Kayla Arnesen, 720.898.5919
karnesen@CommunityFirstFoundation.org

Samantha Barlow, 720.898.5938
sbarlow@CommunityFirstFoundation.org

New Funding Approach Powers Community and Mental Wellness

Tyrone Beverly with Im'Unique pitches at an April workshop and pitch scrimmage at Community First Foundation.
Tyrone Beverly with Im’Unique pitches at an April workshop and pitch scrimmage at Community First Foundation.

Community First Foundation is putting half a million dollars into the hands of community members.

At the Community Pitch Showdown on September 30, 2016, six nonprofits will present their promising, but not yet proven, approaches to promoting mental wellness in a pitch-style competition. Community First Foundation is empowering 250 community leaders to award up to $500,000 in grant money to these nonprofit innovators through real-time voting, including a $50,000 grand prize.

“There is an element of investment risk in each of these innovations,” said Noah Atencio, Vice President of Community Impact at the Foundation, “so we are placing our trust in 250 community leaders to help assess the value of each innovation and allocate $1,800 each among the six nonprofit innovators.”

Community First Foundation’s Board of Directors identified promoting mental wellness as one of the Foundation’s top strategic priorities and believed there were opportunities to creatively approach the issue.

Community leaders like Crestina Martinez provide feedback to help nonprofit innovators fine-tune their strategy and pitch presentations.
Community leaders like Crestina Martinez provide feedback to help nonprofit innovators fine-tune their strategy and pitch presentations.

In contrast to other pitch competitions – where an expert panel ultimately judges the pitches and determines the winners – Community First Foundation is putting grantmaking power in the hands of everyday citizens who are identified leaders in their organizations and communities.

“The face of philanthropy is changing across the nation,” said Amy Humble, an Innovators Society steering committee member and co-founder of HumbleBarlow Leadership. “Main street philanthropy is taking center stage.”

In 2015, Community First Foundation selected six nonprofits in the Denver metropolitan area from a pool of competitive applicants to participate in The Innovators Society. Leading up to the Showdown in September 2016, The Innovators Society facilitates a nine-month program dedicated to helping the nonprofit innovators develop their ideas.

One participating nonprofit, Im’Unique, was founded four years ago to create a culture of health, individual growth, and social change. Among other programs, Im’Unique hosts intentional conversations on social and mental wellness issues over a meal to bring together diverse viewpoints.

“We have a culture that’s becoming accepting of certain things, including violence,” said Tyrone Beverly, founder of Im’Unique. “When we talk about creating a healthy culture, it’s important to focus on communicating effectively and disagreeing peacefully. Im’Unique wants to normalize the conversation around mental wellness to eliminate stigma.”

Immediately after being selected for participation in The Innovators Society, each of the six nonprofit innovators received an initial grant of $25,000 from Community First Foundation to fully develop their ideas through public relations, marketing, strategy and executive coaching. Innovators also participate in practice scrimmages leading up to the Community Pitch Showdown.

Jeannie Ritter, former first lady of Colorado and Mental Health Ambassador for the Mental Health Center of Denver, welcomes attendees to Community First Foundation's May Pitch Scrimmage.
Jeannie Ritter, former first lady of Colorado and Mental Health Ambassador for the Mental Health Center of Denver, welcomes attendees to Community First Foundation’s May Pitch Scrimmage.

“This program is infusing a ton of support to make our nonprofit innovators successful and engaging the community to become truly invested in solutions to mental wellness,” said Atencio. “Through the pitch scrimmages and coaching program, we’re building a network of people committed to supporting mental wellness initiatives and taking a strong stance against stigma.”

The Innovators Society is accelerating nonprofit innovation and empowering community members to become grantmakers.

“The Innovators Society reminds me of what we can accomplish when we work together. If we put these innovations together they can change the mental health platform for our city,” said Beverly.

To learn more about The Innovators Society, visit CommunityFirstFoundation.org/grantmaking/innovators.

The nonprofit contestants:

  • Bright By Three is launching Bright by Text, a program sending text messages to new parents with accessible, relevant information targeted to their child’s developmental stage.
  • Carson J Spencer Foundation is launching the IGNITE program to help middle school students cope with and manage their emotions, problem solve and access help. Student participants in the program will better understand emotions and wellness, develop a marketing campaign to impact their peers then participate in a competition to further elevate their ideas.
  • Clayton Early Learning has developed a mindfulness training program for early childhood educators to reduce stress and emotional trauma for teachers and students. The program is called EMBRACE: Effective Mindfulness Building Responsive and Confident Educators.
  • Im’Unique is an organization dedicated to fostering healthy lifestyles by enriching the mind, the body, and promoting awareness through holistic wellness education including yoga instruction, cooking classes and healthy living workshops.
  • Project Helping is an organization that uses the joy of purpose created by volunteering to improve mental wellness and combat the symptoms of depression. Project Helping organizes volunteer projects to leverage the benefits that helping others has on mental wellness.
  • The CU Denver Center on Collaborative Governance’s Patient-Centered Network (PNC) App is just that, patient-focused rather than system-focused. The app analyzes a patient’s social support network data and provides a menu of resources to providers as they are delivering care, allowing them to give individualized referrals in real time.