CFInfo: June 2015

CFinfo provides quick updates on initiatives and grants, reminds you of upcoming events as well as news about philanthropy at its best in the region.  We hope you find this issue informative and welcome any feedback you would like to share with us.

Accelerating Innovation and Supporting Entrepreneurs
VVM-6-2015-smallLast October the Community Foundation announced the launch of a new Innovation Grant Program. Our first Innovation grantee, Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) will receive an award of $100,000 annually for three years to create the region’s first Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program, an intensive four-month training program designed to help start-ups build their businesses through mentoring and peer support. This year’s inaugural program just wrapped up on April 30 with the Accelerator Awards, and was co-sponsored by MassMutual, the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and the Community Foundation.

VVM had 120 applicants to the program from all over the world, and narrowed that down to 30 who were selected to participate. Participating start-ups spent one long weekend each month for the four months in the intensive program. Most participants were based in Western Massachusetts, with multiple start-ups based in Springfield, Westfield, and Northampton.

At the Accelerator Awards, VVM presented a total of almost $300,000 in awards to the 29 finalists and semi-finalists, ranging from $2,000 for each of 17 semi-finalists up to $35,000 for first place winner Olive Natural Beauty, based in Easthampton.

Participating start-ups reported fast growth and forward momentum in their businesses, with $1 million raised by the entrepreneurs during the four-month program. VVM Executive Director Paul Silva anticipates that VVM will ramp up to be able to help more than 100 start-ups per year. You can participate by going to a VVM meeting, which are held on the second Wednesday of the month in Springfield at Tower Square in the VVM space on Street Level from 5-7:30 p.m.

Construction Begins on “Living Building”

Groundbreaking-HitchcockCtr The Hitchcock Center for the Environment, the Amherst-based environmental education nonprofit, held a groundbreaking ceremony on May 1 as construction officially began on its new, state-of-the-art facility.

The Community Foundation was one of many funders and supporters of the project, having provided a $50,000 grant last year in support of the design phase of the project. The 9,000 square-foot building more than doubles the current capacity and will meet the stringent requirements of a “living building.” Those standards include providing 100% of its own energy through renewable sources, providing 100% of its water through a rainwater capture and filtration system, using all nontoxic materials and sourcing its building materials locally, among other requirements.

The ambitious project has been in the works for several years, and at this point, the organization is a little over a million dollars from its total fundraising goal of $5.8 million. Construction should be completed within 14 months and it will be one of fewer than 10 buildings in the world that meet these high standards of environmental sustainability.

The unique features of the building will serve as exhibits and educational tools for the community, as visitors will be able to learn about water cycles, energy cycles and how this construction is creating sustainable systems.

Julie Johnson, Executive Director for the Hitchcock Center has been gratified to see the project reach this important milestone, “We are very excited about being a place for hope when we are faced with so many environmental challenges. I see this as a beacon of hope and change as well as an investment in our long-term future. We couldn’t have done it without the support of many organizations and individuals both within the local community and beyond.”

Steve Wozniak Comes to Springfield

woz-smallThe Community Foundation recently partnered with the Springfield Public Forum as one of several sponsors for the much-talked-about appearance of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak at the MassMutual Center in Springfield on May 1st.

The opportunity to bring Wozniak to Springfield for the event was a lucky break for the Springfield Public Forum, as he had some time between speaking engagements in Boston and Buffalo. Thanks to all the sponsors who stepped up, the opportunity became a reality. Like all the events put on by the Forum, it was free and open to the public.

“The event brought a lot of energy to downtown Springfield, which was great to see,” said Public Forum Executive Director Michelle Morash. “We were thrilled to be able to provide a free event that appealed to a diverse audience, as we had many first-time visitors to the forum that night, even as we, as an organization, celebrate 80 years in the community.”

Having contributed immeasurably to the advances in computer technology that are now so ubiquitous, Wozniak spoke about his early days at Apple and his ongoing fascination with technology, undoubtedly inspiring the audience to learn, to create, and to take a chance on their own dreams.

Forum Brings Innovative Ideas to Light
GreeningGreenfield.jpegLast year the Foundation awarded a $3,500 grant in support of Greening Greenfield’s most recent bi-annual forum. The third in a series of day-long forums, this year’s topic was exploring new approaches to creating a more sustainable local economy.

The event was very well-attended with 175 people from 22 Pioneer Valley towns coming together to discuss new ideas and figure out ways to work together. Given a stated goal for the day of generating new ideas and connecting people who could work together in support of the local economy, the forum was a tremendous success, as a long list of possibilities is now being further explored by attendees.

Among the innovations being considered are a new investment fund for small businesses at the Franklin County CDC, a community-based commercial laundry worker cooperative for people with barriers to employment and low-income workers, and an inventory of Franklin County businesses looking for succession owners.

Participants rated the event very well, with 80% of survey respondents saying they encountered a new idea and 79% saying they plan to follow through on the new concepts.

What Do you Want your Legacy to Be ?
The Foundation’s Legacy Society is made up of generous families and individuals who have a named fund, or an existing fund, at the Community Foundation as a beneficiary of their estate plans. There are currently more than 80 members of the Legacy Society. These people have made any of the following arrangements:

  • Bequest provision in a will
  • Charitable remainder trust
  • Charitable lead trust
  • Charitable gift annuity
  • Designation as beneficiary of qualified retirement plan assets
  • Gift of a life insurance policy

If you have made similar arrangements and would like to be recognized as a member of the Legacy Society, or want to learn more, please contact a member of our Philanthropic Services team.

Kristin Leutz, VP Philanthropic Services

Jenny Papageorge, Director of Development

Thank you for your interest in the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. If you would like to learn more please join our mailing list.