Doin’ It For Detroit
Applications now open for social action micro-grants.
It’s time to start giving away the money raised at last year’s Pitch for Detroit softball fundraiser for the Do It For Detroit Fund (Di4D), and Josh Kanter, manager of the fund who works in the NEXTGen Detroit Department at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, couldn’t be more excited.
“We’re really breaking the mold here,” he says. “The Jewish community has a vested interest in the city of Detroit, and we believe that Di4D will engage young adult Jewish professionals in the city in a meaningful way.”
Di4D provides micro-grants, ranging from $500-$3,000, to support grassroots initiatives aimed at promoting positive social change in Detroit (including Highland Park and Hamtramck) and is administered by partners CommunityNEXT (a Federation initiative) and the national Jewish service organization Repair the World.
The fund now has opened applications for its first round of micro-funding on its newly launched website, www.doitfordetroit.com. The first grants will be awarded in the realm of education. Kanter says they’re hoping to get a broad range of applications from within and outside of the Jewish community.
The grant application is accessible to all individuals, groups and organizations without discrimination. Key to the Di4D Fund criteria, each initiative must actively and meaningfully engage the general community in service through its efforts. Initiatives must be initiated in the 12 months following the distribution of funds. Deadline for applications is 5 p.m. Jan. 18.
All applications will be reviewed by a committee comprised of community stakeholders, including Kanter; Ryan Landau and Aaron Scheinfield, both NEXTGen Detroit board members; Amy Brody, 2013 Pitch for Detroit chair; Mike Wilson of Detroit’s Woodbridge Community Youth Center; and Ben Falik, manager of Detroit service initiatives for Repair The World.
“It is very accessible to apply,” says Falik. “If you know someone who is doing something worthwhile, you should encourage them to fill out an application, which can be done in one sitting. It’s not onerous at all.”
Adds Kanter: “Whether you are a longtime teacher in a Detroit school, a neighborhood group working on an education project, or anywhere in between, we welcome you to apply.” He said he envisions applications for after-school reading programs, neighborhood early childhood education programs, Teach for America students, “even mitzvah projects from young people, who can apply through their parents,” he says. Applicants must be at least 18 years old.
The committee will choose three projects to present to the community, which will get a chance to vote for the winner at Di4D’s inaugural event on Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Woodbridge Community Youth Center, 1200 W. Canfield St. in Detroit.
In similar style to Detroit SOUP, where entrepreneurs present ideas to the attendees who then vote for their favorite to get funding, the three applicants will present their initiatives at the event in person. The audience will then, democratically, select the winner of the $3,000 award. Second place will get $1,000; and third place will receive $500. The Do It For Detroit website will provide a venue for the grantees to share their progress and recruit volunteers for their initiatives.
According to Falik, initiatives that already have assets, including roots, volunteers and partners, are most likely to get the nod to present on Feb. 9. “We’re looking for ideas in which funding is only a slice of the pie that will activate the assets already on hand,” he says. “It’s ideal for block clubs and community groups whose efforts will target a specific neighborhood or school.”
Kanter said there is no admission fee for community members who wish to attend the Feb. 9 event, although the fund is encouraging optional donations of school supplies and books to benefit Woodbridge.
He is hoping for a big turnout of young people from the Detroit Jewish community, who raised nearly $65,000 at Pitch for Detroit last August for the effort. “They raised the money, and now they can help to choose who benefits,” he said.
According to Falik, “This is a great model and an exciting way for us to allocate modest — yet important — amounts of money in a process that engages and empowers a lot of people.”
Di4D will continue in the coming months by offering funding for initiatives around hunger, arts, health and nutrition, and the environment. Following the February event, Di4D will partner with Berkley-based kosher food bank Yad Ezra to begin taking applications for social action initiatives focused on hunger.
“The Do it For Detroit Fund will be yet another launch pad to engage young Jewish professionals in our community by giving them the opportunity and support in the form of micro-grants to promote their initiatives. Young professionals who do not have the guidance or financial support to engage in positive change in Detroit need to know that the Jewish community supports them and is their biggest cheerleader,” says committee member Aaron Scheinfield.
Adds Falik: “The goal of Di4D is not only to fund worthwhile projects, but also to attract new people who can act as stakeholders and volunteers in all of these initiatives. But for now, mark your calendar for Feb. 9 and spread the word. It’s going to be a smash!”
For more information or to apply, visit www.doitfordetroit.com.
By Jackie Headapohl, Managing Editor