Nonprofit Newswire | That’s Innovation—Funders Giving ‘i3’ Runners-Up Second Look

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September 27, 2010, 2010; Source: Education Week | How can foundations supplement federal programs? One way might be to fund applications of worthy organizations that fell short of success in their attempts to get competitive federal grant funding.

Remember the $650 million “Investing in Innovation” grant program of the Department of Education? Just less than 1,700 nonprofits and school districts applied for the money, 49 came out winners. That’s a lot of effort for the losing groups, but some foundations are working with DOE to create a registry for groups that lost out on “i3” moneys to make themselves available for support from private philanthropy.

The funders looking into the more than 700 groups that have posted their i3 applications on the registry include the Ford Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation. Apparently, the registry was originally set up to give the winning applicants a start in looking for matching funds (i3 requires a 20 percent private match).

Gates has already committed matching funds to some of the winners and plans to put money into some of the runners-up. DOE is apparently planning to do something similar for 100 of the stronger applicants for the Promise Neighborhoods program. While the foundations (and DOE) should be lauded for being willing to reward the hard work of nonprofits that fell short of tapping federal programs with limited funds, let’s hope foundations are equally interested in funding applicants to programs in HHS and HUD whose programs may not be highly touted “innovations” in the promotional language of the day, but whose grantees and almost-grantees are doing the bread-and-butter work of anti-poverty and community development programming that keeps families and communities from distress.—Rick Cohen