As this era of uncertainty begins, more than a dozen groups and individuals in the Pittsburgh area are getting to work on turning their priorities into action — many with a focus on making sure such communities are supported.
In the days after the November election, The Sprout Fund gave people in the Pittsburgh region the opportunity to apply for grant money as part of its 100 Days of US initiative. Last week, the nonprofit announced the 25 individuals and groups that now have a collective $120,000 to make a difference.
The nonprofit received more than 150 applications, according to program officer Ryan Coon, which were viewed about 180,000 times online.
The public was invited to vote on the proposals (there were 41,000 total votes), and volunteers from community groups that didn’t have a conflict of interest were asked by Sprout to be part of an advisory panel. Those 60 people looked at the applications, videos and descriptions, as well as budgets and timelines, to examine project feasibility.
Sprout looked at that info, as well as the amount of money raised for different issue areas via a crowdfunding campaign, to choose the 25. The selected individuals and groups represent a mix of established organizations (Community Kitchen Pittsburgh, news outlet PublicSource, Operation Better Block) and those without institutional backing. A majority of the grants are for $5,000.
Many of the selected proposals focus on empowering individuals in underrepresented communities. ACHIEVA, a regional organization that serves people with disabilities, plans to use its $5,000 grant to produce high-quality videos featuring its clients so they can advocate for themselves in the face of proposed cuts to Medicaid and other social safety net programs.
“It’s their lives. They’re living it,” said Director of Communications Danielle Parson. “A lot of the problems with not having proper funding, not having the proper support, not being able to afford services they need, they understand 100 percent because they live it every day.”
Conflict Kitchen, the Schenley Plaza-based restaurant that serves food from countries that are in conflict with the U.S., plans to recruit chefs from immigrant and refugee communities in the area and give them the opportunity to showcase some of their dishes — and their stories — on local restaurant menus.
For all grantees, but especially those who are new to this kind of work, Sprout is offering “hands-on support” like help creating a concrete project plan and making connections to possible mentors and partners, according to Coon of Sprout. While Sprout will help the grantees throughout the process and monitor their progress, the group doesn’t have one desired outcome in mind.
“Five-thousand dollars is just enough to get a good project off the ground,” Coon said, adding that the nonprofit doesn’t expect those selected “to establish whole new organizations.”
If the projects find a way to keep going, that’s great, he said. “If they just accomplish what they set out to do during the first 100 days and that’s that, then that’s great, too.”