Adapting to Meet our Community’s Greatest Needs

Fund for Louisville is helping local nonprofits thrive

A grassroots center that serves immigrants and refugees completed a community needs assessment. A physical therapy practice that treats kids with special needs purchased much-needed office technology. And an organization that empowers human trafficking survivors developed new fundraising plans.

These are just a few of the many local nonprofits that have benefited from the Fund for Louisville, which over the past seven years has awarded capacity-building grants totaling more than $2.5 million to 124 local organizations. These grants were possible because of contributions from Community Foundation fundholders, the Novak Family Foundation, the James Graham Brown Foundation, and an annual grant from Mr. William O. Alden, Jr.

Seven years ago in a series of conversations and meetings with the Foundation, local nonprofits highlighted the need for capacity-building funds. In contrast to program grants, capacity-building grants support activities such as strategic planning, staff training, feasibility studies, or technology improvements. These grants help nonprofits operate more effectively and build long-term sustainability, all with a goal of helping them carry out their varied missions.

Last month, the Foundation celebrated 24 organizations that were selected to receive a capacity building grants from the Fund in 2020 totaling more than $387,000.  More than half of the funded projects are technology-related (new computers for staff, new client management software, updated websites), with the remainder of the projects split between professional development and strategic planning.  Several of this year’s recipients remarked how the grant will allow their organizations to “level up.”

According to Xiao Yin Zhao, Executive Director of the World Affairs Council (WAC) of Kentucky and Southern Indiana, a 2017 Fund for Louisville grant did just that for the organization she leads — enabling the staff and board to “reflect on the past and plan for the future.”

Utilizing an $18,000 capacity building grant, WAC tapped into the expertise of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence to devise a five-year roadmap. “We used the funding to have a professionally-facilitated strategic planning process that resulted in a clear plan for how we want to proceed,” Zhao says.

WAC was founded 35 years ago to promote cross-cultural awareness, education, and tolerance through nonpartisan discussions on international issues. And although that mission remains intact, much has changed in the world since then. As a result, the WAC has evolved — in part with the help of resources like the Fund for Louisville.

“We received the funding at a time when the notion of globalization and global collaboration were challenged. It forced us to re-think and evaluate the essential principles that we had taken for granted.” Zhao says. “We faced the issue of [determining] how can we better communicate, sharpen our message, and align our programs to promote the importance of global exchange, dialogue and learning.”

The Fund for Louisville helped WAC achieve these goals.

Created by visionary philanthropists who seek to support their community today and beyond their own lifetimes, the Fund for Louisville allows the Foundation to respond to our community’s changing needs in innovative, timely, and systemic ways.

Seven years after issuing its first capacity-building grants, the Foundation is inspired by the impact on individual organizations, and committed to ensuring the Fund for Louisville remains aligned with our community’s current needs.

“A recent Greater Louisville Project report revealed little progress on key community indicators in the past 15 years, and growing gaps in outcomes based on race,” says Liz Alkire, Director of Grants & Evaluation at the Foundation. “We have to ask ourselves ‘What kind of Louisville do we want to live in 15 years from now?’ and ‘How can the Fund for Louisville be a tool to move our community in that direction?”

To get involved or to learn more about the Fund For Louisville, visit our website.