Back in late 2017, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (NHCF) made a bold move. Following a round of nonprofit surveys and an evaluation by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, the foundation decided that 100 percent of grants from its community grants program would be unrestricted and that most of these grants would be for multi-year periods. We’ve seen a shift toward this kind of strategy among other funders across the country, but this move was significant because of its “100 percent commitment,” and due to the fact that the foundation welcomes applications from any and all nonprofits that serve New Hampshire. The funder’s community grants program is just one of its many vehicles to award grants, but it’s the one most visible to the public, and sends a message to local communities that NHCF is listening and willing to take some risks.
Fast-forward to the close of 2018, when NHCF put this idea into practice and committed nearly $3.3 million in operating support grants to New Hampshire-serving nonprofits through the community grants program. The commitments vary widely and touch on such interests as mentors for youth, seniors living independently, and support for local arts groups. With the recent strategy shift, fewer nonprofits are receiving NHCF grants, but those grants are larger and for longer periods of time than they used to be. This is because the big goal is to let New Hampshire nonprofits focus more on their missions and less on constant fundraising.
“The nonprofit sector does amazing work under often challenging conditions. And nonprofits are always being asked to do more and innovate more,” said Katie Merrow, vice president of community impact for NHCF. “They need this kind of flexible capital that helps them meet their important missions.”
So what types of organizations have caught NHCF’s attention lately?
Funding topics of interest are broad for NHCF community grants, and cover health and well-being, civic engagement, education, economic development, environmental protection, and arts and culture. These grants have mostly been in the $10,000 to $60,000 range lately, and can be used for whatever purposes a local nonprofit decides.
Recent grantees include Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country in Franconia, Circle Program in Plymouth, Dover Adult Learning Center, and Kingswood Youth Center in Wolfeboro Falls. Other new recent grantees are based in the cities of Nashua, Meredith, Laconia, Peterborough, Keene, and Littleton. Meanwhile, a quick look at the funder’s blog and news sections will tell you that NHCF is currently interested in river and watershed conservation, youth philanthropy, early childhood development, and the protection of civil liberties.
In total, NHCF awards approximately $40 million in grants per year through many funding vehicles beyond the community grants program highlighted here. In fact, NHCF administers nearly 2,000 funds, many of which focus on specific regions of the state and population groups.
Something to remember here is that while this foundation has “New Hampshire” in its name, it actually serves selected communities in Maine and Vermont, too, with unrestricted operating support. For groups in Capital, Lakes, Manchester, Monadnock, Nashua, North Country, Piscataqua, and the Upper Valley, the next unrestricted grants deadline is August 1, 2019.
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