The Community Investment Fund: Inspiring Innovative Resident-Led Change

Posted February 7, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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 18, 2016.
 

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