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What is The Innovators Society?
The Innovators Society, a program of Community First Foundation, is committed to improving mental wellness by investing in fresh, new ideas to improve awareness, foster well-being and change perceptions of mental illness.

Four to six nonprofit organizations with impact in the Denver metropolitan area are selected to participate in an accelerator program to develop their innovative mental wellness ideas. The program prepares them to compete for grant dollars by presenting their plan to more than 200 community leaders who vote on how to allocate Community First Foundation’s grant dollars.

Who is eligible to apply?
Designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, or those who have a fiscal sponsor, are eligible to apply. The applicant should be headquartered or providing services in the Denver metropolitan area (Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties). While the applicant does not need to have a mission specifically related to mental wellness, the application must demonstrate a promising, but not yet proven, approach to promoting mental wellness, specifically focused on early childhood mental wellness, improving systems supporting mental wellness or changing perceptions of mental health and illness.
How do nonprofits apply?
Applications for the first round of The Innovators Society CLOSED on October 13, 2015.
What does 'a promising, but not yet proven, approach to mental wellness' mean?

  • It has legs to it, meaning it is beyond the concept phase.
  • It may have internal support from the organization and board, but lacks the funding resources required and/or the time and talent necessary for further development.
  • It may have some traction in a beta or test phase but needs resources to scale.
  • It has the ability to improve or innovate preventive, promotional and early intervention approaches to mental wellness primarily in the context of early childhood.

What can I expect if I am selected for The Innovators Society?
Support. Community. Resources.

The Innovators Society is designed to provide nonprofits with the support necessary to begin scaling their innovative ideas. Selected nonprofits can expect to receive support from coaches, advisors and community members. They will be connected to a community of innovators to help them collaborate, network and grow.

If I am in the group of nonprofits selected to pitch, what does that mean?
Congratulations, it means you are awarded $25,000 in seed funding! The seed funding will cover coaching support in the areas of pitch and executive coaching, marketing and branding coaching and strategic planning for approximately nine months.

From January – September 2016, selected nonprofits will work with a team of coaches to develop and refine the pitch in preparation for The Innovators Society’s Pitch Scrimmage on May 17, 2016. This scrimmage event in front of The Innovators Society will be an opportunity to receive real-time feedback from knowledgeable, engaged leaders.

On September 30, 2016, the grantees will pitch in front of approximately 250 audience members at the Community Pitch Showdown. Grant dollars will be allotted based on the community’s real-time votes using cell phone technology and guided by the grantees’ demonstrated need for a specific request.

Is there any cost to apply to The Innovators Society?
No. The application is free of charge.
How is The Innovators Society supported?
Community First Foundation, its staff and a volunteer steering committee support the operations and logistics associated with The Innovators Society. All grant dollars and budgets for the program are approved by the Community First Foundation Board of Directors.
How can I get involved if I'm not a nonprofit?
If you want to support the mental wellness innovation of one of the participating nonprofits, email them at the following addresses:

If you’re interested in joining the mailing list or lending your skills and talents to The Innovators Society email the communications coordinator, Samantha Barlow, at sbarlow@CommunityFirstFoundation.org.

What is a pitch?
While the “pitch” concept may call to mind anxiety-inducing images from ABC’s show Shark Tank, this experience is intended to build up nonprofits by taking their innovative idea, cultivating it and elevating it to the next level of implementation. Each nonprofit representative will receive support through a team of coaches customized to fit their needs. Nonprofits will meet with coaches for approximately nine months to prepare a formal pitch.

The experience also includes the opportunity to develop a peer support group to network during scrimmage events. There is also the possibility of additional funding during The Community Pitch Showdown. Furthermore, once the pitch and innovative ideas are refined and packaged, there is no telling who or what opportunities may come knocking at the door!

Why is The Innovators Society dedicated to elevating mental wellness and not any other important social, public and community issue like affordable housing, education or community economic development?
In 2014, Community First Foundation conducted a community listening tour to learn about the mental health environment in the Denver metropolitan area. The Foundation identified mental wellness as an area in which it can make a tangible impact that will affect the well-being of the entire community.
Are there other events similar to The Innovators Society in Denver or around the U.S.?
Not quite! One can look at other communities in the state, nation and abroad who are creating pitch competitions or sparking movements around innovative ideas that inspire The Innovators Society’s concept—think of Art Tank, Techstars, Social Venture Partners and TED. As far as we know, The Innovators Society is the first to focus purposefully on innovative concepts in mental wellness, specifically related to early childhood mental wellness, systems improvement to mental wellness or changing perceptions of mental health and illness. In addition, The Innovators Society is unique in that it is a program designed by and for the community-at-large. It empowers hundreds of community members to allocate Community First Foundation grant dollars based on where they think impact will be greatest. It elevates innovative mental wellness ideas to a broad-based and diverse community so that learning, knowledge and shifting perceptions occur on an ongoing basis as the program develops.
Who are the coaches?
The coaches are a group of established professionals with experience in both the for-profit, tech start-up and the nonprofit worlds. They have skill sets that uniquely support nonprofits and can help them successfully navigate the inherent challenges in growing and scaling an innovative program. If selected into the program, nonprofit grantees will have the opportunity to meet with a variety of coaches and select a coaching team that would be the best customized fit.
What is the Kitchen Cabinet?
We refer to our program’s steering committee as the “Kitchen Cabinet,” a small group of individuals passionate about improving mental health in our community–folks you would invite into your kitchen for advice. They have helped Community First Foundation develop each stage of The Innovators Society program.
If I am the grand prize nonprofit winner, what does that mean?
As the grand prize winner, you will receive an additional grant to support the development and growth of your innovative idea or program. It is the hope of The Innovators Society that with the additional winnings, your innovation can go from a pie-in-the-sky vision to a concrete reality.
Are for-profit social innovation businesses eligible to receive grants?
No. Community First Foundation is a grantmaking public charity that allocates grants only to tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.
What are the short- and long-term goals for The Innovators Society?
For the inaugural year, Community First Foundation, its volunteer steering committee and The Innovators Society desire to build an experience that attracts the crème de la crème of the Denver metropolitan area into a space of mental wellness innovation. The Innovators Society seeks to elevate mental wellness in the public, private and nonprofit communities to new levels and develop networks of innovation that recognize mental wellness as a human issue rather than a stigmatized issue.