The Community Investment Fund: Inspiring Innovative Resident-Led Change

Posted February 8, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog innovativecommunityledchange 2016

Some­thing spe­cial is hap­pen­ing in Atlanta’s Neigh­bor­hood Plan­ning Unit V.

Each year, peo­ple who live or work in the neigh­bor­hood can apply to receive small grants — rang­ing from $500 to $5,000 each — to fuel inno­v­a­tive neigh­bor­hood improve­ment projects.

These grants are made pos­si­ble through Casey’s Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment Fund, which awards $50,000 in small grants annu­al­ly. Last year, the Foun­da­tion sup­port­ed 15 projects.

The fund’s impact is invalu­able, said Natal­lie Keis­er, who over­sees the Foundation’s com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment work in Atlanta.

It gen­er­ates hope and sup­ports res­i­dents in solv­ing prob­lems,” she said. They get to see that they don’t always have to turn to out­siders to bring in ser­vices for their community.”

Anoth­er ben­e­fit? It builds com­mu­ni­ty leadership.

Peo­ple who live or work in the neigh­bor­hood fill all 13 slots on the fund’s deci­sion-mak­ing board. These mem­bers receive train­ing in grant writ­ing and grant coach­ing and are whol­ly respon­si­ble for deter­min­ing what projects to sup­port each year.

Many res­i­dents have not served on a board or in a grant-mak­ing role before,” Keis­er said. This might be their first oppor­tu­ni­ty to be in a peer group mak­ing grant deci­sions and doing board-lev­el work.”

Christie Cade, a church mem­ber in the Pitts­burgh neigh­bor­hood, received a $4,200 grant from the fund in 2015. Her pro­pos­al focused on cre­at­ing a Com­mon Core coach­ing pro­gram that offered free tutor­ing to local students.

With­out finan­cial sup­port, Cade said that her idea for the pro­gram would have remained just that — an idea. When Annie E. Casey put the grants out, it made me take action on some­thing that was real­ly need­ed in our com­mu­ni­ty,” Cade said. I’m incred­i­bly thank­ful for that.”

The Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment Fund is now accept­ing grant appli­ca­tions for its 2016 cycle. The dead­line to apply is March 182016.

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