December 30, 2016

Tell Me More: How Three Simple Words "Sparked" One of Our Best Grants of 2016

Shannon Bowman, Paulette Maggiacomo, Jeff Pickering at Childcare Resources © Photo by Denise Ritchie

by Jeff Pickering, President and CEO

"You can't start a fire without a spark."

These lyrics from American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen capture my perspective on one of the best parts of 2016 in my role as CEO of Indian River Community Foundation.   It involves a good grant that became a great grant because of three simple words . . . “Tell me more.”

Back in April, the dedicated volunteers that serve on our Grants Committee convened to review the final list of grant applications that would ultimately be recommended to the Community Foundation's Board of Directors for approval. In just eight years since the Community Foundation's inception, this rigorous competitive review had already resulted in 74 discretionary grant awards totaling more than $2 million for programs and projects that make our Indian River County community better.

One of the applications under review was from Childcare Resources, requesting $23,000 for a  project that would provide two professional development workshops for more than 325 early educators from childcare facilities and public schools throughout Indian River County. Compelling data to support the need for this project was submitted in the organization's application, citing Indian River County's Children's Needs Assessment, along with strong evidence of this project's alignment with the goals of Indian River County's "Moonshot Moment" literacy initiative.  As presented, this grant was already a "winner" in my opinion.

Our rather streamlined and efficient funding process took a turn, however, when a Grants Committee member said, "Tell me more about how we might make this grant better?" Childcare Resources was invited to submit an amended proposal, which included statistics that the average childcare employee in Florida makes less than ten dollars per hour, and that less than one percent of most local childcare facilities budgets are dedicated to professional development. To make the already-proven professional development project better, the organization requested an additional $45,000 to pay for an in-depth coaching program for early childhood educators who attended their workshops.  The final grant was approved for $68,675 by Indian River Community Foundation’s Board of Directors, and in just a little more than six months, the coaching program is up and running under the direction of Paulette Maggiacomo.

In November, at the Community Foundation’s annual Board retreat, Shannon Bowman, Executive Director of Childcare Resources, spoke as part of a panel of grantees that included Molly Steinwald of the Environmental Learning Center and Angelia Perry of Gifford Youth Achievement Center. Each was asked “How did funding from Indian River Community Foundation make your organization better?”  Bowman responded, “It was the spark that helped take a good project serving early childhood educators to another level, giving those who attend our workshops a resource . . . someone in their corner . . . to help them become a better teacher to some of our community’s most vulnerable children.”

According to most reports, 2016 marked one of the most generous years of philanthropy in American history. The “spark” to light a flame that can illuminate the next opportunity to make a difference in our community may be just three words away.

What’s the “spark” that will ignite your generosity and make a difference in our community in 2017?  Happy New Year!

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