Leveraging Small Grants for Large Impact

The Family Support Center of Southwestern Utah (FSCSU) is the perfect case study showing how small grants can produce large impacts. Thanks in part to a $2,500 grant from the Community Foundation of Utah, FSCSU was able to secure $212,150 in funding for a new youth mentor program. Accomplishing such a dramatic impact required three things: a rock-solid mission, committed partners, and an innovative idea.

The Utah Association of Family Support Centers, a network of 17 crisis/respite nurseries located throughout Utah, offers a wide range of services to families in need. FSCSU alone serves approximately 500 children and 250 families annually through their various programs. From respite care to parenting classes, the organization supports families with children in a positive setting for those dealing with life challenges and trauma. “Each center offers a homelike environment for children to play and feel safe,” said Executive Director of FSCSU, Connie Sowards. 

There are various reasons why a family may utilize the services offered at the center. The respite care, for example, allows parents or caregivers to schedule a time to drop off children while they take care of needs such as medical appointments, job searches or simply stress breaks. 

FSCSU also serves many families with adopted children, addressing ongoing trauma and challenges that those children and parents often face in adjusting to a new situation.

In 2017, FSCSU participated in the rural nonprofit training program, Invest in Success, run by the Community Foundation of Utah. As part of the program, FSCSU qualified for a $2,500 mini-grant to apply towards an area covered in the training. FSCSU decided to use the grant money to conduct a needs assessment to determine the demand for mental health services for children in the area - which had never been performed in their region before. The assessment, completed in partnership with Southern Utah University, led by Dr. Kevan LaFrance, proved there was a substantial shortage of resources for youth therapy and support services in southwestern Utah. 

With the findings of the needs assessment, FSCSU applied for - and was awarded - a much larger grant of $212,150 from VOCA (Victims of Crime Acts). The lesson learned? Even seemingly small grants can have big impacts for organizations that employ grant funding strategically. FSCSU will use these funds to pursue a youth mentor program for children ages 8-12 where Southern Utah University students are matched with kids from middle school and high school who have experienced trauma. Through individual and group therapy and regular activities with college mentors, this program aims to provide a role model and an invested listener to help them work through the issues these children face.

Want to support FSCSU? Help raise awareness by sharing this story! To donate, find your local Family Support Center to ask about their specific needs. Needs range from donations of household supplies,snacks, or your time as a volunteer.

If you are interested in igniting big changes using smaller grants, here are a few tips to consider in your giving:

  • Talk to the organization. Is there a new, creative idea that lacks funding? Would a relatively small grant be enough to help them get started, perform a needs assessment, or attract other donors?
  • Unrestricted grants of $1,000 or more allow nonprofits the flexibility to respond to changing needs. If you don’t have $1,000 to give, consider rallying a few friends to give with you and give a larger, combined gift.
  • Is there another organization that could be a useful partner? Sharing resources can be a great way to accomplish more with limited funding.

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