Last night I dropped by the launch party for Awesome Portland, a microfunding organization that doles out $1,000 "minigrants" to deserving projects—no strings attached. The organization, which has branches worldwide but just launched locally, asks its trustees to contribute $100 every other month; they then choose five finalists from a pool of applicants, and the finalists pitch their projects in front of a crowd full of supporters and judges.
Last night's presentations ranged from charming-but-I-wouldn't-give-you-money ("Goatlandia," a goat-raising enterprise in Northeast Portland) to charming-but-of-dubious-community-benefit (a bike-powered screen printing operation) to totally earnest and worthy (a plan to help Iraqi refugees build and develop food carts). Some of the presenters struggled to connect with the audience in explaining how, exactly, they would use the funds if they won; the winning project, Schoolyard Farms*, laid out a clear description of their organic farm/school garden project, and explained what specifically the funds would go toward (providing scholarships to low-income kids to attend a garden-based summer camp). I think that clarity and specificity went a long way toward impressing the judges—something to keep in mind if you're planning to apply for one of Awesome Portland's grants in the future.
The deadline for the next round of applications is July 5, and you can learn more right here. They are also looking for a few more trustees, if you've got an extra $600 a year and some time on your hands, and want to spend it supporting innovative projects in your community.
*conflict of interest alert! This is my roommate's farm, and I was pulling for her.