By Diana Nelson Jones / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In its first grant process since changing its name and adjusting its mission, Neighborhood Allies received 98 funding requests and began interviewing 22 finalists last week.
It was a robust response “beyond our expectation,” said Talia Piazza, program manager of the nonprofit, formerly the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development. As Neighborhood Allies, the board restructured the mission last year in an effort to streamline and increase impact with the same amount of money.
Allies put out the call for “idea papers” late in the summer and began reviewing them last week. Ten to 15 will be rewarded with grants from $25,000 to $75,000 by the end of the year.
These catalytic grants are intended for projects that come out of six target neighborhoods or for projects that can be replicated in addressing issues such as education, transportation, the environment and public health. The six target neighborhoods are Larimer, Homewood, the Hill District, a cluster of southern neighborhoods dubbed the Hilltop and the boroughs of Millvale and Wilkinsburg.
“Far too many neighborhoods haven’t been able to share in Pittsburgh’s comeback,” said Allies president Presley Gillespie.
The thinking behind the idea papers was to encourage people who don’t have experience submitting formal grant requests. A bare-bones sketch is enough to give Allies staff a sense of whom to call in for a more elaborate presentation.
Ms. Piazza said the idea papers came from “groups all across the city and outside the city, a diverse group” organizations, residents and nonprofits.
The proposals dealt with stormwater mitigation, signage, access to healthy food, entrepreneurship, workforce development, transit stop safety, accessibility, technology, economic mobility and staff support.
During the summer Allies staff visited the six target neighborhoods.
Ms. Piazza said a strategy is to “track the impact of our investments by collecting people’s stories.”
Mr. Gillespie said Neighborhood Allies is encouraging “collaborations across neighborhoods and with multi-stakeholders. Our mission is to help broker other financing, to seed ideas that are too risky for the banks and to be a resource of data and research so you can make better decisions about the market and to measure your progress.
“We want projects that we can learn from, too, to share with other leaders and community groups. We also want to bring uncommon partners together to create a new culture of problem solving.”
Diana Nelson Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1626.