Every year I have the distinct privilege of waking up one morning, mid-summer, and the first thought that goes through my mind is, “Today we get to allocate $20,000 to help make my community healthy and more sustainable.” Rarely do I need coffee on such an exciting morning.
Hazon Mini-Grants, funded by bike rides and other grantee sources, are small grants that help up-and coming JOFEE, Jewish Outdoor Food Environmental Education, programs and projects across the country. The initiatives funded by mini-grants are able to do a great deal of good with a relatively small amount of money.
In Colorado, where I live, thanks to generous funding provided by the Rose Community Foundation, 18 Pomegranates, and the Oreg Foundation, the Hazon Colorado Advisory Board and local Hazon staff allocate 20k in mini-grants annually. Cumulatively, we have now funded $80k towards just over 40 projects and initiatives. Three weeks ago we went through this year’s allocations process. I was once again struck at the impact a small group of people inspired by philanthropy and a desire to make their community stronger can have. As a group we discussed areas where we collectively could try to transform the community. We gave funding for increased JOFEE education in lifecycle events, increased attention to sustainability in large mainstream institutions, and greater access to resources connecting grassroots individuals to their Jewish identity through JOFEE experiences.
The power of the mini grants lays in the collective experience of empowering individuals and institutions to say, “here is something I want to change in my community, and I want to take the time and energy to make that happen.” And it simultaneously empowers another set of leaders to say, “I can do something to make that change happen.” Together we have kickstarted small initiatives like a kosher chicken slaughter, and made notable impact in large institutions’ approach to sustainability.
As Colorado Advisory Board co-chair Noah Goldstein put it, “What’s really cool is that there are people out there who have entrusted lay leaders with this money, and they are giving us the opportunity through this process to learn about giving money away and build the community. It creates a sense of ownership and involvement with the community. And it’s brilliant.”
What is the change you would want to make in your community? The mini-grant program has taught me that beyond a shadow of a doubt, I can call on my community, and make it happen. I challenge you to do the same.