'A Community Thrives': Ames-area organizations invited to apply for crowdfunding and grant program

Applications open through June 30

Missy Sanow, executive director of Martha's House of Hope, holds a baby at the house Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

The pandemic has created financial challenges for many nonprofits and municipal organizations aimed at helping their communities. 

But groups can get a helping hand this year by applying to the 2021 A Community Thrives program, a $2.3 million initiative of the Gannett Foundation. The program is sponsored by Gannett, the USA TODAY Network’s parent company, and is marking its fifth year supporting groups that address social issues. 

Organizations can apply to raise money for a specific project. They’ll first raise money on their own through crowdfunding campaigns, and then be eligible for one of 15 national grants which award up to $100,000. Separate incentives aimed at rewarding high-fundraising projects will also be offered.

“A Community Thrives is an opportunity for Gannett to raise up local ideas and community needs by providing nonprofit organizations with visibility, grants and exposure to new donors through the unique power of the USA TODAY and USA TODAY Network platforms,” said Sue Madden, director of the Gannett Foundation.  

Projects will also be eligible for hundreds of community operating grants starting at $2,500, chosen by leaders across Gannett's nationwide USA TODAY Network of more than 250 local news sites in 46 states. Organizations that focus on building up historically under-resourced and underserved groups will be specially considered.

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Locally, Martha's House of Hope in Ames accepted a $2,500 grant from A Community Thrives in 2020.

"Not only will (the grant) help with basic needs and life skills and those kind of things, but it also helps me be able to spend the time mentoring and coaching the women in day-to-day life," Sanow said at the time of the faith-based nonprofit's plans for the grant.

Other Community Thrives grant recipients in Iowa included Capital City Pride Des Moines, Everybody Wins! Iowa Inc. of Des Moines, Family Promise of Greater Des Moines, Highland Park Community Development Association of Des Moines, Shelter House of Iowa City and Hope Haven Area Development Center Corporation of Burlington.

Why raise money for local communities? 

Journalists in the USA TODAY Network are telling local stories and regularly hear amazing ideas to improve American communities – which helped to inspire the creation of A Community Thrives.  

Central to A Community Thrives, and Gannett Foundation, is this elevation of local nonprofits and communities, said Gannett CEO Mike Reed.  

“Our driving mission is to empower our communities. It’s at the core of what we do,” Reed said. “The strength of our network gives us the ability to support local efforts across the country, particularly underserved groups.” 

'Grant will open a hundred doors for us':Black youth arts center, refugee advocacy get a boost from Gannett Foundation program A Community Thrives

Carol Shattuck, CEO of Food Rescue U.S., which won a $100,000 grant last year to support the establishment of a food hub in Detroit, said the impact of A Community Thrives on their program has been "incredible." 

"It has allowed us to bring on additional support for our Detroit location, helping us to surpass our yearly impact and growth goals in only six months," she said.

Food Rescue Detroit was named one of the 16 national winners of grants last year. The program in total generated more than $5.6 million in crowdfunding and grants for nonprofits from 45 states and territories. 

"During the crowdfunding campaign, our community of food rescuers, food donors, and agency partners banded together to help us spread the word about our fundraising goal and the impact making that goal could have," Shattuck said. "Many of them couldn't believe that their efforts in spreading the word and donating to that campaign had actually helped us receive a $100,000 grant."

Food Rescue Detroit partnered with local restaurants to provide Beyond Meat burger patties to those in need.

Since 2017, A Community Thrives has distributed $12 million in grants and donations to community-based organizations across the U.S.  

This year, organizations can apply from June 1 to June 30 at acommunitythrives.mightycause.com. Recipients will be announced on  Sept. 30.

Those who want to participate but don't have a project can donate starting July 19 to Aug. 13. Organizations and their projects will be posted to the link on those dates, and people can participate by making a donation to one or multiple nonprofits by searching their location or a mission category. 

Other past winners include:

  • Havenly Treats, a $50,000 recipient for its a paid advocacy workshop program for refugee women. "With our expanded training program and continued food relief, we hope that Havenly Treats will become a home not just for our fellows, but for New Haven and the people in our city who are most in need," the company wrote on its donation page in 2020. 
  • Nashville Launch Pad, a $100,000 recipient to support the professionalization of its staff enabling program and organizational growth. The mission of Launch Pad is to create a network of temporary safer sleeping shelters for homeless youth 18-24 years of age. "It's always a big challenge, every season, starting over to try to fund the shelter and then expand and do more. This will be so helpful for being able to build past the 'seat-of-the-pants' style way we've run in the past," the founders told the Nashville Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network, in 2019.
  • Thero, a $50,000 recipient for support of its Crisis Therapy Project — an effort to connect victims of tragedies with mental health professionals willing to help them for free. "Getting the $50,000 means a lot to us. A few of our staff and friends cried when we told them because they know how hard we've worked to get here and what it means for us," the founders told USA TODAY in 2018.

To learn about all the 2020 A Community Thrives grant recipients, go to act.usatoday.com.

Contributing: Joel Shannon and Morgan Hines, USA TODAY