Neighborhood Grants Program: Individuals + Small Gifts = Big Impact

Neighborhood Grants Program 2014

Valley of the Artists (Valle De Artistas) accept their grant check at the Neighborhood Grants Program awards ceremony

In the world of philanthropy we are susceptible to celebrating the Big Numbers. Total assets. The huge bequest. Ginormous grants. We often forget that the greatest impact comes from small gifts, and that a donor’s trust can produce remarkable rewards.

We recently held the annual check presentation ceremony for the Neighborhood Grants Program (NGP). NGP has been in existence for 17 years. By foundation standards, the numbers are modest. In 2014 we granted $62,000 to 20 grassroots groups. Note that I didn’t say “organizations,” as many of these recipients are a collection of folks who are rallied around a particular cause or activity that makes their community or neighborhood stronger.

The grants ranged from $1,500 to $4,000. NGP is overseen by program officer Aurelio Salazar, Jr. who works diligently with each of the recipients, sometimes to do something as basic as set up a bank account. A volunteer grant committee spends two Saturdays hearing presentations by the applicants. NGP is very labor intensive, and if we focused only on the size of the awards, we’d wonder why we do it.

But a peek at the recipients will quickly reveal the value of this program. Some of the grantees are: Chuparrosa leadership development for parents with special needs children in Greenfi eld and King City; Comité de Acosta Plaza (Salinas) for community and resident development; Transition Aromas for environmental education and community events; Monterey Peninsula NAACP Youth Council (Seaside) for youth development and annual conference; Ciclovía (Salinas) for a city-wide health event for residents.

NGP recipients are simply giving of themselves to make a better life for others. I’m not sure there is a more resonant example of philanthropy, and it is very consistent with the source of the grant money. NGP is funded through the CFMC’s general endowment, which consists of estate gifts by individuals who trusted the CFMC to make solid decisions with their charitable assets. The beauty lies in that the donors have no personal connection to any of these groups but their generosity and trust in the CFMC has allowed their gifts to directly improve the lives of people throughout Monterey County.