grants

RICHARD J. ALLEY | Special to The Daily News

The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis has awarded grants totaling $188,500 to 15 area organizations. The Nonprofit Capacity Building grants are meant to help fund the cost of improving operations and increasing efficiency.

The foundation put out a request for letters of intent and received about 40, which were reviewed by a committee of 12 community volunteers. That committee then asked for proposals and conducted site visits for half of those before making decisions on the funding.

“This particular committee was really designed to focus on taking nonprofits to the next level and us providing an opportunity for them to do that, whether it be technology, or staff training or marketing plan – something that will take them from where they are to where they really want to be at that next place in their strategic plan,” said Sutton Mora Hayes, vice president of grants and initiatives.

The winning organizations were required to provide matching funds, and individual grant amounts ranged from $2,500 to $24,000. The work done by these nonprofits are as varied as their needs and include Agape Child & Family Services Inc., with $20,000 for a Salesforce donor and volunteer management system; Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, with $12,500 for visitor-tracking technology; and WEVL, with $8,000 to increase webcasting capacity.

Michael Detroit, associate producer for Circuit Playhouse, said when they found themselves in the enviable position of being able to hire for two positions in development, they knew they would need the equipment and training to allow that staff to do their jobs.

“This was something that came about where we needed funding because it was not part of our original budget,” Detroit said. “So when the opportunity came up to apply for this Capacity Building grant through CFGM, we pounced on it.”

The 501(c)(3) entity Circuit Playhouse Inc., which incorporates Circuit Playhouse and Playhouse on the Square, was awarded $8,500, and will utilize the entire $17,000 for specialized software called Theatre Manager, used for ticketing, marketing and donor tracking, as well as the training that goes along with it.

The Foundation, with its GiVE 365 initiative, recently awarded $88,983 to a dozen nonprofits that responded to the theme “Home is Where the Heart Is.” The Capacity Building grants have no theme, and there are no restrictions on what an organization’s needs might look like. Instead, Hayes said, “you have all those different organizations and they kind of come in on the same playing field because they’re all looking for that capacity-building thing.”

The funding comes from three sources: direct donations to the Community Partnership Fund, endowment income and portions of excess operating funds if there are any. The total grant amount may change from year to year, and took a noticeable hit after the economy’s slump.

“Before 2008, this was a much larger pool of funds, so it has been smaller the last couple of years than it was five, six, seven years ago, but as we’re coming out of this, our endowment is recovering and should build back up,” Hayes said.

People can donate directly to the Community Partnership Fund, providing a way to give to the community even if unsure of what they want it to go to, instead trusting the expertise of the committee to invest that money strategically.

“The committee has gotten good at what they do, and they’ve looked at a lot of these proposals over the last couple of years, especially because in the last three or four years we’ve gotten so many technology requests that we’ve had to beef up what we know about databases and CRMs and all that kind of stuff,” Hayes said.

The next opportunity to apply for such grants will be in March, with the GiVE 365 round of grants beginning again over the summer.

“I feel like this committee and this grant pool has really developed over the last couple of years and a lot of nonprofits in town now know that they can come to us for (Capacity Building grants), and it funds things that are a little less sexy than individual donors usually want to fund, like databases … but you need them to be able to run the organization,” Hayes said. “A lot of what we do is kind of that back office stuff that is going to give them the administrative capacity to really take their programming to the next level.”