Thursday, January 28, 2010

Opportunity Spotlight: Social Innovation Fund

The investment of federal dollars through the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) is an enormous opportunity to have an impact on low-income communities throughout the United States. The SIF is designed to promote promising innovative practices in non-profits to help them muster evidence of what works and build their scale and capacity to address challenges facing low-income families. The SIF focuses on one of three areas: 1) increasing economic security; 2) preparing youth for success in school, active citizenship, productive work, and healthy and safe lives; and 3) promoting healthy lifestyles and reducing risk factors that can lead to illness. In 2009, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) released their draft Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the SIF. CNC expects to have up to $50million to make approximate awards of $5million to $10million to approximately five to seven intermediary organizations.

Much attention has been focused on the eligibility requirements for these funds. SIF funds will be awarded to a small number of national intermediaries (or eligible partnerships) that must sub-grant to non-profit community organizations. Both the intermediaries and sub-grantees would be required to match the federal funds they receive (dollar for dollar, in cash). The selected intermediaries will have to demonstrate a history of running competitive grant processes and monitoring the success of sub-grantees as well as the ability to support sub-grantees in fundraising, tracking impact, and capacity-building.

While the requirements for accessing funds are rigorous, selection as an intermediary or sub-grantee presents the opportunity to build important strategic partnerships to advance innovative, promising programs and approaches on a national scale. Raising match funding at both the intermediary and sub-grantee level will necessitate creative partnerships between private funders, local and state governments, and other key players to maximize resources. Sub-grantees would have the opportunity to promote and scale their local innovations while receiving necessary technical assistance and capacity-building support.

The final notice for the SIF is expected to be released in February. More information about the SIF can be accessed here.

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