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An opportunity for local nonprofits: Gannett Foundation’s crowdfunding, grant program

By Gannett Missouri

Nonprofits and municipal organizations in Missouri that are working on projects aimed at building their communities are invited to apply to the 2020 A Community Thrives program, a $2.3 million initiative of the Gannett Foundation.

The program is sponsored by Gannett, the parent company of 12 newspapers in Missouri.

The nationwide crowdfunding and grant program is entering its fourth year of supporting organizations that address social issues including education, housing, arts and culture, wellness and the environment.

“The pandemic has hurt families and communities across the state, and that has negatively affected nonprofit fundraising,” said Jim Van Nostrand, Gannett’s Missouri state editor and the Columbia Daily Tribune’s executive editor.

Typically, organizations apply to raise money for a specific community-building project. Accepted organizations will work to raise funds on their own through a crowdfunding campaign, then may be eligible for 16 major grants to be awarded across the country: three for $100,000, seven for $50,000 and six for $25,000. Those grants will go toward helping the organizations execute their proposed projects. Separate incentives will be offered to reward top fundraisers.

In addition, A Community Thrives will award over 100 grants nationally that will be targeted specifically toward communities served by Gannett news organizations. In Missouri, that includes four daily newspapers – the Tribune, the Springfield News-Leader, The Examiner in Independence and the Lake Sun in Osage Beach – and eight other twice-weekly or weekly newspapers.

These local grants, which start at $2,500, can be used for general operating expenses. They are chosen by local leaders at Gannett news organizations.

The deadline for organizations to submit applications is Sept. 11. They must apply through the A Community Thrives website: acommunitythrives.mightycause.com

Organizers said A Community Thrives gives nonprofit groups the opportunity to fundraise on a national platform, while major grants help further accelerate exceptional projects.           

“The Gannett Foundation grants will support our readers’ top community-building ideas to help address local needs and ensure a vibrant, healthy community. We are committed to work in partnership to help our communities connect, act and thrive,” Maribel Perez Wadsworth, Gannett Media president of news and Gannett Foundation vice president, said in a statement.

Gannett journalists strive to make Missouri a better place through their work, whether through highlighting community needs, introducing readers to individuals and groups that are doing good work, or exposing wrongs that need to be righted.

A Community Thrives will harness local journalists’ intimate knowledge of their communities in selecting winners of grants, Van Nostrand said. The combination of fundraising and grant opportunities offers an ideal chance for nonprofits to raise money at a time when needs in the community are soaring due to COVID-related challenges.

Since the last Community Thrives initiative, Gannett has expanded the footprint of the USA TODAY Network, joining GateHouse Media to become the largest U.S. media company by print circulation, serving communities in 47 states.

Last year, more than $4.5 million was distributed to nonprofit groups as a result of the program. Applicants raised more than $2.5 million through their own fundraising efforts, and the Gannett Foundation gave out $2 million in grants.

This year, grants will be awarded based on the proposed projects’ viability, sustainability, community need and service to historically disadvantaged groups.

FAQ

Q: What is A Community Thrives?           

A Community Thrives is a grant-making and crowdfunding program from the USA TODAY Network, which includes USA TODAY and Gannett’s hundreds of local media brands. Supported by the Gannett Foundation, the program offers an opportunity for readers to share great ideas for how to improve their communities. Gannett provides a national platform and a chance at $2.3 million in grants to get the ideas off the ground and running.

Q: Who is eligible to apply for a grant?

A Community Thrives is open to valid legal 501(c)(3) nonprofits providing services within the United States or the District of Columbia and Guam. Tax-deductible units of government (for example, a library or school) as well as fiscally sponsored organizations that aren’t 501(c)(3) registered are also eligible but will need to get their organizations set up on the Mightycause fundraising platform to be able to accept funds raised. Examples are food banks, housing organizations, cultural organizations, libraries or parks.

Applicants must either be an authorized staff member of the qualifying nonprofit organization or have authorization to submit on behalf of the organization. Fiscal agency is permitted.

Q: What types of grants are available?

There are three types of grants, as well as weekly bonus challenges: national project grants, local operating grants and top fundraiser grants.

Q: What are national project grants?          

These grants support projects by nonprofits that serve people in local or regional areas or statewide or nationwide. Sixteen grants will be awarded: three for $100,000, seven for $50,000 and six for $25,000.

Q: What are local operating grant awards?

Entrants with community operations in Gannett markets that meet eligibility requirements will be eligible for consideration for operating grants. The minimum operating grant amount is $2,500.

Q: What are top fundraiser grants?

These are incentives for raising the most money. The three organizations in each tier that raise the most online during the program’s fundraising phase will each receive incentive grants: $25,000 for the top fundraiser (one winner in each tier); $15,000 for the second-highest fundraiser (one winner in each tier); $10,000 for the third-highest fundraiser (one winner in each tier).

Plus, there are weekly bonus challenges in each tier that offer extra opportunities for organizations to receive additional grants. Information on how the bonus challenges are structured are in the official rules.

Q: How are the tiers determined?        

Tiers will be determined based on the operating budgets of the applicant pool to create as equitable a split as possible. In 2019, it was over or under $500,000. Approved organizations will receive an email on or before Sept. 15 informing you of your organization’s tier.

Q: Do organizations need to raise a certain amount of money?

To be eligible to receive a project or operating grant, Tier 1 organizations must raise at least $3,000 and Tier 2 organizations must raise at least $6,000 online via their Mightycause pages during the fundraising period.

Q: What is Mightycause?

Mightycause is an online fundraising and nonprofit eligibility management tool we are using to host the A Community Thrives program. A Community Thrives has a branded Mightycause page, which houses the program application and fundraising tools. All participating nonprofits will submit their applications to participate on the site and fundraise online via Mightycause.

Q: What is the deadline to participate in the 2020 program?

The submission period ends on Sept. 11, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. EST. Applications must be submitted before the deadline.        

Q: What is the deadline for donations?

The fundraising period starts on Sept. 21, 2020, and ends on Oct. 16, 2020. All donations must be received through an organization’s A Community Thrives Mightycause campaign page by Oct. 16, 2020, at 11:59 a.m. EST.

Q: Can individuals donate to their own campaigns?

An individual can donate as they wish. An individual or organization cannot use organization funds to donate to its own Mightycause campaign for this program.

Q: If an organization doesn’t raise the minimum amount required to receive a project or operating grant, does the organization still keep the money raised?

Yes! That is the beauty of this program. Even if an organization doesn’t receive a grant, this program still presents the opportunity to raise money for local causes and groups.

Q: How are grants selected?           

Only campaigns that reach or exceed their goal during the program fundraising period on Mightycause are eligible to receive a grant from the Gannett Foundation.

The national project grants will be awarded at the discretion of the Gannett Foundation, based primarily on the viability and sustainability of the project and how the project contributes to community building. The operating grants will be awarded by regional committees based primarily on community need and how the organization’s mission contributes to community building. The incentive grants will be awarded based on fundraising totals.

More information is found in the rules. Gannett reserves the right to look at the other top submissions if the top fundraisers do not meet certain vetting requirements. Incentive grant recipients may be one of the same organizations selected to win another grant, but do not have to be.

Q: If an organization receives a grant, are there requirements on how it is used?

National project grants must be used toward executing the project outlined in the organization’s project submission. Operating grants, incentive grants and the money raised through crowdfunding campaigns should be used toward general operating expenses of the associated 501(c)(3).