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County starts block grant initiative for community based organizations

Cook County officials announced on Wednesday, July 26, the Starting Block Grant initiative designed to provide capacity building resources and support to community-based nonprofit organizations serving Cook County residents. 

The grants will support small organizations looking to build internal capacity and develop their infrastructure to promote organizational health, growth and sustainability. This initiative goes beyond traditional grants for organizations to deliver services and allows them to focus on strengthening how they run.

“Strong and healthy community organizations help build strong and healthy communities,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Cook County is committed to partnering with community organizations working on the ground to promote the health, safety and success of people and communities. Together we can advance equity and build the healthy and vibrant communities all Cook County residents deserve.”

This grant initiative is funded through the Cook County Equity Special Purpose Fund, created to address historic and continued disinvestment and inequities in Cook County. The county will award up to $5 million in Starting Block Grants in 2023 with a subsequent grant award cycle planned for 2024. 

Organizations will receive $100,000 in funding for capacity building over two years. The grant opportunity is open to non-profit organizations in diverse sectors, including arts and culture, community and economic development, education, health and human services and violence prevention. To be eligible, organizations must have an annual operating budget under $1 million.

“Smaller, hyperlocal organizations play an essential role in our communities by working to build relationships every day and supporting residents facing a wide array of personal and systemic challenges,” said Avik Das, executive director of the Cook County Justice Advisory Council (JAC). “These organizations are doing meaningful, culturally responsive work but can lack the resources needed to innovate and grow as an organization. Cook County Starting Block Grants will help level the playing field for smaller organizations, allowing them to strengthen their infrastructure to ultimately serve the community at a higher level.” 

The JAC is administrating this grant program on behalf of all the offices under the President.

In preparation for the funding opportunity, Cook County is holding a virtual information session on Wednesday, Aug. 2, from noon to 1 p.m. The information session is open to the public and will cover eligibility criteria, the application process, and will provide an opportunity for questions. Register for the session at: StartingBlockGrants.eventbrite.com.

The 2023 grant application period is open from Aug. 7 to Sept. 8. Applications submitted after the Sept. 8 deadline will be considered for the next round of funding in 2024, based on the availability of funding.

A virtual pre-submittal conference will be held Wednesday, Aug. 16, from noon to 1 p.m. This session will serve as another opportunity for perspective applicant organizations to receive information on the funding opportunity and ask questions.

For more information and to apply, visit Cookcountyil.gov/JACGrants.

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