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Justin Kruger, founder and CEO of Project Helping, pitches his innovation to more than 200 community leaders.
Justin Kruger, founder and CEO of Project Helping, pitches his innovation to more than 200 community leaders.

Community leaders grant $500,000 to innovative nonprofits promoting mental wellness at The Innovators Society pitch competition

ARVADA, CO (October 6, 2016) – Step aside, Shark Tank. The nonprofit innovators have arrived.

In a first-of-its-kind pitch competition in Colorado, more than 200 community leaders acted as judges to allocate half a million dollars in Community First Foundation grant money. The recipients were local nonprofits pitching innovative ideas to improve mental wellness.

At the event on September 30, 2016, community leaders heard from six nonprofits, then cast their votes in real-time to allocate Community First Foundation grant dollars among the innovators.

“This is by far the most innovative and inclusive approach to grant funding we’ve ever been part of,” said Justin Kruger, founder and CEO of the grand prize-winning organization Project Helping. “Having community leaders in the audience participate simultaneously built awareness for our cause and engaged the community in being a part of our organization.”

The pitch competition was the capstone event of The Innovators Society, a new program of Community First Foundation. The program promotes mental wellness by accelerating nonprofit innovation and empowering everyday citizens to become grantmakers.

The following grants were awarded:

  • $130,703 to Project Helping, which includes $50,000 in grand-prize money. Project Helping promotes the joy of purpose created by volunteering to improve mental wellness and combat the symptoms of depression. They plan to use the grant money to grow Project Helping’s core mission of providing meaningful, social and easy-to-join volunteer projects to improve the mental wellness of those who participate.
  • $110,041 to Im’Unique, an organization fostering healthy lifestyles by enriching the mind and body, and promoting awareness through holistic wellness education including yoga instruction, cooking classes and healthy living workshops.
  • $77,596 to Carson J Spencer Foundation, an organization launching the Ignite program to help middle school students cope with and manage their emotions, problem solve and access help to prevent suicide.
  • $66,175 to Bright by Three, an organization launching Bright by Text, a program that sends text messages to new parents with accessible, relevant information targeted to their child’s developmental stage.
  • $65,745 to the Center on Network Science at CU Denver, an organization developing the Patient-Centered Network (PNC) App to analyze patients’ social support network data and provide a menu of resources to health care providers.
  • $49,740 to Clayton Early Learning, an organization developing a mindfulness training program for early childhood educators to reduce stress and emotional trauma for teachers and students.
Tyrone Beverly focuses before pitching his innovative nonprofit, Im'Unique.
Tyrone Beverly focuses backstage before pitching his innovative nonprofit, Im’Unique.

“New organizations, like ours, with new approaches to improving mental wellness and combating stigma, don’t typically get these types of opportunities for so many people to learn about us. This program has given us the tools to make a massive impact in the community,” said Kruger.

Funding from the pitch competition will kick-start the innovations as the nonprofits continue implementation. The inaugural nonprofit cohort will celebrate their achievements in the fall of 2017.

“We are excited to be on the cutting edge of a groundswell of nonprofits and funders replicating the accelerator and pitch competition models statewide,” said Noah Atencio, vice president of community impact at Community First Foundation. “The Innovators Society adds a unique dimension to these models by focusing on mental wellness and distributing grant dollars under the guidance of community leaders.”

All six nonprofit innovators hold their 2016 Light Bulb Effect Awards as they await the announcement of the grand prize winner.
All six nonprofit innovators hold their 2016 Light Bulb Effect Awards as they await the announcement of the grand prize winner.

About 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.  At Community First Foundation, we power the innovators. For more information, visit CommunityFirstFoundation.org/grantmaking/mental-wellness/innovators.