Neighborhood Assist program offering Philly nonprofits a grant to effect change in their community

Last year, Neighborhood Bike Works received a grant from State Farm that went to developing their youth programs. | Photo via neighborhoodbikeworks.orgIn an inventive effort to discover just where and how their customers want their company to lend philanthropic support, last year State Farm Insurance launched the community outreach initiative, “Cause An Effect.” The program asked community groups to propose an idea for bettering their neighborhood then, apply for a $25,000 to make it happen. If State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board chose the idea as one of the top 200, the group was then responsible for rallying to get the most “votes” possible via social media. The top 40 received grants.

The program was so successful that it’s back this year as the “Neighborhood Assist” program. “Our focus is on effecting change in the community through direct engagement, eliminating the barrier of turfs and neighborhoods and bringing resources together,” says Dave Phillips, the regional State Farm spokesman. As was seen last year, even the groups that didn’t win the challenge were able to seize the opportunity to make their causes known.

In Philadelphia, Neighborhood Bike Works and the West Philly Tool Library both won last year, chosen from thousands of causes from the U.S. and Canada. “Getting $25,000 was huge [for funding our youth programs]. And, we rode so much momentum with the community support that earned us that money,” says Erin DeCou, executive director at the Bike Works. “What the social media campaign showed us was that the community is always behind us, and then when we really needed them they were willing to step up, even in a seemingly small way like voting for us on Facebook.”

Applications for this year’s challenge are due March 6, and unlike typical grant applications, this one doesn’t require a lot of tedious paperwork. “We are encouraging even more groups in Philadelphia to participate this year,” says Phillips, “because of the strong, unique synergy of the city.”

To apply, visit the Neighborhood Assist website.

COURTNEY SEXTON recently completed her graduate degree in nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She's a "Jersey girl" living in Philadelphia, but is just as likely to be found anywhere else on the East Coast.