Small grants program tops $2 million mark in Detroit communities

DETROIT – The Community Connections Small Grants program last week topped the $2 million mark of dollars awarded since the program’s inception in 2006.

The program has provided funding for more than 600 community groups. The total in grants awarded through this program is now at $2,028,701.

VIDEO: Take a behind-the-scenes look at the Small Grants program

Community Connections Small Grants provides a way for The Skillman Foundation to support innovative, grassroots efforts to impact community change in the six Good Neighborhoods. The Foundation typically awards grants to nonprofit organizations with federal tax-exempt status and revenues greater than $100,000. The small grants program gives the Foundation flexibility to provide opportunities beyond these limitations and makes it possible to respond quickly to community needs.

“Each of these dollars awarded to grassroots, resident-driven community groups represents opportunities for youth and stronger relationships with nurturing adults,” said Lisa Leverette, program manager of the Community Connections Grant Program. "The first dollar awarded signified an acknowledgment that neighborhood residents are an essential part of the Good Neighborhoods community change process. Those opportunities in arts and culture, community beautification, mentoring, athletics, and academic support each contribute to the success of youth."

The program also empowers residents and foster community engagement by putting the grantmaking decisions in the hands of residents. A panel made up of residents from The Skillman Foundation’s Good Neighborhoods meets monthly to review grant applications and make funding recommendations for grants.

“These panelists are volunteers who give up many hours each month to ensure this money is given to the most deserving, highest impact groups,” Skillman Foundation Chief Operating Officer Tonya Allen said. “They exemplify the kind of network of caring adults we want to see blossom in the city of Detroit.”

Small grants have historically ranged from $500 to $5,000. Thanks to investments into the program from other partners, including the Kellogg Foundation, the program is now inviting successful former grantees to apply for grants up to $10,000. The resident panel approved its first two $10,000 grants in this grant cycle.

The Community Connections program has also received past funding for arts and culture opportunities from the Berman Foundation.

Community Connections is made possible through the Foundation’s partnership with Prevention Network, the organization that oversees the program and manages the grant payments. This Lansing-based nonprofit has managed a statewide small grants program for more than 25 years, making more than 50 percent of those grants in Detroit.

Created in 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private grant-making organization whose chief aim is to help develop good schools and good neighborhoods for children. The Foundation currently has assets of about $430 million, with an annual grants budget of about $17 million. Though grants are made throughout Detroit, most are directed at six Detroit neighborhoods – Southwest Detroit, Chadsey Condon, Brightmoor, Osborn, Northend Central and Cody Rouge – and toward innovative and successful schools throughout the city.