The Cambridge Community Foundation sees finding and fostering the next generation of social innovators as part of its core mission to support a robust nonprofit sector.
As a funder of Cambridge nonprofits for more than a century, we are deeply rooted in the community—yet we are confident there are local ideas we don’t know about. We created the Imagined in Cambridge! Social Innovation Award in 2019 to uncover emerging innovators working to solve some of our most intractable social problems. Through this annual Award cycle, the Foundation and its Award judges seek out innovators with creative, light-touch ideas that inspire new models for improving the quality of life for people in Cambridge—and hopefully the broader world. To date, the Foundation has awarded funds to 20 exceptional social innovators in our community.
If you’re a Cambridge-based social entrepreneur, please explore below local opportunities for support, both within the Foundation and beyond.
Social Innovation Award
Somewhere in Cambridge we know there is a student, an emerging nonprofit, a group of neighbors, or an entrepreneur tackling a problem, inventing a solution, and/or implementing a program that will improve the quality of life in Cambridge. We’re looking for original ideas that exhibit creativity, daring, and ambition—programs that can be implemented with small resources to create big impact. Winners selected by our judges each receive $5,000. Help us find them!
Special thanks to our 2022 panel of esteemed judges:
- Michael J. Bobbitt – Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council
- Ophelia Dahl – Co-founder, Partners in Health
- Maisha Moses – Executive Director, The Young People’s Project
- Tim Ritchie – President, Museum of Science, Boston
- Sumbul Siddiqui – Mayor, City of Cambridge
- Lonnell Wells – Co-founder, Cambridge Bike Give Back – a 2021 Imagined in Cambridge! Award winner
- Lori Lander – Founder, Many Helping Hands 365; CCF Board Vice-Chair (non-voting judge)
Applications are currently closed. The fifth annual award competition will begin accepting applications in Spring 2024.
Nominate yourself: Submit your idea or project via a short application form.
Nominate someone you know: Send us an email at [email protected] and include the innovator’s full name, name of their project/idea, and their email address. We will invite them to apply.
- Program serves Cambridge
- Must fill out application by the deadline.
- Individuals, students, groups, entrepreneurs, nonprofits encouraged to apply
- 501c3 status is NOT REQUIRED
- Previous CCF Community Fund grant recipients are NOT eligible to apply
Photo by Allegra Boverman of the 2019 Imagined in Cambridge! Social Innovation Award winners.
In partnership with committed donors, the Foundation created a new Imagined in Cambridge! Fund in Fall 2020. As of February 2021, this Fund is a resource available to any past applicant to the Imagined in Cambridge Social Innovation Award. The Fund provides microgrants of up to $500 per venture, for a designated purpose that will advance and/or support the innovative and charitable idea of the applicant. In 2021, the Fund awarded 28 microgrants totaling $14,000.
We invite community donors to help us grow this Fund by giving here.
Microgrant applications to the Imagined in Cambridge! Fund are temporarily closed. New program guidelines will be released in Spring 2024. For more information, please contact [email protected].
- Must be a 2019, 2020, 2021, or 2022 applicant to the Imagined in Cambridge! Social Innovation Award (both non-winners and winners eligible)
- An Imagined in Cambridge! project is only eligible for one microgrant (<$500) in a 12-month period from this fund.
- Applicants must request a microgrant for the same project that they applied to the award for in the past.
What are we looking for?
- Projects that better the city of Cambridge.
- Projects that are creative and original.
- Projects that do something for Cambridge that hasn’t been done before, or needs to be done.
- Projects that work with Cambridge community members, or in collaboration with Cambridge-based talent.
Photo by Friday Night Hype, a 2020 Imagined in Cambridge Social Innovation Award winner.
The Foundation is growing a list of local resources for social entrepreneurs. Check back regularly for updates and please send additional suggested resources to [email protected].
- Cambridge Innovation Center: A collaborative space for entrepreneurs in Kendall Square. Check their website for events.
- Cambridge Nonprofit Coalition: Advances equity and justice in the community by strengthening the Cambridge nonprofit sector, building collective voice, and promoting collaboration. Become a member organization! (FREE membership through Dec. 2021)
- Social Innovation Forum: The Social Innovation Forum (SIF) provides a unique combination of capacity building and network building to create positive social change in Greater Boston. SIF actively connects supporters (funders, investors, and volunteers) and practitioners (nonprofit and social business leaders) to build productive relationships focused on growing social impact. Stay up to date with opportunities – subscribe to their newsletter.
- Center for Women & Enterprise: CWE is committed to providing opportunities for women entrepreneurs and small businesses led by women to increase professional success, financial independence, and personal growth. They are a resource for all genders. Note: Some of their programs are funded by the City of Cambridge and free of charge for Cambridge residents and some include a fee.
- Cambridge Community Development Department – Economic Development Division: This City of Cambridge office offers workshops and the Small Business Coaching Program, providing one-to-one coaching for eligible Cambridge businesses.
- Roddenberry Fellowship: a 12-month program that offers fellows $50,000 to take an existing initiative (e.g. campaign, organization) to the next level and amplify its impact OR to launch a new initiative.
- Camelback Fellowship in Education and Conscious Technology: Applications for the fellowship open in the spring (March-April).
- Women of Color Entrepreneurs (WOCE): Access to expertise and resources propels a business forward. Peer support builds a community for change. WOCE weaves these elements together to help Cambridge & Boston women of color entrepreneurs succeed.
- Cambridge Community Television: CCTV regularly offers a variety of workshops and trainings, most of which are free to nonprofits and Cambridge residents, on topics ranging like social media marketing and media production.
Local fundraising sources:
- Awesome Foundation: Rolling monthly application deadlines. $1,000 prize maximum.
- Amelia Peabody Foundation: Quarterly application deadlines. The Foundation’s mission is “to increase, through close collaboration with local
agencies, the number, range, and depth of positive learning experiences available to materially disadvantaged young people living in the cities and towns of Massachusetts.” 501(c)(3)or Fiscal Sponsorship required.
- The Paul and Edith Babson Foundation: Two annual grantmaking cycles. Average grant size is $4,000. The grants program focuses on three program areas: Entrepreneurship and Economic Development; Culture, Education and Leadership Development; Environment and Community Building.
- Barr Foundation: Paths to a grant from Barr include: invited proposals, occasional RFPs (to get notified about RFPs, sign up for their “general news” newsletter). One way to get on their radar is to “submit an inquiry.”
- Cambridge Community Foundation: Accepts proposals for Community Fund grants in the Spring (January-February) and Fall (September-October).
- The Boston Foundation: Nonprofit orgs that serve communities historically excluded from institutional philanthropy are encouraged to apply.
- Cambridge Trust: The bank is a reliable Cambridge supporter. Rolling deadlines.
- Citizen’s Bank: Citizen’s Bank is a reliable funder in Cambridge. Rolling deadline.
- Eastern Bank: The bank offers a Neighborhood grant for orgs that are not a 501(c)(3). With 501(c)(3) status, an
org could apply for a Community Grant.