Thursday, October 31, 2013

ArtPlace America Announces Innovation Grants

ArtPlace America – a nationwide initiative that aims to infuse art in community revitalization efforts – has announced it is accepting Letters of Inquiry for the Innovation Grants program.

ArtPlace America is a collaborative of thirteen major national and regional foundations, six of the nation’s largest banks and eight federal agencies. Grounded in the belief that creative arts are an important aspect of vibrant communities, ArtPlace America works to accelerate “creative placemaking,” which they define as “investing in art and culture at the heart of a portfolio of integrated strategies that can drive vibrancy and diversity so powerful that it transforms communities." For example, in 2012, FringeArts in Philadelphia received an Innovation Grant to construct an outdoor plaza and performance space for arts and socializing on Philadelphia’s Delaware River waterfront – an underutilized space in the community. To learn more about how other communities have used Innovation Grants and invested in creative placemaking, click here.

ArtPlace America envisions its grants will be used to seed entrepreneurial projects that integrate a community’s economic and revitalization strategies with art and allow the community to attract additional private and public support. To date, ArtPlace America has awarded 134 grants to 124 organizations in more than 79 communities across the U.S. for a total of $42.1 million.

In 2014, ArtPlace grants will be awarded to arts organizations, artists and designers working in partnership with local and national partners on place-based strategies aimed at revitalizing communities. Grants are intended to fund a range of costs associated with implementing a creative placemaking project, including costs associated with a capital project such as pre-development, acquisition, construction, and real estate improvements. A collaborative efforts, certain ArtPlace funders have a deep commitment to their local communities and have provided funding for specific states or communities. Click here to see a list of these locations. While individual states and communities are encouraged to apply, funding is available for projects across the nation.

Award amounts are decided on a case-by-case basis. Letters of inquiry are due December 13, 2013. Selected applicants will be notified in February and will be asked to submit a full proposal.

To learn more about ArtPlace America Innovation Grants, please click here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Obsessed or Just Relentless?

Earlier this month, Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss posted a blog asking if the U.S. Department of Education is “obsessed with data” when it comes to their Promise Neighborhoods grantees.

The answer is, yeah, kind of.

But we’d argue the real obsession is with results.

Focusing on specific indicators means focusing on progress. What the government is doing is creating a new level of accountability. Of shared accountability that every partner in every Promise Neighborhood site is clear about.

Why are they doing this? Because to make sure that every child in a low-income neighborhood has the opportunity to get to and graduate from college means everyone involved has to understand what’s going on. Everyone has to be on the same page. And unless you’re tracking along the way – watching data on daily school attendance or critical milestones like reading well by the end of third grade – you risk waiting until kids fail to realize there’s a problem.

Another reason the focus on data and results is so important? It makes for much more efficient use of the resources at hand. Because as Strauss points out, there’s far less funding for Promise Neighborhoods than other education initiatives.

And so yes, it might take some time to get some of the details worked out on the best indicators organizations should be collecting and reporting. But it’s all part of a bigger picture.

Working with each of these communities, we know what’s at stake. We’re glad the Department of Education, neighborhood stakeholders, parents and everyone else who touches the lives of children in Promise Neighborhoods are relentless about results. It’s because they all understand what the end goal is.

And we’d argue that’s something worth being obsessed with!

Frank Farrow is the director of the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the training and technical assistance provider for the federal Promise Neighbhorhoods initiative.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Register Now for December NeighborWorks Training Institute

NeighborWorks America is a national organization that works to create opportunities for lower-income people to live in affordable homes in safe, sustainable neighborhoods that are healthy places for families to grow. As part of its mission, NeighborWorks offers training institutes for professionals and board members focused on all facets of affordable housing, community development and nonprofit management.

NeighborWorks is now accepting registration for its next training institute, which will be held from December 9 – 13 in Kansas City. The institute will feature over 100 courses, many which include site visits in the local community. The week will also include free afternoon workshops, networking and best-practice sharing, and a special Wednesday symposium, Real-World Solutions for Community Transformation

Register online today, with early-bird pricing ending on October 29th and pre-event registration ending on November 18th. On-site registration is also available, starting December 8.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

AmeriCorps Funding Available

Are you looking for a way to foster civic participation in your community? The Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) is accepting applications for State and National AmeriCorps grants.

For more than 20 years, CNCS has worked with individuals and organizations to address some of the most complex challenges facing our communities. AmeriCorps – a community service program within CNCS – engages individuals in community service through an approved national service position. While volunteering, AmeriCorps members bring leadership, resources and support to community efforts that promote education, employment, health and other key outcomes. As volunteers, members may receive a living allowance and, upon successful completion of service, receive an AmeriCorps Education Award. Recognizing that community service benefits an entire community and creates a pathway to education and employment for individual AmeriCorps members, CNCS is invested in ensuring that all citizens have access to participate, especially those that are often underrepresented, including people with disabilities, veterans and military families, Native Americans, and “Opportunity Youth" - the one in six young people (ages 16-24) who are disconnected from school or work.

Funding for AmeriCorps members must support one of the following focus areas:
  • Disaster Services: Grants will support activities aimed at increasing the preparedness of individuals, improving individuals’ readiness to respond, helping individuals recover from disasters, and helping individuals mitigate disasters.
  • Economic Opportunity: Grants will support services and resources that contribute to the improved economic well-being and security of economically disadvantaged people, including improving access to financial literacy, affordable housing and employment services.
  • Education: Grants will provide support for services that improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged students.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Grants will support services that contribute to increased energy and water efficiency, as well as renewable energy use and improved ecosystems.
  • Healthy Futures: Grants support community health services, including improving access to primary and preventive care, increasing seniors’ ability to remain in their homes and increasing physical activity and nutrition among youth in an effort to reduce childhood obesity.
  • Veteran and Military Families: Grants will support CNCS programs that support military service members and their families and aim to increase the number of veterans and military families engaged in community service.
Eligible applicants for AmeriCorps funding include: public or private nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and other community organizations; institutions of higher education; government entities within states or territories; labor organizations; and partnerships and consortia. Applicants must submit a Notice of Intent to Apply no later than December 11, 2013. Completed applications will be due Wednesday, January 8, 2014. Grantees will be notified by April 18, 2014. 

It is important to note that organizations proposing a project that operates in only one state must apply for funding through the Governor-appointed State or Territory Commissions. Each state and territory administers its own selection process and puts forward to CNCS the applicants they select to compete for funding. Organizations can learn more about their State Commissions, including grant processes and deadlines, by clicking here.
For more information about the Corporation for National and Community Service, click here.

Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Applicants Announced

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the states that submitted applications for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC). Sixteen states and the District of Columbia submitted applications in this second round of the RTT-ELC, which provides funding to states to support their efforts to improve the quality of early learning and development programs and ensure that all children enter school ready for success.

The RTT-ELC focuses on five "key areas of reform":
  • Successful State Systems
  • High Quality, Accountable Programs
  • Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children
  • A Great Early Childhood Education Workforce
  • Measuring Outcomes and Progress

The applicants for this round of RTT-ELC include the following: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

Awards will range from $37.5 to $75 million over a period of four years.The winners of this latest round of RTT-ELC grants are expected to be announced in December 2013.

For complete details of this announcement, please visit the U.S. Department of Education's website here. If you would like to learn more about the various Race to the Top grant competitions and past awards, please view our past blog posts here.

USDA Grant Opportunity: The Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a grant opportunity through the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) that will award $5.6 million for organizations to help generate economic activity in rural areas as it relates to housing, community facilities, or community and economic development. The grant awards can range from $50,000 to $300,000. Applications are due November 12, 2013.

The grants will be awarded to qualified recipients, which include private non-profit, (faith-based and community organizations, and philanthropic foundations) and public (including tribal) intermediary organizations. The grants will provide the award recipients with the help to develop the capacity and ability to undertake these projects by providing financial and technical assistance to a private, nonprofit community-based housing and development organization, a low-income rural community or a federally recognized tribe.

For more information on this grant opportunity, click here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

City of Los Angeles Rolls Out New Neighborhood Data Profiles

Accessing and analyzing data is a critical component of building neighborhood capacity. Data helps communities validate community assets and challenges, identify effective solutions and track progress toward achieving results. At the neighborhood level, this often requires developing new systems and relationships to gather information. At this city level, this entails aggregating and communicating data that can allow for neighborhood-by-neighborhood comparisons and provide a larger regional perspective.

The Atlantic’s Cities Blog recently highlighted Los Angeles’ (LA) leadership role in connecting neighborhoods with data. As part of an effort to add a health and wellness dimension to the city’s General Plan, LA has launched a neighborhood data portal that allows users to map metrics related to health, as well as a diverse range of quality-of-life issues including education, transportation, crime and housing. The portal draws upon data from the city’s Health Atlas, which “highlights the geographic concentration of health disparities” in LA and illustrates the power of place to influence residents’ well-being.

Neighborhoods have important opportunities to generate data about what happens within their borders, including gathering information from those who live and work in the community. However, as LA’s data work showcases, cities can help neighborhoods access administrative data from city agencies and beyond, providing valuable context to local efforts and a potential source of longitudinal data capturing change over time.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

U.S. Soccer Foundation Invites Letters of Interest for Safe Places to Play Grants

Youth living in underserved communities often have limited spaces to play in a healthy and safe environment. To remedy this, the U.S. Soccer Foundation has provided over $59 million to soccer organizations and field-building initiatives nationwide since its inception in 1994. More than six hundred organizations have received grants to date, resulting in the creation of over 1,100 safe places for children to play.

The U.S. Soccer Foundation is currently accepting Letters of Inquiry for the Safe Places to Play program, which funds improvements to a community’s field space. Up to $200,000 of Field Building grants will be awarded for the installation of field surfaces, lighting and irrigation. 

To be eligible for a Field Building grant, applicants must:
  • Apply on behalf of a program or project operating in the U.S.
  •  Be a non-profit organization, school, municipality, college or university, or sovereign tribal nation.
  • Apply as, or on behalf of, a field-building project.
  • Own or have a minimum of a ten-year land lease/land use agreement on the land where the field-building project will take place.

Letters of inquiry must be received no later than February 1, 2014. Upon review, select applicants will be invited to submit a full application. For more information on Safe Places to Play, click here. For more information on the U.S. Soccer Foundation and their initiatives, click here.

Data in Action: Ready Youth

The Forum for Youth Investment has made “using better data and information” one of the building blocks of Ready by 21, a set of strategies focused on improving the odds that youth will be ready for college, work and life. As part of that effort, Ready Youth was launched to provide innovative ways for communities to use data to engage stakeholders and inform solutions.

Ready Youth uses data from the Gallup Student Poll, which surveys young people about three key indicators of student success: hope, engagement and well-being. The Forum and other Ready by 21 partners work with participating communities to analyze poll results in concert with other data on children and youth (e.g., information on health, education, employment and safety).

The combined data, capturing both student perceptions and community context, is used to mobilize a range of local stakeholders including students, parents, teachers, civic leaders and business people to engage in conversation about what strategies can increase young people’s success. New survey waves can then capture the efficacy of those strategies.

Indianola, Mississippi, one of the six communities participating in the Ready Youth pilot, provides a case study on the role data can play in informing effective solutions. For instance, despite a 2011 needs assessment in which 95 percent of parents said their children felt safe going to and from school, the Gallup Student Poll revealed that at least one-third of students believed that safety was a key concern. This finding prompted the high school to develop a safety strategy, which included “testing students on the code of conduct and training staff on safety protocol.”

The gap between parent and student perceptions illustrates the importance of gathering information from a variety of sources and using it to stimulate conversation about community assets and needs. Community dialogue can offer a rich opportunity to examine diverse stakeholders’ take on “the story behind the data,” including the root causes of challenges that emerge as priorities for collective action.

The example of Ready Youth shows that data is just one capacity that communities need to achieve better results for youth. For more information about collecting and analyzing data, engaging diverse stakeholders in partnerships to achieve results and identifying effective solutions check out the tools and templates on the Building Neighborhood Capacity Resource Center.

Friday, October 4, 2013

DOJ Awards $8 million in Community-Based Violence Prevention Grants

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has awarded $8 million to six communities through the 2013 Community-Based Violence Prevention Demonstration Program. The six recipients are:
  • City of Camden, NJ 
  • City of East Baton Rouge, LA 
  • City of Kansas City, MO
  • City of Newport News, VA 
  • City of Syracuse, NY
  • Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention
The Community-Based Violence Prevention Demonstration program supports multi-sector partnerships working to replicate evidence-based programs, such as Operation Ceasefire and the Richmond Comprehensive Homicide Initiative, in their own communities. Participants analyze date to identify young people at high-risk of being involved in gun violence and design their interventions accordingly. The partnership bring together both law enforcement and community leaders, including outreach workers and clergy, to increase young people’s awareness of the costs of involvement in violence and promote alternatives.

To learn more about the Community-Based Violence Prevention Demonstration Program, click here. To learn more about community-focused violence prevention strategies, read about the DOJ's Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation initiative. Explore other evidence-based violence prevention strategies and solutions at the OJJDP’s Model Programs Guide and National Institute of Justice’s

Apply for a KaBOOM! Let’s Play Community Construction Grant

KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that works to create play spaces for children, is now accepting applications for $15,000 grants to be used to purchase playground equipment. The grants are part of the Let’s Play initiative, a community partnership supported by the Dr. Pepper Snapple group to get kids active.

Grants are open to U.S.-based municipalities, registered 501(c)3 organizations, public and charter schools and non-profit, child-serving organizations. Priority is given to applicants without a playground or with existing equipment that is unsafe.

To be eligible, applicants must:
  • Own land or have permission to build
  • Spend $24,000 to $40,000 on playground equipment
  • Work with a KaBOOM! Preferred Vendor
  • Use the community-build model
  • Finish project within 12 months of award
  • Serve a low-income population
The community-build model engages families, including children, and other community volunteers in both designing and building their playground. In addition to working with residents in their own neighborhood, grant recipients participate in a community of practice on Our Dream Playground website, where they have access to planning tools and share best practices and challenges.

Grantees also can receive planning support from KaBOOM! Alumni. Upon completion of their project, they have access to the KaBoom! Alumni Network and opportunities for additional maintenance and expansion grants.

Applications are due on October 11, 2013. To learn more, click here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Taking a Lump-Sum Payout after Winning the Lottery

After winning the lottery, you will often be presented with two options of how to receive your winnings. You can either claim your winnings in one, lump-sum payout, or as a structured settlement, receiving the payments over a set period of time. There are pros and cons to both options, so make sure you explore each and know which is best for you.

Lump-Sum Payout
A lump-sum payout is a one-time payment of a partial or total value of an asset. In the case of lottery winnings, this option would give you one immediate payment of your total lottery winnings, after taxes have been taken out. For some, this is an attractive choice, but it also has some disadvantages. Here are the pros and cons of taking your lottery winnings as a lump-sum payout:

·        You get more money upfront, immediately.
·        You can invest your winnings.
·        You can spend however little or however much you want to at any time
·        Easier to spend all of your money quickly and unwisely.
·        May become a target for friends, family, charities, media and anyone else looking to get some extra cash.
·        You will pay more taxes than if your winnings were taken as a structured settlement.
·        You must pay taxes, immediately, on the entire amount of your winnings.

Structured Settlement Payments
A structured settlement is a legal settlement paid out as an annuity rather than in a lump sum. It is often used to settle wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits, but it can also be used in the event that you win the lottery. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of receiving your lottery winnings as a structured settlement:

·        Payment schedules are flexible. You can schedule payments for almost any length of time, beginning immediately or in the future.
·        Guaranteed income.
·        It provides beneficiary protection. In the event of the recipient's premature death, the contract's beneficiaries can continue to receive future payments.
·        You can sell your annuity in the future, if you decide you need more money at a given time than what your regular disbursements provide.
·        You can withdraw from an annuity early, but some fees may apply.
·        You are only taxed as you receive each payment.
·        Once the recipient agrees to the terms and conditions, they are stuck with them. Terms and conditions cannot be changed.
·        Since the funds inside an annuity account may not be accessible, they are not available for purchasing other types of investments.

One of the most important decisions you can make after winning the lottery is deciding how the money will be given to you. Make sure you understand the advantages and disadvantages of taking a lump-sum payment or a structured settlement before making any final decisions. You could be dealing with a lot of money, and it is important to take care of it.

About the Guest Author
Kaitlyn Fusco is a content writer for She combines her interests in writing and overcoming debt to inform the public about issues related to credit, debt, annuity and personal finance.