RIVER FALLS– The River Falls Community Foundation is offering a grant for up to $10,000 for anyone who has a project to improve the city. The grant competition is known as “The Big Idea”. The applicant must be a nonprofit organization, educational or religious institution to be considered for the grant.
The goal of the project is to present an innovative idea that can enhance the quality of life Board Member Cindy Kleven said. “It needs to be big enough to touch a large number of people, it should elevate the community,” Kleven said. The River Falls Community Foundation works with the St. Croix Valley Foundation to create the grant competition Kleven said.
Ellen Montgomery works with the St. Croix Valley Foundation. She said having $10,000 for the grant is more than what they had in the past. “We used to give out less than $2,500 because that’s all we had,” Montgomery said. “Now we have endowed funding where the community with the capacity to give back can.”
The money is obtained through local donations. Montgomery said the money has always been obtained locally making the project entirely community driven. Montgomery said other communities have projects similar to the Big Idea. River Falls is unique because of its size, the community input and the money available Montgomery said.
The Big Idea is in its 5th year Kleven said. One winner of the grant was the River Falls Public Library who used the money to open a “Big Fun Lab” indoor place space for babies and tweens. Another winner was Adoray’s Treasures From the Heart thrift store, which received significant funding to establish a sewing workroom for repurposing, rebranding, and selling textile goods from materials previously slated for landfills.
Montgomery said there has been diversity among the grant winners in the past. She said this shows no single theme can win the grant. Kleven said there is no correct way to win the grant. She said the competition is “wide open” and usually ideas are already drafted but just need funding. “There is a passion for these projects. It’s cool to see what people can come up with,” Kleven said.
Submissions for the Big Idea grant opened in early May Kleven said. She said applying for the grant is easy. Applicants need a project description and its goals. Once the application is submitted the River Falls Community Foundation grants committee reviews submissions before selecting the top two proposals. Then the board makes its final selection. Kleven said the board receives about eight to ten submissions every year.
Kleven said rejected projects that are not selected still get attention. She said donor families are informed of the rejected projects to gauge interest in future funding from the family. Kleven added smaller level projects can also receive funding if the board views the project as a worthwhile investment. “Just because your project was not selected does not mean the door has closed,” Kleven said.
Applications can be submitted online through the River Falls Community Foundation website. The application deadline for the Big Idea grant is August 2.