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Grant program looks for local applicants
Neighborhood Fund to give $200,000 in competative grants
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At a time when charitable giving is down and many non-profits are struggling to stay afloat, local grassroots groups can take heart knowing they have a shot at a grant designed to help keep them up and running.

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta is looking for applicants, particularly from outside DeKalb and Fulton counties, for its newly revamped Neighborhood Fund program. Staffers from the Community Foundation presented information June 11 to community group representatives on how to apply for the grant.

The Neighborhood Fund, which has a total of approximately $200,000 in about 10 to 15 grants to give away for 2009, targets grassroots groups with local impact that may not be designated 501(c)(3), the designation given tax-exempt non-profits and thus have a harder time qualifying for other grants.

Another unique aspect of the Neighborhood Fund is the flexibility of the funds to be used for operational expenses rather than particular new programs.

The foundation recently put its competitive grantmaking programs on hold for six months, from May 2008 to early this year, as it reevaluated its approach from top to bottom and emerged with a new philanthropic framework.

Program Associate Shawn Finnell said the timing was fortuitous, in a way. "We stopped grantmaking before the recession really hit," she said. "It was very serendipitous that the feedback that we got pushed us to think that we need to do a lot with operating expenses than capacity building. What they really needed was not to build a new program, but to stay on their feet."

Groups that gain Neighborhood Fund grants will also have a community coach to support the planning and implementation of the grant.

The Neighborhood Fund's stated goals are civic engagement and leadership development, or to allow residents to "have the power to influence and shape their own communities."

"It's really focusing on grassroots initiatives and it really seems driven to support the groups that really have their finger on the pulse of their immediate locality," said Ashley Roesler, executive director of the Rockdale County Emergency Relief, which hosted the meeting. "This is a little bit different. I'm really excited to see what it's going to do. It has a lot of potential to really allow for new creative partnerships to grow and to offer things to the community." The RCER is not a candidate for the Neighborhood Fund because it already has a grant from another Foundation fund.

The public meeting was attended by representatives from non-profit and community groups from Rockdale, Newton, DeKalb, Fulton and surrounding counties.

"We serve 23 counties, but what we noticed, especially the Neighborhood Fund, was that a lot of our grant-making was in DeKalb and Fulton," said Finnell. To counter that, the Foundation is holding orientations in counties other than DeKalb and Fulton.

The Neighborhood Fund is one of several grant programs run by the foundation, which gave away more than $75 million in grants last year.

For more information on the Neighborhood Fund or other programs of the foundation, e-mail, visit or call 404-688-5525.