Grant Impact Stories

Community Foundation awarded 477 grants in the period January 1-December 31, 2018 totaling $1,873,617 in support of the arts & culture, environment, education, health & human services, and other means of community growth. From grantee reports and site visits and community conversations with donors and grantees we learn about what has worked, what has fallen short, and how we can dedicate our grant making to constantly improving impact.

Learn more about grant successes and ways we have partnered with donors to help solve specific problems in our community.

Summer of Space Science Offered at Southworth Library

Summer of Space Science Offered at Southworth Library

This summer, children visiting the Southworth Library in Dryden will not only be checking out books. They will also be building and launching rockets, creating models of the solar system, and making spacesuits at the library’s Summer Kid’s Club.

The six-week program featuring science experiments, guest speakers, and free children’s books is based on the theme, A Universe of Stories!, developed by the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a national consortium that promotes summer reading at public libraries.

At the Southworth Library, the program is supported by a $2,750 grant from the Sandy and Jay True Fund at Community Foundation of Tompkins County, which will pay for activities materials and books for the children to take home.

“Without that funding, we wouldn’t be able to do these amazing, cool things,” says Diane Pamel, the library director. “Getting rockets and engines for 12 to 15 kids — that’s not something most small libraries can afford.”

Over the past nine years, Community Foundation has invested more than $1 million in the 33 libraries in the Finger Lakes Library System. The annual library grant cycle, which awarded $182,000 to libraries this year, was inspired by the Bernard Carl and Shirley Rosen Library Fund at Community Foundation.

“This grant cycle has had a transformative influence on many small, rural libraries,” says Janet Cotraccia, chief impact officer at Community Foundation. “Vibrant summer reading programs are creating large events for families to gather, create connection, strengthen community, and encourage kids to check out books.”

The space science theme for summer reading programs nationwide was designed to recognize the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon by Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969.

The historic day will be celebrated at the Southworth Library with a program featuring experts from the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, who will discuss the history of space travel, the first man on the moon, and the future of space exploration. The program, which will also include moon gazing, will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 20.

Another special event that is geared for kids will be a portrayal of astronaut Sally Ride by actress Sheryl Faye at the library at 2 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19. There will be experiments, demonstrations and free books for all families who attend the program, which is funded by the Bernard Carl and Shirley Rosen Library Fund.

Creating educational science programs is not new to the Southworth Library. In 2017, the library was designated one of 55 NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) libraries, a program that provides special materials and training to offer STEM education for children.

Pamel said one of the key aspects of the summer program is providing free books for children. “As the kids get their books and take them home, we want them to read them and report back on what they liked and didn’t like and what they learned, so they’re doing more than taking home a prize but really engaging with some of the materials,” she said.

The summer kid’s club begins with a free lunch for kids up to age 18 at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The program follows from 12:30 to 2, and is geared for grades K-3 on Tuesdays, beginning July 9, and for grades 4-8 on Thursdays, beginning July 11.

Space is limited for the program and parents should register by contacting the library, at 24 West Main St., at (607)844-4782 or at The program is free and open to the public.




Community Foundation Grant Spurs Change in Tompkins County Government

Community Foundation Grant Spurs Change in Tompkins County Government

A grant from Community Foundation of Tompkins County has led to a change in the way the county government assesses the effectiveness of its services and programs in departments ranging from mental health to the division of motor vehicles.

In 2014, the Tompkins County Department of Youth Services received a $5,900 grant from Community Foundation to hire a consultant to train the staff on implementing a new system of measuring program outcomes, known as results-based accountability.

Three years later, the measurement system was so successful in improving outcomes for youth services programs that county officials decided to adopt it in all of its 30 departments, divisions and offices. The county will implement the system in the last group of 14 departments this year.

“It really allows you to be accountable to the public in a way that everyone understands,” said Kate Shanks-Booth, director of the county’s youth services department. “It also can track particular programs to make sure that we’re getting the most bang for our buck.”

The youth services department used the Community Foundation grant to hire Results Leadership Group, now called Clear Impact, a company based in Rockville, Md. that specializes in developing performance management software for government agencies, nonprofits, communities and foundations.

After the county adopted the results-based accountability system in youth services, department staff could assess not only the number of people being served by various programs, but also how better off they were after participating.

In one example, the Open Doors Program, which serves runaway and homeless youth, county officials were developing a scorecard of outcomes when they noticed an annual dip in participation rates during the third quarters of 2016 and 2017. Since that falls during the summer when youth are not in school, Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca, which runs the program, launched an effort to reach youth through social media, texting or physically locating the teens on the Commons.

“They were the ones who addressed what their action plan should be to move the curve,” said David Sanders, the county’s criminal justice coordinator who leads the performance measurement initiative. “They went where the kids were and they really spoke to them about how important it was to meet with their caseworkers.”

Sanders says the measurement system will help county government make budgeting decisions that are not only based on anecdotal success stories, but also on data on the outcomes of services and programs.

“If there’s a shortfall, at least we have data as well as stories so people can make tough decisions to the best of their ability,” Sanders said. “And that is what I think it’s all about.”

Shanks-Booth noted that the county would not have been able to implement the measurement system if it hadn’t been for the original grant from Community Foundation. “The funding the Community Foundation put in had this ripple effect, and I think this is pretty incredible,” she said.

Janet Cotraccia, chief impact officer of Community Foundation, said she was pleased the grant has led to a significant change in how county government assesses its programs. “This is a great example of how small grants, strategically placed, can lead to larger impact over time,” she said.



Training Brings Wisdom to Complex Problems

Training Brings Wisdom to Complex Problems

Why do women of color have worse prenatal outcomes than white women in Tompkins County and across the country?

This question arose as a small group of five representatives of nonprofit organizations worked together to discuss the strategies the county health department might use to improve the health of residents in Tompkins County.

The discussion was part of a three-day training program completed this month, called the Art of Participatory Leadership (AoPL), which engaged community leaders. The training was offered in Ithaca and included leaders from a four county region. Initiated by the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, the program teaches community leaders how to harness the collective wisdom of a wide range of community groups.

Other issues that were discussed in the training sessions included community resiliency, systemic racism, and methods of confronting violence without violence.

The training emphasizes strategies for engaging many voices in solving complex social problems.

“The Art of Participatory Leadership offers methods and techniques for tapping into the existing wisdom of groups.” Says, Jennifer Bertron, Community Impact Manager for Food Bank of the Southern Tier, “For me, this was the missing link for moving forward with Collective Impact initiatives that rely on collaboration across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations and citizens to achieve significant and lasting social change”.

With grant support from the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, Food Bank leaders, among others, were trained in the method of collective impact in 2014. The approach fosters a community of organizations working together, engaging in mutually reinforcing activities toward a common goal. Additional grant support from Community Foundation helped bring this training to Ithaca, building on the community’s capacity to address complex issues.

Since then, Food Bank of the Southern Tie has expanded its thinking and work around attaining nutritional security for all in the region by looking more deeply at the systems that contribute to food insecurity.

“We know that hunger is a symptom of poverty and if we are really serious about solving hunger, we need to work together with other stakeholders to address the complexity of poverty”, says Natasha Thompson, Food Bank of the Southern Tier Executive Director. “Historically, people with lived experience of hunger and poverty have not always been included in those conversations and we believe their perspectives are critical to our ability to develop sustainable solutions. We’ve found AoPL to be a valuable tool in those efforts.”

The Leadership Training teaches a variety of methods to create open, productive and meaningful conversations that strive toward constructive action. Working with a range of collaborative methods, participants learned about and then took turns leading various strategies, while simultaneously inviting others to engage in the issues that participants found most moving in their work.

“The Food Bank of the Southern Tier is a great example of an organization that has moved away from solely service provision” says Janet Cotraccia, Chief Impact Officer at the Community Foundation of Tompkins County and both a planner of and participant in the training. “They see themselves as a broader network of influencers and they are tackling the more challenging task of systemic change, of which food insecurity is one challenge of many.”

quote Jerry Brown

We have to deal with where we are. We have to create cooperatives, we have to create intentional communities, we have to work for local cooperation where we are.