For more than 40 years, the Community Foundation has been working closely with donors, local leaders, and nonprofit organizations to address challenges and opportunities important to our community. We are a planner, convener and catalyst for community solutions that have lasting impact. We leverage our resources with others to support crucial community initiatives and create effective change.
A cornerstone of our philanthropy is the ability to respond to ever-changing community needs and opportunities. Through the Community Endowment Fund, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation can address emerging needs as they arise and invest in opportunities that strengthen Linn County.
Community Endowment Fund
Each year, the Community Endowment Fund awards over $1 million in grants to sustain effective programming, and help organizations innovate and build the capacity they need to be effective and efficient into the future.
The Community Endowment Fund provides an opportunity for all who love the greater Cedar Rapids area to invest in our shared future. The Community Foundation determines the greatest needs and opportunities through its competitive grant programs. Through this endowed fund, we are able to address our community’s most important initiatives and needs for generations to come.
MICRO Loan Program
In 2015, the Community Foundation was involved in convening several organizations and private donors to develop a micro loan program to assist Cedar Rapids businesses with expenses related to start-up or expansions. The program, MICRO, is a City of Cedar Rapids program, administered by the East Central Iowa Council of Governments, to assist start-up businesses in the Cedar Rapids city limits. The program offers loans ranging from $1,000-$10,000, to be paid off in up to three years at four percent interest. Other partners include: Cedar Rapids Public Library, SCORE, and the SBA Small Business Development Center. For more information about MICRO, including a brochure and application, go to http://www.ecicog.org/micro.html.
The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation is engaged in efforts to stabilize the lives of children and families throughout the metro area. This work started after the flood of 2008, when the Community Foundation helped rebuild neighborhoods to ensure that children grew up in healthy, connected communities. Our current efforts focus on helping children succeed in school, particularly as it relates to reading proficiency.
Reading into Success
A national campaign known as The Campaign for Grade Level Reading is helping to address the impact that reading proficiency by third grade has on the long-term success of students. The Campaign includes a network of over 240 communities that are working on local level initiatives to increase children’s proficiency to help them succeed in school and beyond.
In response to the growing concern about grade level reading, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation joined with United Way of East Central Iowa, Cedar Rapids area schools, municipalities, businesses and nonprofit partners to launch a collaborative community initiative to increase the number of children reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Reading into Success is a vehicle to learn from one another, identify opportunities, and develop a community-wide system that leads to reading success for all children.
Reading into Success hinges on the belief that schools alone cannot be held accountable for the success of students, and that community can impact academic outcomes. The initiative focuses on five key areas: ensuring that children are prepared for kindergarten, increasing student attendance so that they are present to learn, strengthening summer learning opportunities, emphasizing every day reading in homes and classrooms, and improving the hope and well-being of children and their families.
Reading into Success was launched in March 2015. Individuals from more than 50 organizations developed a Community Solution Action Plan which was submitted to the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading in November 2015. In March 2016, Reading into Success was notified that is was approved as a National Campaign for Grade Level Reading community.
The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation is proud to be a partner and member of the Reading into Success initiative. We look forward to continuing to provide support and leadership on this critical community issue.
For more information about Reading into Success or to find out how you can get involved, visit www.readingintosuccess.org.
Kids on Course University Expansion
Kids on Course began as a collaborative effort between the Cedar Rapids Community School District, United Way of East Central Iowa and the Zach Johnson Foundation. Based at three elementary schools in Cedar Rapids, the program provides year-long support and offers students who aren’t meeting grade level benchmarks with a free summer learning opportunity.
Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation fund holders, Brent and Dawn Cobb, developed an interest in the summer learning portion of that program, and wanted to see if the “summer university” could improve students’ academic success at schools that were not able to fully implement the Kids on Course curriculum.
The Cobb’s passion for education prompted them to begin discussions with Kids on Course, the Cedar Rapids Community School District and, this time, the Community Foundation, to explore what they could do to test the replicability of the Kids on Course summer program model. Through the Community Foundation’s Community Investment Fund – and other Community Foundation donor-advised fund holders, Loren and Patti Coppock – the pilot project was implemented for the Summer of 2015. 76 percent of those students who attended the Kids on Course University reversed, reduced or eliminated their summer slide, and 46 percent grew their skills.
These results were impressive enough to support a federal grant request to help fund the expansion of Kids on Course to all 15 of the schools in Cedar Rapids that receive federal funding under Title I. In April 2016, the school district won a three-year matching grant of $675,000 from the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative.
The Community Foundation also stepped in after the award of this grant to help cover a $105,000 shortfall in commitments for philanthropic funding to match this grant. The Community Foundation hosted a Philanthropy Roundtable, which provided donors who had expressed a philanthropic interest in children and education the opportunity to learn more about the importance of reading proficiency and the Kids on Course Summer University program expansion effort in the community. The Community Foundation encouraged donors to consider supporting a Kids on Course University school site for the upcoming summer. Within days of the Roundtable event, all 15 schools received funding commitments from private donors.
This project is an example of how donor passions, interests and ideas and Community Foundation resources can drive charitable giving in innovative ways.
Iowa’s Creative Corridor began a planning process in February 2016 called Regional Vision Rising. It is a comprehensive, inclusive and forward-seeking effort to build regional consensus on the future of the Creative Corridor.
At the end of the effort, the Creative Corridor will have a roadmap to guide the area’s path to short and long-term economic growth.
The process includes:
- Phase 1: Stakeholder Input
- Phase 2: Regional Assessment – Available here.
- Phase 3: Economic Analysis
- Phase 4: Regional Vision Strategy
- Phase 5: Implementation Plan
Regional Vision Rising is supported through resources from the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Corridor Alliance, East Central Iowa Council of Governments, Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, Iowa City Area Development Group, Kirkwood Community College, Marion Chamber of Commerce, MEDCO, MedQuarter, University of Iowa and United Way of East Central Iowa.
For more information, visit http://www.creativecorridor.co/vision/.
In the wake of the 2008 flood, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation experienced first-hand the role that philanthropy can play in recovering and rebuilding a community after a disaster. Community foundations frequently engage as philanthropic centers for disaster recovery because of their unique ability to bring together service providers, community-based organizations, businesses, government, and others, as well as their capacity to efficiently pool and distribute funds from donors.
Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency, and Emergency Partnership
The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation is an active participant in the Philanthropic Preparedness, Resiliency, and Emergency Partnership. PPREP is a learning group designed to support community foundations and equip them with the tools and knowledge they need to serve their communities for disaster preparedness, resiliency and long-term recovery.
National Academy of Science: Resilient America Roundtable
Cedar Rapids is one of four pilot communities selected by the National Academy of Science in a research-based effort to research and develop community-based strategies of resilience. The Community Foundation is participating in the local implementation of the Resilient America Roundtable. The Roundtable and its programs aim to help the nation build resilience to extreme events so that more lives are saved and so that the physical and economic costs of disasters can be decreased and better managed.
Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster
The Community Foundation will continues to work with the Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster, a collaborative local disaster response network, to maximize community coordination. The Community Foundation joined LAP-AID when it was created following the 2008 flood. For more information, see http://www.linndisasterinfo.com/.