Jenica Tomdale, 720.898.5938

Community members vote in real time to give away $450,000 in grant dollars for mental wellness innovations

ARVADA, CO (June 5, 2018) – What happens when community members are given the power to invest in mental wellness solutions?

At The Innovators Society pitch competition on Tuesday, June 5, a community audience judged the value of six nonprofit innovations focused on reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. Real-time voting empowered audience members to wear the hat of a funder and award $450,000 in Community First Foundation grant dollars that would benefit their communities.

The pitch competition was the capstone event of The Innovators Society, a program of Community First Foundation. The program invests in promising, but not yet proven, nonprofit innovations to increase awareness and change perceptions of mental health by engaging a network of committed nonprofit innovators, community leaders and community investors.

“We are excited to be on the cutting edge of a groundswell of nonprofits and funders replicating the accelerator and pitch competition models statewide. 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,” said Noah Atencio, Vice President of Community Impact at Community First Foundation. “We are proud to see a true community network leveraging their support to power these amazing innovations.”

The following grants were awarded:

  • $89,850 to Apprentice of Peace, an organization that engages youth to normalize mental health stigmas through leadership, arts, wellness, skilled trades, and the Apprentice of Peace philosophy and principles. Their innovation includes expanded programming to additional schools in the Denver metropolitan area.
  • $110,050 to B.I.O.N.I.C., an organization that empowers young people to reach out to students facing challenging times so they know they are not alone. Their innovation includes a toolkit for participants and a plan to expand into several additional high schools and school districts.
  • $58,625 to My Quiet Cave, an organization that taps into the power of faith communities and empowers and equips congregations to give people tangible tools and skills, share stories, and experience their value together. Their innovation includes providing faith communities with tools, resources and stories to destigmatize mental illness and help people heal.
  • $55,875 to Open Labs, placing the people who experience brain conditions (or mental illness) in the driver seat. Their innovation is a “Workplace Experiment” that will implement a series of workplace interventions for employees experiencing mental health conditions.
  • $60,525 to Young Invincibles, an organization that trains and empowers young people who are committed to improving mental health care access, and ending stigma on college campuses. Their innovation is a plan to reduce stigma around mental health for students of color attending public colleges in the Denver metropolitan area.
  • $75,075 to YouthRoots, an organization that uses a youth-led civic engagement model to empower high school students to support mental health work and tackle stigma in their schools. Their innovative program, “RAISE” (Raising Awareness & Inhibiting Stigma Everywhere), will infuse existing leadership curriculum with a mental wellness focus to develop youth ambassadors to become agents of change around mental health awareness.

Justin Kruger, Founder of Project Helping and grand prize winner from The Innovators Society’s inaugural year, emceed the pitch competition. “This is by far the most innovative and inclusive approach to grant funding I’ve ever seen,” he said.

Half-way through the competition, high-school senior and Spoken Word artist Lily Padilla, with dancers from the Colorado Conservatory of Dance, performed a choreographed ballet about the stigma of mental wellness. There was not a dry eye in the house.

Now that the pitch competition is over, the innovators will spend the next six months in an accelerator program to develop a plan of action for their programs with the grant dollars they will receive. They will then present at a Grand Prize event in early 2019 where community members will invest one grand prize of $50,000 to the innovation of their choice.

About The Innovators Society
The Innovators Society, a program of Community First Foundation, invests in promising, but not yet proven, nonprofit innovations to increase awareness and change perceptions of mental health. At Community First Foundation, we power the innovators. More about the Innovators Society.

About Community First Foundation
Since 1975, Community First Foundation has been helping generous donors and innovative nonprofits come together to improve the quality of life and create positive change in Jefferson County, the Denver metropolitan area and beyond. We serve as a connector, partner, collaborator and resource to fuel the power of community for the greater good. We are proud to use our energy, leadership and trusted stewardship of financial resources to energize giving across our state, strengthen nonprofits, support donors and find new ways to address community needs. For more information, visit Community First Foundation.