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. We see it firsthand in the stories from grants we make to support people working and volunteering to help those in need, and to make space for communities to come together. We see it in the work we do with donors who want to make a difference in their own towns and villages.

In his book Deepening Community, Paul Born, community activist and president of the Tamarack Institute in Canada posits that there are four pillars, or acts, that individually and especially together deepen our sense of community:

  1. Sharing Our Story
  2. Enjoying One Another by Spending Time Together
  3. Caring for One Another
  4. Working Together to Build A Better World

In the Small and Inspiring program we put building and nurturing community front and center in our grantmaking. We aim to support the work happening in all 250 of our towns that builds social capital. Social capital is a social science term referring to the level of trust that members of a group have for one another and the institutions that serve them. The more social capital a community has, the stronger the members’ sense of engagement and the higher their commitment is to each other and the world around them. Studies even show that higher levels of social capital are correlated with better health outcomes, higher educational achievement, and higher levels of civic engagement. 

With Small and Inspiring grants we want to foster that spark that keeps Vermonters healthy and happy in all those ways. We want to find and fund 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 more philanthropy. It may be a small grants program but we’ve seen the exponential benefit to communities. 

We are using a grassroots grantmaking model that focuses on ideas versus trying to fix something. We’ve created an easily accessible application with a quicker turn around for decisions. This is a grant round for heroes and champions of their communities – in other words, anyone who cares and wants to make a difference for their neighbors.

This program will fund projects that:

  • connect people to people in deep and meaningful ways that are grounded in acts of generosity
  • connect people to the environment around them in ways that encourage stewardship and respect
  • connect people with opportunities for positive social interaction and benefit

See a list of Small and Inspiring grants awarded in the first half of 2016.

See a list of Small and Inspiring grants awarded in the second half of 2015.

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 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.

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
  • Events and performances that do not have any components of audience or community engagement
  • Debt reduction
  • Individuals
  • Expenses that have already been incurred
  • Programs with religious instruction
  • Indirect expenses for a project
  • Projects funded by Small and Inspiring in the previous year

Who May Apply

  • First time grantwriters are encouraged to apply and to be in touch if you need help with the application.
  • 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.

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. 

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity (as defined in paragraph 249(c)(4) of title 18, United States Code), sexual orientation, marital or parental status, political affiliation, military service, physical or mental ability be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds made available (meaning any funds having a competitive application process) by the Vermont Community Foundation, and any other program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds appropriated for grants, cooperative agreements, and other assistance administered by the Foundation. 

Grant applicants must employ staff and provide services without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity (as defined in paragraph 249(c)(4) of title 18, United States Code), sexual orientation, marital or parental status, political affiliation, military service, physical or mental ability.

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. Deadline dates are firm through July 1st.  Please check back in June to confirm deadline dates for the second half of 2017. 

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 2017 application questions

Grant Size

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

Resources

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