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Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation changes grant program

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Officials from the state's largest community foundation hope changes to its grant program will improve the quality of life for the people it supports across the region.

The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation is changing its grant program to focus on seven forms of community wealth -- intellectual, individual, social, natural, built (or infrastructure), political and financial.

"In the past, we've looked at each of the nonprofit partners and the programs they've done," said Becky Ceperley, president and CEO of the foundation. "With this new look at community wealth, we'll look at all of the nonprofits and how they impact the measurements of wealth."

The foundation held a training seminar Wednesday at the West Virginia Housing Development Fund's office in Kanawha City.

The Ford Foundation's Wealth Creation Strategies is the focus of the new approach, and it will guide the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation as it tracks what forms of wealth are being funded and which are not.

The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation is one of the first in the country to use the seven forms of wealth in its grant application, Ceperley said. Ceperley learned of the funding method through the Appalachian Funders Network, an organization for which she serves as steering committee member. The Ford Foundation provided resources and knowledge to help the foundation implement the new grant application process, she said.

"We're excited to be able to work with nonprofit organizations in helping to contribute to the quality of life of the families in our community," Ceperley said.

The new grant application process was the focus of the training session Wednesday that brought together representatives from 80 nonprofit organizations in Kanawha, Putnam, Boone, Lincoln, Fayette and Clay counties.

This year, nonprofits that seek funding from GKVF will have to outline on a grant application what forms of community wealth their projects will impact.

Thomas Watson, founder and executive director of the Asheville, N.C.-based Rural Support Partners, explained to attendees that the new grant application process represented a shift in thinking from giving away money to investing in social change.

He likened the new process to buying stocks and then checking to see if you have gained money in the stock market.

The new grant application will focus on how much work nonprofit organizations do, how well they do that work and what change will occur because of the work, Watson said.

Deb Weinstein, executive director of the YWCA of Charleston, said the new grant application process makes nonprofit officials think outside of the box about their programs. That's a good thing, she said.

"I actually love it that it isn't just about giving out money," Weinstein said. "If they can begin to show that most of their dollars are staying [with] the community and making the community better, then the community is likely to be more willing to donate money."

Gazette reporter Kate Long contributed to this report. Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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