By Karen Cadbury
Gloria Inés Aponte Clarke is Senior Program Officer at the Maine Community Foundation, a philanthropy headquartered in Ellsworth and Portland, with at-home staff offices around the state. As Senior Program Officer, she oversees several funds that offer nonprofit organizations grant money. Two grant programs—the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Fund and the Community Building Grant Program—are currently accepting requests for up to $10,000 from nonprofit organization in Maine. Deadlines are February 15, 2022. The programs recur annually.
Aponte C. said that no special training or knowledge is necessary to apply. “Each grant program has its own criteria for organizations to apply- for example one of the BIPOC Funds criteria is that there be BIPOC leadership. Once the criteria are met. There are only two requirements to apply: 1) An organization needs to have tax exempt status – called a 501 (C) (3) – or have a relationship with a financial sponsor that has the charitable exemption status. 2) Organizations must have at least three board members who are not related to the person applying for funds, or to the leadership of the organization.”
Q. What is the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Fund?
The BIPOC Fund originated in 2007 with a gift from the River Rock Foundation. Since then, the fund has awarded grants annually with the help and participation of community-based advisors. These advisors work in areas around the state to “…support organizations that are led by and serving people of Native American, Latino, African, Arab and/or Asian descent.” The goal of the BIPOC grants is for these organizations to achieve greater equity by investing in leadership, changing negative policies and practices, and supporting efforts to alleviate the impact of race-based discrimination and disparities.
“Organizations requesting grants need to have leadership who are Black, Indigenous, and /or people of color; and the nonprofit’s programs should be concerned with increasing racial equity. What makes this fund really wonderful is that BIPOC advisors from all over the state make the award decisions. We really believe that communities know best what types of approaches are needed,” said Aponte C.
She noted that previous recipient organizations do an exceptional job of meeting the goals of the fund. “For example, the New England Arab American organization is working on expanding services for a lot of different groups in Maine, providing health information for women and children. Wabanaki Public Health works with the Wabanaki Nations and does very profound work on different aspects of health and healing. And the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (MIRC) has done advocacy and policy work that has helped BIPOC organizations do the best work that they can.”
Q. What is the Community Building Grant Program?
The Community Building Grant Program provides grants of up to $10,000 for local projects and organizations that are focused on building strong communities and on strengthening local leaders, community resources, and community organizations.
“The Community Building Grant Program is one of the only grant programs in Maine that supports a broad range of projects and organizations, in areas such as the arts, education, environment, economic development, and human services. Community Building grants are awarded in specific geographic areas, so nonprofits apply to the grant program and tell us which county or counties they work with.County advisors from their respective communities review each application. Community Building grants are open to a diverse range of organizations working to build strong communities—arts organizations, environmental organizations, white-led, and BIPOC-led organizations,” said Aponte C.
When applicants go online at Maine Community Foundation’s website, they should hit the “Apply” button in the top right corner to get to the online application. Groups can apply for one or both grants. The Community Building Grant Program application form is now available in four languages.
Q: In September 2022, grant funds will be available for the Investing in Leaders of Color program. What is the goal of this program?
“One of the most important programs we’ve started is called Investing in Leaders of Color. It’s designed to provide coaching assistance to leaders of color in our communities. Our country was built on an inequitable system, and we need to address these inequities, perhaps in Maine especially. We heard from the leaders of color in our communities that a one-on-one coaching program would be most helpful to them. So now we offer 23 hours of coaching for each leader who participates. We pay the leaders and the coaches, and the leaders’ organizations get stipends of $3,500 to pay for things they might need, such as technology, software, or a workshop, or a class. We want to help these emerging leaders to do even more of the great work they are doing. The pairings between the emerging leaders and the coaches are amazing. I’ve worked to find coaches from around the country, really great people, who are super knowledgeable, kind, compassionate, and smart. The leaders and the coaches develop connections that are really special and supportive.”
Q: What if a nonprofit organization needs help or has a question about applying for a grant?
“First of all – if you are considering applying, please go ahead, even if you’ve never written a grant application before. If you have a great idea, we want to fund great ideas; we are not looking for perfectly written proposals. We are looking for really good ideas that are going to make a difference to people’s lives in Maine. Start with the website – there is a lot of information there, including a couple of pre recorded webinars that describe how to apply. And if you still have a question, definitely reach out to a staff person. For BIPOC grants, please contact me: Gloria Inés Aponte C. at [email protected]rg. The Community Building Grant Program has a different person in each county and you can locate these contacts by going to this website (https://www.mainecf.org/apply-for-a-grant/available-grants-deadlines/community-building-grants/) or calling the MCF office. Also, if applicants have questions about their projects, our staff can discuss their ideas with them, and help them figure out if the program they are proposing meets the grant fund’s criteria. We hope the application process takes applicants only a couple of hours. People are more than welcome to call.
Q: What experiences prepared you for the work at the Maine Community Foundation (MaineCF)?
“I am from Colombia, and I’ve been here for 21 years. I love Maine; it’s a special place. Before I worked at MaineCF, I was employed in public health, looking at different nutrition programs for women and children. That is where I learned how to work with communities for lasting change, community investment, and on healing that really helps communities. In Maine, I also worked with the State of Maine on a $33 million grant to help develop a statewide innovative model to improve healthcare in Maine. Now, I’m focusing on the BIPOC Fund, and other funds, and I’m pleased that MaineCF is able to help organizations that are operated by BIPOC people.”