In Worcester, Massachusetts, a Funder Is Giving Attention to Early Education



Community foundations are most accessible to nonprofits when they have community grant programs with transparent guidelines that allow local groups to easily apply for support.

Some community funders barely have these types of programs in operation, while others rely upon them as the backbone of giving. The Greater Worcester Community Foundation (GWCF) is an example of a funder with a robust community grant program—one that awarded over $1.7 million in grants last year.

Like many community foundations, GWCF has very broad interests that attract nonprofits of all types of sizes. Lately, the funder has been interested in the arts, the environment, civic life, economic security, health, youth, and education. But it has been particularly interested in the very youngest residents of the Worcester region lately, which is good news for early learning-focused groups.

“Our community grant program is the largest funding cycle we have, and annually provides meaningful support towards the better of the community, “ reports Ann T. Lisi, president and CEO of GWCF, on the group’s website. “We look forward to seeing the impact, especially for our community’s children, in the year ahead.”

In its last big community grants commitment, GWCF awarded 159 grants, with 22 of those grants going solely for early childhood development projects. The funder has an early childhood initiative that funds issues like early care, reducing summer learning loss, and supporting primary nurturers. Over $400,000 of that big $1.7 million commitment went towards these types of programs. The list of early education grantees includes Edward Street Child Services, which received $20,000 and $55,000 grants from GWCF, and the Latino Education Institute, which secured a $25,000 grant for its early connections program.

But aside from this foundation-wide priority, there are still plenty of other issues catching GWCF’s attention. The funder has recently opened itself up to receive applications for the Worcester County Food Bank Fund to End Hunger, the Fairlawn Foundation Fund for improving mental health, and the Leicester Savings Bank Fund for general quality of life needs in Leicester. Other active funds here that have taken on new applicants recently through GWCF include the UniBank September 11th Emergency Personnel Fund, Fallon/OrNda Community Health Fund, and Creative Engagement Grant Program.

Local groups should know that GWCF hosts community grant orientation sessions, which are great ways to learn about the process if you’ve never applied here for a grant or just want to tune into the foundation’s interests a bit better. Upcoming sessions are scheduled for July 26, August 1, and August 21 at GWCF headquarters. This is also a funder that encourages phone calls and has program officers standing by to take calls and discuss potential project ideas before submitting anything online.