“How would you use $1,000 to benefit your neighborhood?”  That’s the question The Sprout Fund is now asking Northsiders. This Neighbor-to-Neighbor grant, fueled by The Buhl Foundation, is the first Sprout Fund program that targets a community.

“Our task is to mobilize neighbors and grassroots support for the 18 named neighborhoods in the Northside,” says Mac Howison, senior program officer at the Sprout Fund.

“We have the resources to support 50 or more $1,000 grants in the first six months of 2015,” he says, “so we’re looking for interesting, fun and creative ideas.” The grants are for immediate, small-scale initiatives that can be anything from beautification to efforts that bring the community together.

In addition to funding, Sprout provides award winners with communication and documentation support and provides a network that connects them with leaders, small-project managers—and each other. “We build a cohort of leaders,” says Howison.

Grants will be awarded to ideas that have broad citizen backing in the form of neighborhood petitions, letters of recommendation from community groups and small financial pledges.

Celebration of Sprout Fund project on the North Side, Street with a View

Celebration of Sprout Fund project on the North Side

“We’re looking for good ideas that have good plans and good community support,” says Howison. “In other words, projects that are ready-to-go with solid community buy-in.”

Sprout Fund’s mission is to support ideas that catalyze change, and the Neighbor-to Neighbor Grant program shares that same energy. These grants back the change makers—who will then inspire and engage future change makers.

“We want to get people up and motivated to share great ideas with the community,” says Howison, “to help others make change happen in their own backyard.”

The Neighbor-to-Neighbor Grant is part of the larger conversation One Northside, which is a “big mobilization,” says Howison. One Northside aims to create a shared agenda—one that engages both residents and neighborhood leaders—with the goal of creating a better community. The group hired Jackson/Clark Partners to conduct a census of more than 300 Northside residents.

Of the households that participated in a door-to-door survey, 51% said they would volunteer two hours a month to support the community, and consensus was gained on a number of issues and goals. The effort helped to mobilize people and strengthen the social fabric.  Strategy teams comprised of community leaders—“grassroots and grass tops”—formed around quality of education, employment and creating infrastucture for planning and implementation of community improvement projects.

“A place-based investment is a good friend for as long as we are mindful that places have people in them,” says Pat Clark, managing partner at Jackson/Clark Partners, “so investments need to be placed based and people based.”

As the implementation phase of the initiative starts, the Buhl Foundation pledged:

  • $150,000 for strategies and projects
  • $180,000 for place-based grants, $10,000 for each of the 18 neighborhoods in the Northside
  • $70,000 for the Neighbor-to-Neighbor grants

And the Sprout Fund’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor grants’ “task is to mobilize neighbors today, which can sometimes get lost in long-range initiatives,” says Howison.

“We look at history, look at today—and work for the future,” he says

The deadline for the first grant hits February 6, after that, March 6. Sprout hopes to continue the program throughout the year with a deadline of each first Friday of the month.

Have questions? Attend one of Sprout’s upcoming informational workshops:

Observatory Hill: Tuesday, January 27, 1-2 pm. Allen Place Community Services, 227 Bonvue St., Pittsburgh 15214

Marshall-Shadeland: Thursday, January 29, 1-3 pm. Carnegie Library Woods Run Branch, 1201 Woods Run Ave., Pittsburgh 15212

Central North Side: Friday, January 30, 11-12 noon. Carnegie Library Allegheny Branch, 1230 Federal St., Pittsburgh 15212. Free broadcast of ioby.org crowd funding webinar training 12:30-1:30 pm.

To attend a meeting, RSVP to apply@sproutfund.org.