Thrive Cohort Engages Emerging Nonprofit Leaders

Published: April 8, 2021 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

For the past few years, the Community Foundation has been actively discussing new ways to support emerging nonprofit organizations. Long-term success in the nonprofit world can be difficult to achieve, and the rate of failure is high.

At the same time, the Community Foundation has also been looking for ways to build racial equity through its work to support nonprofits. Within the challenges of 2020, an opportunity to combine the two efforts emerged.

As our community dealt with the pandemic, social unrest, and the derecho, a number of grassroots groups were working to meet needs and provide opportunities. The Community Foundation is partnering with emerging Black and Brown leaders through a new cohort called Thrive.

“By supporting these leaders and amplifying their voices, we feel the community will see innovative solutions that include and respect those being served,” said Rachel Rockwell, SET Program Officer. “We’re very excited about the work they are doing.”

The five Thrive cohort members, along with Foundation staff, will participate in group learning activities over the next two years to strengthen nonprofit leadership skills and explore organizational best practices. In addition to monthly meetings and individual conversations, each organization will also receive a $2,500 grant quarterly.


The participants include:

Mugisha Bwenge, immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo and founder of United We March Forward, whose mission is to provide hope through education, encouragement, and empowerment to families and communities.



Keeyon Carter, co-founder, President, and Lead Pastor at Wellington Heights Community Church, a multicultural community joining God in the reconciliation of all things through worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development.



Leslie Neely, volunteer and co-founder of Advocates for Social Justice. The organization’s mission is to create social, political, and environmental change within the Cedar Rapids community, prioritizing the objectives of the #BLM movement.



Jorel Robinson, volunteer and co-founder of Big Bang Foundation, and a Cedar Rapids native.  The mission of the organization is to connect with local youth and help motivate and inspire as many as they can to care for themselves, their community, and to aspire to be their best self.



Bridgette Williams-Robinson, founder of Bridge Under the Bridge, who began providing daily hot meals to anyone in need following the derecho. The organization believes that choosing between feeding your family and paying a bill should never be a choice you need to make.

Visit the Nonprofit Giving Center and the Nonprofit Calendar to search for a nonprofit fund, organization, cause, or event to support.