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 10 exceptional social innovators in our community. Learn about our 2021 award winners.

If you’re a Cambridge-based social entrepreneur, please explore below local opportunities for support, both within the Foundation and beyond.

2021 Imagined in Cambridge! Social Innovation Award

About the 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. Help us find them! Winners selected by our judges each receive $5,000.

Learn about our five 2021 award winners.

Questions? Contact our team at [email protected].

Eligibility criteria:

  • 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

Our 2021 esteemed panel of judges:

  • Debbie Bonilla – Co-founder, Friday Night Hype; 2020 Imagined in Cambridge! Award winner
  • Alanna Mallon – Vice-Mayor, City of Cambridge
  • David Parker – CEO, Entrepreneurship for All
  • Erin Muirhead McCarty – Executive Director, Community Art Center
  • C.A. Webb – President, Kendall Square Association
  • Lori Lander – Founder, Many Helping Hands 365; Artist; CCF board member (non-voting judge)

The Imagined in Cambridge! Fund

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 open 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. As of July 2021, the Fund has awarded 28 microgrants totaling $14,000.

If you applied for the award in 2019 or 2020: Please refer to eligibility criteria below and apply here.

Applications are accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis by a three-person review committee consisting of: one past winner of the Social Innovation Award; one member of the Cambridge Community Foundation’s Board; and one CCF staff member.

Eligibility criteria: 

  • Must be a 2019 or 2020 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) per calendar year from this fund.
  • Applicants must request a microgrant for the same project that they applied to the award for in the past. We will be looking at your original application along with this one. If you would like a copy of what you submitted to us, please email Jenny White: [email protected] and we’ll send it to you. If you’re working on a new project, we encourage you to submit for our 2021 Social Innovation Award (scroll up for the application!).

Apply for a microgrant here.

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.

We invite community donors to help us grow this Fund by giving here.

More local resources for social entrepreneurs

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!
  • 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 are open March 1- April 23, 2021. *Priority deadline is April 1.*

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 FoundationNow accepting applications for Open Door Grants through September 9, 2021. 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.