Social Innovation Fund Picks 50 Million Dollar Winners

Nearly a dozen organizations from around the country will share in the first round of Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grants from the federal government totaling $50 million. Combined with private matching funds of $74 million raised so far, more than $123 million will be targeted toward scaling up innovative nonprofit programs.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced the inaugural SIF grants this morning. “This portfolio is a collection of extraordinary organizations with an unparalleled body of knowledge and expertise on growing what works,” Patrick Corvington, the corporation’s CEO, said in a prepared statement. “They are all driven by the search for bold solutions and recognize that we must use evidence to target limited resources where they will have the greatest impact.” 

CNCS announced this past April that it has received more than 200 letters of intent and ultimately requests from 69 organizations totaling $125 million. The 11 organizations were selected through “a rigorous review process involving 60 external experts” and represent “a diverse set of nonprofit organizations and private and community foundations and share a track record of success at identifying and growing high-performing nonprofit organizations.”

The SIF is aimed at addressing three key areas — economic opportunity, healthy futures, and youth development and school support – and leverages a 3:1 private-public match. Funding was included in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, passed by Congress and signed by president Barack Obama in the spring 2009.

The SIF is a component of the Obama Administration’s broader agenda – led by the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation – to put more of a focus on evidence, innovation, service and public-private cooperation to tackle social challenges.

Awards will be made annually and eligible to receive for programs up to five years but are not expected to be a sustained source of funding. Rather, the SIF is intended to be venture funding of sorts and once an organization gets funding to prove its model, the hope is that it can show other funders to be more aggressive with them for future dollars.

•Over the long-term, the SIF will contribute to the development of the grant making infrastructure that supports the work of high-impact nonprofit organizations and inform other federal, state and local efforts to address social challenges,” said Paul Carttar, director of the SIF at the Corporation. “It offers an avenue for community-driven solutions to grow and demonstrate their value.”

SIF applications were evaluated based on program design, organizational capacity and budget. Grantees will conduct open competitions across multiple geographies to select nonprofits as sub-grantees within six months of receiving awards. Three of the 11 grantees applied with competitively pre-selected sub-grantees.

• Edna McConnell Clark Foundation is the largest grantee, receiving a one-year, $10 million grant. The New York City-based foundation will combine large grants, strategic business planning, rigorous evaluation and capital aggregation to increase the scale and impact of up to 10 youth development organizations in communities of need across the U.S. Sub-grantees will focus on improving economically disadvantaged young people’s educational skills and workforce readiness as well as helping them to avoid high-risk behavior.

• Jobs for the Future, Inc. ($7.7 million; 2-year grant) and the National Fund for Workforce Solutions (NFWS) will expand targeted training and technical assistance to at least 23,000 low-income individuals over three years while addressing critical skill needs of more than 1,000 employers. Funds are expected to increase economic opportunities for disadvantaged workers and job seekers through investments in regional workforce collaboratives that partner with employers to identify jobs and career pathways in high-growth industries.

• Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City ($5.7 million; 1-year grant) and the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) will replicate five effective anti-poverty programs originally piloted by CEO in eight urban areas. By advancing the education, employment and financial savings of low-income adults and families, the programs aim to combat poverty across a diverse cross-section of America.

• N ew Profit Inc. ($5 million; 1-year grant) will collaborate with five to six innovative, youth-focused nonprofits with existing evidence to yield significant improvements in helping young people navigate the path from high school to college and productive employment. The project will expand the reach of these organizations to improve the lives of nearly 8,000 young people in low-income communities around the nation. There were three c ompetitively pre-selected sub-grantees: College Summit ($2 million); iMentor ($750,000); and Year Up ($2 million).

• Local Initiatives Support Corporation ($4.2 million; 1-year grant) will grow Financial Opportunity Centers – a workforce development and asset-building model that boosts earnings, reduces expenses and coaches low-income families on how to make better financial decisions – to five new cities and 7,500 total participants. The centers are a core component of the organization’s strategy to build sustainable communities.

• Venture Philanthropy Partners ($4 million; 2-year grant) will create a network of nonprofits in the Washington D.C. National Capital Region supporting an integrated approach to address education and employment needs of low-income and vulnerable youth, ages 14 to 24. Competitively pre-selected sub-grantees include College Summit National Capital Region ($372,000); KIPP DC ($656,000); Latin American Youth Center ($500,000); and Year Up National Capital Region ($207,000).

• National AIDS Fund ($3.6 million; 1-year grant) will support innovative strategies that increase access to care and improve health outcomes for at least 3,500 low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The project will employ rigorous evaluation, informing the implementation of the White House National HIV/AIDS Strategy and offering lessons that reduce barriers to care for a broad range of people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases.

• REDF ($3 million; 2-year grant) aim to create job opportunities for thousands of Californians with multiple barriers to employment – including dislocated youth, individuals who have been homeless or incarcerated, and those with severe mental illness – in sustainable nonprofit social enterprises in low-income communities throughout the state. The project includes testing to determine the potential of these enterprises as scalable employment vehicles.

• Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky ($2 million; 2-year grant) seeks to improve access to needed health services, reduce health risks and disparities, and promote health equity in six to 10 low-income communities in Kentucky. Subgrantees will focus on testing innovative strategies to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, curb smoking and other unhealthy habits, and, increase access to health services in underserved communities. The Barren River District Health Department ($250,000) was a competitively pre-selected subgrantee.

• Missouri Foundation for Health ($2 million; 2-year grant) will invest in 10 to 20 targeted low-income communities across the state to reduce risk factors and the prevalence of two preventable causes of chronic disease and death: tobacco use and obesity. The project draws on an integrated community change model blending two transformative models of prevention on obesity and tobacco control.

• United Way of Greater Cincinnati ($2 million; 2-year grant) the Strive Partnership and other funders, will address the needs of low-income children and youth from “cradle to career” in the Greater Cincinnati area though investments in early education, mentoring and literacy programs, college access, career pathways and other innovations.