April 25, 2017
 
Seven Western Mass. Nonprofits Win $300K in Innovation Grants

February 18, 2017 — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, based in Springfield, this week announced that it has awarded $300,000 to seven nonprofits in western Massachusetts, the first beneficiaries of its new Innovation Grant program.

The competitive program is designed to promote focused, creative problem-solving, taking advantage of the expertise within nonprofits to address pressing concerns in the Pioneer Valley, which spans Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties.

“We’re inspired by the promise of this new program,” said Janet Daisley, vice president for programs and strategy at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM). “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.”

Receiving the grants, which ranged from $35,000 to $50,000, were the following: Semi-finalists 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 CFWM.

“The Meetup itself was a new approach for us to gather community input to assess the merits of proposals," said Daisley. "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. Grant recipients will be eligible to apply for implementation grants through the CFWM’s Innovation Grant program later this year.

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