Small & Inspiring

At the Community Foundation, we know the critical role that strong personal connections can play in keeping communities healthy and thriving—especially in the face of a challenging economy and or even a devastating tropical storm. We see it in the organizations and groups working and volunteering to help people and bring communities together. We see it in the work we do with donors who want to make a difference in their own towns and villages. It’s a spark–of hope, perhaps. And it’s part of the strong sense of community we all say we love about Vermont. It’s what makes us feel good about ourselves and our neighbors and the world around us.

It’s not just about feeling good. More and more research is demonstrating the quantifiable community value of social capital. Simply put, social capital is the crux of social relations and refers to the benefits that come from cooperation between individuals and groups of people. Studies show that higher levels of social capital are correlated with better health outcomes, higher educational achievement, and higher levels of civic engagement. 

Part of our Community Fund grants program, Small and Inspiring grants help foster the spark and hope that keeps Vermonters healthy and happy in all those ways. We want to find and support projects in every town in Vermont where a small grant can make a big difference. We want to collect stories and share them widely to create even more sparks that will inspire greater philanthropy. It may be a small grants program, but its potential in our communities is exponential.

This program will fund projects that:

  • connect people to each other through volunteer work or community-building efforts
  • connect people to the environment around them in new ways
  • bring people together and provide opportunities for positive social interaction and benefit

This program will not fund:

  • Capital campaigns - this program only considers requests for renovations or equipment that have a direct and short-term connection to enabling community-building
  • Performance ticket subsidies or scholarships that are not directly connected to community-building work
  • Debt reduction
  • Individuals
  • Expenses that have already been incurred
  • Programs with religious instruction
  • Indirect expenses for a project
  • Multi-year or repeat funding for a Small and Inspiring grant project

Who May Apply

  • Groups and organizations may apply multiple times but may only receive funding once in a calendar year, even if the organization is applying for funding for projects in different communities or towns.
  • Groups and organizations that received a Small and Inspiring grant in 2016 may submit an application in 2017 as long as it is for a completely different project and is not within a year of their previous grant.
  • An organization serving as fiscal sponsor for a Small and Inspiring grantee does remain eligible to submit their own application for a different project.
  • Groups and organizations may apply to and receive grants from both Small and Inspiring and Innovations and Collaborations grant programs within the same calendar year, but not for the same project.

See a list of Small and Inspiring grants awarded Spring of 2016.

See a list of Small and Inspiring grants awarded Fall 2015.

Grant applications will be accepted from organizations that are located in or serve the people of Vermont. Organizations must be tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or be a public agency or municipality in the state of Vermont. Nonprofit organizations or community groups who do not have 501(c)(3) status may apply for grant awards if another tax-exempt organization acts as a fiscal sponsor. Applicants must employ staff and provide services without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Typically, applications will be accepted from groups or organizations working in one community. Some examples include:
  • a volunteer transportation program for seniors and house-bound individuals
  • a group of people working to restore a town building for community use and benefit
  • a project that aims to increase civic participation in Town Meeting efforts
  • a group of people working to protect a parcel of land for community benefit
  • a landscape painting class for town residents taught outdoors in a field
  • a community dialogue about diversity in a town experiencing changing demographics

Note: Given the focus of our resources on Food and Farm issues in our Big Impact program, we are providing limited funding through our other grant programs towards local food sourcing to low income Vermonters. If you have a project related to local food, food insecure populations, or Farm to School, please contact one of our grant staff to discuss its eligibility before applying.

Deadlines and Notifications

The 2017 grant round deadlines are listed below. Applications must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on the deadline.  

February 1  - notification by end of April
April 5 - notification by mid-June
August 2 - notification by mid-October
October 18 - notification by end of December

Application Process

All applications must be submitted electronically via the Online Grants Manager. Visit our Online Grants Center to learn how to use the Grants Manager, including accessing your existing account or registering for the first time. The electronic application form will be available after logging in to your account. 

To help you prepare, click here to view or download the 2016 application questions

Grant Size

Grants will be in the range of $500–$2,500. 


Watch our Grantseeker Webinar that gives an overview of this grant program and others. You may watch the recorded webinar on our YouTube channel.

Apply for a Grant