Last week, Community LIFT announced the Empowerment Fund grants for individuals and organizations doing neighborhood-based projects. MLK50 talked to Nefertiti Orrin, Community LIFT’s grant director, to get the details.

Q: Why is Community LIFT offering these grants?

Community LIFT’s mission is to facilitate funding and connections to grow Community Development Corporations (CDCs), empower residents, renew places, and build support for investment in under-resourced neighborhoods. The Empowerment Fund supports resident empowerment by funding neighborhood-based projects that lead to greater resident engagement and increased “civic know-how.”

Q: How much is the maximum grant award and how much will you give out this year?
 Applicants can apply for up to $2,500 in funding. We anticipate giving out approximately $75,000 this year. We hope to increase that amount next year.

Q: Do applicants have to be connected to a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to apply?


Q: Who should apply?

Residents or neighborhood groups passionate about improving their community should apply. 
 Applicants must be a resident of Memphis and the neighborhood in which the project takes place, a property or business owner, a neighborhood association, and/or grassroots, place-based group. Applicants must show evidence of resident/community support and attend a pre-application information session 4–5:30 p.m., Aug. 8 at the Randolph Public Library or 4–5:30 p.m., Aug. 10 at the FedEx Family House. The details are on our website. Sign up here to register for either information session.

Both the application and the required project budget template can be downloaded from Community LIFT’s website, under the heading Empowerment Fund.

The deadline is 5 p.m., Aug. 24.
Q: What are some examples of a successful project?
 Successful projects will focus on one of four areas: People, Physical, Economic or Grassroots Organizing.
 In the People category, a typical project might be a health fair focused on a specific health need identified by residents and community stakeholders. 
 Physical projects could include planting a community garden or creating a “pocket park” along a major street or corridor. 
 Examples of projects in the Economic category could include buying equipment to produce cheap alternative fuel sources to re-sell to local farmers or organizing a “pop-up- shop” experience to attract businesses/people to the neighborhood. 
 Examples of Grassroots Organizing projects are convening/forming a group to give residents a voice in a proposed neighborhood redevelopment project or forming a neighborhood merchant association.

These are examples that we hope will spark applicants to think about other community improvements that they want to make and could start to make progress toward with a little infusion of capital into their efforts.

Q: Why is this needed?

Over the last six years of Community LIFT doing this work, we have encountered countless numbers of people working really hard to improve their neighborhoods, often with little to no resources, sometimes paying out of their pockets to keep projects going.

Without access to networks, philanthropy, or angel investors, these efforts will continue to be under-resourced. Community LIFT was created to be a community development intermediary to connect on-the-ground efforts in under-resourced neighborhoods to those networks and resources.

Q: How will the grant winners be chosen?

A volunteer grants review committee will lead the grants review process. This committee is made up of individuals from the philanthropy sector as well as community representatives. 
 Committee members share Community LIFT’s belief that residents are best positioned to lead the transformative efforts in their community and will keep that perspective at the forefront as they evaluate projects. The committee will evaluate all applications using a scoring rubric and make funding recommendations. Community LIFT’s board of directors will select the winning applicants.

Q: How will the grants be monitored?

I will monitor the project’s progress on an ongoing basis. Grantees will be required to submit photos and/or other artifacts documenting progress and outcomes. Grantees will have up to a year to complete their project. 
 Q: When will the successful grantees be notified?

Aug. 31.

Q: What does success look like for the Empowerment Fund?
 We anticipate that this grant program will lead to:

• Increased belief that people can make a difference through grassroots efforts

• More people engaged in innovative solutions to improve neighborhoods

• More residents working towards collective action

• Increased economic activity in under-resourced neighborhoods

• More advocates for investment in under-resourced neighborhoods

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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