Inclusiveness Project Makes Grants to Form New Learning Communities

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The Denver Foundation's Inclusiveness Project, with funding from The Ford Foundation, recently (March 2010) awarded grants to the following ten Metro Denver nonprofits to build inclusiveness within their organizations: FrontRange Earth Force; Environmental Learning for Kids; The GLBT Center; The Conflict Center; Boulder County AIDS Project; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado; Center for Work Education and Employment; El Centro Su Teatro; Denver Children's Advocacy Center; and Denver Kids, Inc.

Each organization will receive a $14,000 two-year grant and they provide a $3,000 annual match. As a criteria of receiving the grant each organization must articulate its commitment to inclusiveness, partake in inclusiveness/diversity training, complete an organizational assessment, create concrete institutional goals, and develop a specific plan to accomplish those goals. In addition, OMNI Institute will evaluate their ongoing progress. The Foundation has developed a workbook, "Inclusiveness at Work," (available to any interested nonprofit) and will provide technical assistance to guide organizations through its components.

This is the second round of grants awarded by the Inclusiveness Project (formerly the Expanding Nonprofit Inclusiveness Project). The first round of grants was awarded in 2006 to twelve Metro Denver organizations to form a learning community. These past grantees found the experience of such value that they have continued to meet, now as the "Inclusiveness Collaborative," even though the grant period has ended. Many members, including Mike Johnson of Project Pave, Lori Cohn of Rocky Mountain Youth, and Nicole Todd of cityWILD, say they are eager to share their lessons learned with the new group.

"It is exciting to have the opportunity to continue to build a cadre of organizations that are learning from each other," stated Lauren Casteel, Vice President of Philanthropic Partnerships at The Denver Foundation. "The mutual exchange of ideas and experiences helps to strengthen the individual organizations as well as the sector."

Denver Kids Inc. President and CEO Glenna Norvelle said that while their educational and life skills programs has a long history of successfully supporting children and youth, they recognize the important role of inclusiveness in their future success. "Our goal in being part of the Inclusiveness Project is that every child, parent, staff, board member, contributor and volunteer involved with Denver Kids, Inc. will have an experience of contributing their own unique skills and gifts resulting in a rich diversity that will allow us to serve our children and families better," she stated.

"We are delighted to receive the support of The Denver Foundation," stated Tanya Mote, Development Director for El Centro Su Teatro. "Our mission is to create quality performances and make them accessible to our community. But we have come to realize that it is not enough to just be accessible to the Chicano population, we must reach a broader group of people, including other communities of color. We are excited to combine the tools provided by the Inclusiveness Project with our tried and true community building practices to reach a greater audience."

Research on the first round of grantee organizations from OMNI Institute, a Denver-based evaluation firm, revealed that nonprofit organizations are achieving outstanding results through their efforts to become more inclusive of people from diverse communities. Organizations report that they are able to provide more effective client services and have established more positive work environments.

The recent economic high tide has left many nonprofit organizations struggling to keep their heads above the water, underscoring the fact that those who will best ride the wave are those that apply the most sound business practices. While many nonprofit organizations acknowledge inclusiveness as an optimal practice in accomplishing their missions, many lack the resources, tools and relationships to connect with communities of color beyond providing services to clients. The Inclusiveness Project is pleased to be able to support more organizations in doing the important work of inclusiveness.

Adrienne Mansanares, the Program Officer of the Foundation's Inclusiveness Project, spoke to the ways in which the increased effectiveness of the organizations will be measured: "We are excited to expand our research to deepen our understanding of the impact of inclusive practices on nonprofits. This research is unique in the field," she stated.


View YouTube video of Stacie Gilmore of Environmental Learning for Kids on inclusiveness for IP