At The Miami Foundation, and specifically in my role, we get a bird’s eye view of the hundreds of nonprofits on the ground every day, making sure everyone who lives here has access to resources they need to thrive. This helps shape a unique perspective of how each nonprofit serves as a vital piece of a greater puzzle. It allows us to see what’s working, where opportunities for improvement exist and how people are coming together to make this work happen.

Every year, we invest more than $1 million to advance these efforts through the Community Grants program. Sixty-four outstanding local nonprofits will receive funding this year, made possible by generous philanthropists in our community who created permanent, charitable Funds with us. We unite the quality of life issues they care about with the 2016 Our Miami Report’s findings, allowing us to address emerging needs throughout Miami-Dade.

One of the forward-thinking proposals we received this year was from Arts & Business Council of Miami, pictured above. They’ve long leveraged partnerships between the creative and private sectors behind our thriving cultural landscape. Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, which provides pro-bono legal assistance to artists, creatives and social entrepreneurs, came out of one of these strengths-based partnerships. They plan to use their grant for a new Patent Project, supported by the United States Patent Office, which will give free legal services to creatives, making it easier for them to protect their work as they pursue new ventures using emerging technologies.

At Venture Café Miami’s 50 Years of Nonprofit Innovation Thursday Takeover last night, hundreds of folks came out to celebrate – and experience first-hand – the amazing work of these organizations over the past 50 years and how they’re moving the community into the future. Guitars Over Guns’ youth musicians rocked it out; South Florida National Parks Trust brought us an immersive Everglades experience; and Women’s Breast & Heart Initiative shared stories of how volunteers, partners and donors have reached 100,000 homes, going door-to-door throughout the county annually to provide life-saving education to prevent breast cancer and heart disease.

Students from 2017 Community Grants recipient Guitars Over Guns organization play at Venture Café Miami’s 50 Years of Nonprofit Innovation Thursday Takeover on June 8. Photo courtesy of L. David Stewart for Year 60 Photography.

Other grantees are empowering residents with tools and knowledge to make more informed decisions and improve quality of life. For example, Capital Good Fund, launched in Florida last year, provides low-income individuals with credit-building programs, interest-free microloans and credit coaching so they can avoid poverty. Their grant will finance 25 residency loans, which borrowers can then put toward costs related to securing safe, affordable housing, such as placing security deposits on new apartments, paying past-due rent or utilities or covering moving expenses. Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida will bring their Decisions for Your Life program to 11 sites in low-income neighborhoods and public housing communities throughout Miami-Dade. Whereas most other scout troops are led by parents, Girl Scout staff and community-based volunteers partner to guide the 300 girls participating in the Decisions program, linking young girls with new opportunities, discovery, connection and goal-setting for a successful future.

Last night, over a dozen additional grantees showcased their innovations, collaborations and impact of the last 50 years. It helped us reinforce how all these seemingly different programs actually unite together to drive holistic community change in Greater Miami. With help from each Miamian joining the effort, we can ensure our nonprofit organizations continue innovating over the next 50 years and beyond.

Victoria Fear is programs officer at The Miami Foundation.

See photos from the 50 Years of Nonprofit Innovation event on our Facebook page.


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