Saturday, January 19, 2008

Do You Have A Great Idea To Help Make The World A Better Place? - You Just Might Get A Grant For It!

This grant program was started as a direct response to research showing that many people feel disconnected from public leaders and institutions and don't believe they have the power to make a lasting difference in their community. Research done by the grant's organization suggests that if people are actually going to get engaged and stay engaged in their communities, one thing has to happen first -- they must be given more chances to connect with one another (including those they might disagree with) and figure out how they can work together for the common good.

Who Can Apply

The grant program is looking for passionate individuals, or individuals working with small, local organizations or groups, who reside in one of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico, to submit an idea for one of these same locations (no international projects). Applicants must be 14 years of age or older.

What You Get

Twenty finalists will receive a $10,000 grant to help make their idea a reality. The final four will get an additional $25,000 grant -- for a total of $35,000. Everyone who applies will receive additional tools to help them share their idea with others and raise funds online.

The top 100 finalists will get $100 from the foundation to jump-start their idea.

How It Works

This new grant program is part of an exciting trend--a "citizen-centered" approach to making the world a better place that is more open and more inclusive. That's why, from developing the grant guidelines to voting on the final grant recipients, this grant program has been and will continue to involve the public in nearly every aspect of the program.

  • A group of people from diverse backgrounds and communities will review all the applications and select the top 100 semifinalists. These 100 semifinalists will then be invited to pitch their ideas as a full proposal.

  • A smaller group of reviewers will then choose the Top 20 finalists, with each finalist receiving a grant of $10,000.

This grant program recognizes that improving communities takes ongoing commitment and persistent action from the people who live in them. That's why they will provide funds to individuals, and individuals working with small organizations and groups, who join together to imagine and implement innovative ideas and solutions that lay the groundwork for long-term social change. This grant program was put in place to lift up these efforts to show that they're not happening in isolation, but are part of a growing movement that can, and will, transform our communities.

This grant program wants a range of ideas and that is why they are keeping it broad. But they do have the following guidelines for how they will choose grant recipients.

If you are applying for this grant then your application should show that you do the following:

  • Address a need or cause your community thinks is important (meaning anything from your neighborhood, city or town, a particular group, or an online network);

  • Join forces with others in your community to discuss common issues, and form solutions and take action together;

  • Encourage people from different backgrounds and viewpoints to get involved

  • Plan for the long-term by laying the groundwork for ongoing public spaces in your community

  • Reflect the values of citizen-centered change

  • Demonstrate that you've thought through your ideas.

This grant program wants to emphasize the fact that they are looking for individuals with good ideas. They are not concerned with whether or not you have written a grant proposal before they are more interested in getting great ideas submitted to them. They care more about what you have to say than how you say it. So they want you to forget the big words and fancy format, and feel free to "get real" with them.

What they are re NOT Looking for

The following will not be considered for grant awards

  • Solo acts -- This grant program is looking for people who spark ideas, but who aren't running the show on their own. This is all about people and passionate teams coming together as equal partners, sharing leadership in the process.

  • Ideas, campaigns, or efforts that are "decided on" by one person or organization, as opposed to a group decision process involving people of many types and backgrounds.

  • Ideas that represent a political view or other type of belief that excludes some groups of people.

  • Efforts that discriminate on the basis of race, creed, gender, national origin, age, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.

  • Projects that are created and organized by and for professional staff.

  • Lobbying or election campaign activities

  • Projects that focus solely on training or educating on a predefined issue or agenda.

Grant funds at the $10,000 and $25,000 levels are to be used to implement the idea outlined in the application and full proposal. This is not a prize for good works already done, but fuel to help move a great idea forward. Grant funds will be paid out over the course of one year in a schedule to be determined by the grant program's foundation. Grant recipients at this level must also submit reports to the foundation during the project year. Content and timeline for the reports will be decided before grant distribution, and will be required to meet the terms of the foundation's grant Agreement.

(You can visit their website to see an example of a completed application)

The information below should help you figure out if your ideas or projects are in line with the type of "citizen-centered" approaches we're looking to fund.

Citizen-centered approaches DO:

  • Focus primarily on lasting change, rather than short-term outcomes, issues, or victories

  • Create opportunities for people to form and promote their own decisions

  • Make every effort to reach out to and include a cross section of the entire community

  • Bring people together around the issues, rather than working separately without communication or common goals

  • Recognize the need for politics and volunteer service, not one or the other

  • Emphasize doing, not just talking

Citizen-centered approaches DO NOT:

  • Structure themselves or function solely on the leadership or direction of outside experts, professionals, organizations, or those outside the community

  • Ask people to simply "plug in" and participate, rather than create and run the program themselves

  • Try to talk anyone into a particular view or position

  • Associate with a campaign, election, or political party

  • Mean to replace politics or other democratic processes

  • Focus solely on training or educating on a predefined issue or agenda

  • Exclude or discriminate

How to Apply

All applications must be sent through the foundation's online application process. No applications will be accepted through the mail, fax, or as an e-mail attachment. Applications sent by mail will not be considered and will be returned to sender. You can visit the foundation's website to search for a listing of public computer labs in your community.

Here's how it works:

  1. Apply. This is your chance to briefly describe your idea in a few paragraphs or less -- so be sure to get to the point. The foundation's online form is easy:

  2. Getting to 100. The foundation has gathered a group of people from diverse backgrounds and communities to review and score the applications, each of which will be evaluated by a minimum of two reviewers. These reviewers will choose the best ideas that match the grant program's guidelines and help identify the top 100 semifinalists, who will be invited to submit more detailed proposals for a chance to receive a $10,000 grant. The top 100 semifinalists will each get $100 from the foundation to jump-start their ideas.

  3. 20 Finalists - Once the 100 full proposals are in, each will also be read and scored by a minimum of two reviewers from a smaller panel of judges, which includes the foundation's staff. They will select the top 20 finalists, each of whom will receive grants of $10,000 to help turn their ideas into action.

  4. The Top Four - The fondation will then turn the selection of the top four over to the public. The top four will receive grants of $25,000 in addition to the initial $10,000 grant -- for a total of $35,000 in grant funds.

For more information about this grant program and to see if you are eligible to apply you can visit this foundation's website.

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