Buffett Offers 40 Chances To Win $10K Grant

February 10, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation’s 40 Chances Seed Grant Program has gone live. Nonprofits have until March 1 to submit proposals for the chance to win one of 40 $10,000 grants that will “support solutions to social challenges in the areas of food security, conflict or poverty alleviation,” according to 40 Chances Program partner the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation at Arizona State University.

Students in a new ASU course, “Strategic Philanthropy: Learning by Giving,” will be acting as an advisory board for the grantmaking. “Our class will become grantmakers, effectively vetting proposals and making recommendations,” said Lodestar Executive Director Robert Ashcraft, Ph.D. The H.G. Buffett Foundation will have final say in the grant awarding.

The 40 Seeds Program puts $400,000 up for grabs over the course of four years. Grants will be awarded twice per year, and the first round of five winners will be announced this coming spring, after the ASU students make their recommendations. Applicants must be 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Recipients will have to provide reports on the use of the grant and its impact, though Ashcraft said those details are still being discussed.

Ten students — seven graduates, three undergraduates — will make up the inaugural class of the course, a low-residency program taught over three weekends in February, March and April at ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus. Robert Long, former vice president at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will lead the class.

Winning proposals will follow the five principles outlined in the book 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, by Howard G. Buffett and Howard W. Buffett, son and grandson of the billionaire investor Warren Buffett. The principles are:

  • Roots: Plan your goals;
  • Bravery: Take calculated risks;
  • Lessons: Learn from your mistakes;
  • Challenges: Be adaptable; and,
  • Hope: Create lasting change.

Ashcraft said the H.G. Buffett Foundation has a theme and parameters the proposals must follow. According to a Lodestar Center release, “The strategies of a nonprofit applying for a seed grant must clearly involve local leadership and management into the operations of the organization, and integrate locally driven design, development and deployment in its programs or services.”

Though the H.G. Buffett Foundation will give the students latitude in determining which grants are awarded, said Ashcraft, “There are some design features the Buffett Foundation requires, partly based on the book. (The proposals) do have to speak to those elements. Within the framework of grants, there has to be some alignment to a few overarching principles. The students’ job will be to parse that and make decisions on the grantmaking.”

The students come from a variety of disciplines, said Ashcraft, including sustainability, social work and nonprofit management. “We wanted a real mix of disciplines because that’s going to enrich the experience how (the students) view the proposals,” he said. “It’s very exciting. This will be a learning, living, breathing lab for students. This is real philanthropy.”

Grant applications can be found at http://www.40chances.com/seedgrants/