Creative Loafing contributor Kia O. Moore was one of two winners of the Knight Foundation's Emerging City Champions program in Charlotte. With the $5,000 grant she received, Moore started Hip Hop Orchestrated to blend hip-hop culture with orchestral-music culture in ways that will engage young people in the arts in Charlotte. In this blog post, Moore shares some tips she got from the Knight Foundation's program director, Charles Thomas, on how others can work with grants programs to make their good ideas about community engagement come to fruition.
Have you ever flirted with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur? How about starting a nonprofit? If yes, then there may be an Emerging City Champion in you.
The Emerging City Champions is a fellowship program for young civic innovators who have transformative ideas. You provide the vision, drive and determination, and the ECC provides the guidance and funding to get you started. It's open to anyone between the ages of 19 and 35 with an innovative idea focused on at least one of the following elements associated with a livable community: enhancing civic engagement, improving mobility or activating public life in public spaces.
The ECC is looking for diverse voices with enough passion, talent and commitment to improve their neighborhoods or communities in one of the 26 cities in which the Knight Foundation invests. Charlotte is one of those cities. If you are interested in applying, the deadline to submit your idea is Wednesday, April 26. Head to the ECC website
where you can learn more and gain access to the application.
Whether or not you win an ECC fellowship, or if you are over the age of 35 and don't qualify, your idea to help improve Charlotte still needs to be heard. Lots of Charlotte-area businesses have strong community engagement departments looking to provide funds to social entrepreneurs. Also, many nonprofits are looking for partnerships with people who have innovative ideas for social improvement. Through strong community partnerships and a little cash, you can find ways to make your idea happen. But once you take the leap into the social entrepreneurial life, you will need a few business hacks to help you along the way.
Charles Thomas, the Knight Foundation's program director in Charlotte, recently helped me come up with eight social entrepreneurial business hacks that I would like to pass along to you as you work to scale your positive impact in the Queen City.
1) Own your vision. Hone your talent. Delegate the rest.
You don’t have to know how to do everything to run your own social venture. If you have the vision and you can master several aspects of making it work, you then pull in other people who have the skills you lack.
2) Trust in your light.
When you find your light ⏤ your life’s purpose ⏤ you can no longer question it. You cannot let others redirect, dim or steal your light from you. You must trust yourself and the process of learning and growing as a social entrepreneur.
3) Introverted networking works just as well as extroverted networking.
Going to a networking event does not always mean you have to attempt to meet everyone in the room. Sometimes those funders, partners, mentors and clients just need to see your face in places all around town. Just seeing your face over and over works to your advantage. It even becomes a conversation starter. “Hey! I see you everywhere! What’s your name?”
4) Categorize your meetings.
As a founder and/or executive director, there are going to be a lot of people who want your attention and time. To use your meeting time most effectively you have to become very astute at categorizing your meeting interactions. Some meeting requests are emails, other are phone calls, and some meeting requests do not align with your immediate goals at all. Sometimes you are going to need to push those meetings to a later time in the year when you can actually meet with new people.
5) Allocate blocks of time to your correspondence.
When it comes to your email inbox, direct messages and phone calls, the flow of communication can become an avalanche of overwhelming stress. Charles suggest allocating specific times of day or specific days within the week to catch up on correspondence. This is crucial to transforming the avalanche of correspondence into a manageable hill.
6) Your social venture provides value to the community, and it costs.
As a social entrepreneur you are providing a service or product to the community that is needed to create positive solutions. The funder needs access to the community you are serving and supporting. You, as the social entrepreneur, are taking the time to build a connection with the community, and those funders need access to that community. That is your product. For that access, they will need to fund your work.
7) It’s OK, funders are expecting the ask.
Funders know you will eventually ask for money. And that is perfectly OK. In fact, they expect it. The key is to build a genuine relationship with the person. They are not just “the funder,” “the sponsor” or “the investor” ⏤ they are people. They are people living lives focused on raising their kids and/or exploring their interests and passions beyond their work titles. Actually getting to know them as a person and not solely as a purse-string holder makes “The Ask” easier on everyone.
8) Give funders pre-packaged concepts and items to fund.
If you are going to ask a funder for money, they need to know where their money is going and that the impact of that money can be measured. Those target communities, measurements and analytics are the types of information that must be integrated into the programs and events you design for the community that funders want to pour their money, time and resources into.
Before you continue going about your day, consider heading over to the Emerging City Champions fellowship website
and submitting that great idea that's been nagging you. The city needs your new and innovate ideas to create solutions for the challenges we face in Charlotte. You could possibly win a micro-grant, training and access to an amazing network of philanthropists. I did, and it's made all the difference in my life.