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News / Clark County News

Community Foundation cuts grant boundaries

Focus will be on program needs, not on county lines

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: December 21, 2014, 4:00pm

The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington has changed the way it does business in order to get more money to more nonprofit agencies across Southwest Washington.

“We used to have two funds that were geographically based,” said spokesman Maury Harris. There was a Cowlitz Community Fund and a separate Community Giving Fund for Clark and Skamania counties, he said. But now, the Community Foundation has instead decided to focus on program areas and needs instead of county boundaries.

“We’ll have one program that covers the entirety of Southwest Washington,” Harris said, and any nonprofit or jurisdiction in the three-county area can apply based on what it’s doing and why that’s important, instead of where it’s located.

Within that overarching program, there are new and different sorts of grants to apply for, Harris said. These include:

• Focus grants, aimed at “breaking the cycle” of intergenerational poverty, which has been a main Community Foundation mission since last year. “The intent is that you organization thinks broadly and creatively” about the problem, according to the guidelines. These are big grants, averaging $25,000, and can go to operating, program or capital needs. The large majority — up to 80 percent — of the Foundation’s discretionary funds will go to this area.

• Enrichment grants, aimed at organizations that don’t work on intergenerational poverty. Averaging $10,000 to $25,000.

• Catalyst grants, no more than $5,000, aimed at smaller nonprofits and new programs.

• Capacity-building grants, no more than $5,000, aimed at providing professional services to help organizations grow and be more effective.

While the Community Foundation used to be more proactive with its “discretionary” dollars, sometimes reaching out to worthy organizations with grants they hadn’t applied for, more of that money will now be subject to the competitive application process, Harris said. That process should be easier now that it’s gone online, he said.

Another major change is that there will be two granting cycles per year — with applications being taken from Dec. 1 to Jan. 31 and awards made in May; and applications taken from June 1 through July 31, with grants made later in the year.

“We’ve opened up the requirements, and I think we’ll automatically get a lot more applications from a lot more nonprofits,” Harris said.

Take a look at https://www.cfsww.org/nonprofits/grant-programs to learn more, or call 360-694-2550.

Overall, the Community Foundation’s grant programs gave out $854,551 to 59 nonprofits in 2014 — paying for everything from a six-week summer kindergarten-readiness program at Hathaway Elementary School in Washougal, to growth and capital improvements for domestic violence victims at the Cowlitz County Emergency Support Shelter.