Published May 02, 2019 by Symone Marie Holloway ’22

A Grant Program That's Good for Students and the Community

The McKeen Center's Common Good Grant program gives students a hands-on philanthropic experience while helping to strengthen nonprofits in the greater Brunswick community.
2019 students in the Common Good Grant Program
Students in the Common Good Grant Program

Students in the program this year raised a record amount of money to donate to local organizations, nearly $13,000. An anonymous donor each year provides the first $10,000.

The Common Good Grant Program was launched with the help of this donor in 2001. Some of the students selected into the program solicit donations to augment the grant base. Other students work on evaluating grant proposals to determine which local nonprofits will receive grants from the total pot.

Since its inception, the Common Good Grant program has distributed over $275,000 in grants to more than 150 nonprofits.

The purpose of the program is to provide students the opportunity to learn about grants, foundations, and philanthropy while also exploring communities around them. The students are divided into two groups: a development committee that raises funds and a grant committee that decides how to distribute them.

This year, the student grant committee reviewed thirty-five letters of intent from local nonprofits before selecting and awarding grants to eight recipients.

Months of hard work and weekly meetings by the students culminate in the annual Common Good Grant Award Ceremony. On April 23, students in this year's program gathered with grant donors and community mentors in Main Lounge to indulge in Bowdoin’s famous log desserts and celebrate the selected nonprofits.

“[The Award Ceremony] was definitely a celebration of all the work we did,” said Jessica Bae ’22, who was in the development committee that helped raise funds. “It’s a really tangible way to see the impact of everything—all the fundraising and delegation. It’s so amazing to see and hear about the possibilities for the community.”

Before the ceremony began, Mary Nzeyimana ’22 reflected on her year with the program. “I really value being a member because I love the work we do in our community. My interest in nonprofit work has doubled and I got to learn about both the internal operation and how to reach out to the community," she said.

2019 Common Good Grant Fellows: Marina Stam ’19 and Troy Peters ‘19

The Grant Committee: Aniase Manikuda ’21, Ezra Rice ’19, Jeanie Davis ’20, Lailoo Perriello ’22, Ryan Telingator ’21, Beto Wetter ’19, Marcus Williams ’21, Lianna Harrington ’21, Elise Hocking ’22, Chanel Matthews ’21, Nimra Siddiqui ’22, Matthew Henry ‘20

Twelve students are selected to be on the grant committee. In the spring, the committee reviews submitted proposals, conducts site-visits to grant finalist organizations, and selects the grant recipients, who are presented with checks at the Common Good Grant Awards Ceremony in April.

The Development Committee: Jessica Bae ’22, Gerlin Leu ’19, Mary Nzeyima ’22, Kien Pham ’21, Amanda Cassano ’22, PJ Seelert ’21, Grace Clipson ’21, Charlotte Hevly ‘19

The eight-member committee raises funds to add to the $10,000 yearly grant base.  Serving on the Development Committee provides a unique opportunity to participate in a strategic fundraising initiative to benefit local non-profits. Participants increase their understanding of nonprofits and gain key fundraising skills in the process. The group develops a case to solicit donations. In pairs, students meet with potential donors in the winter and spring.

The 2019 Common Good Grants were awarded to:

  • Alan Day Community Garden (Norway) to host a SNAP Community Marker to develop affordable access to fresh, organic, and nourishing food, facilitate a series of free SNAP ED Cooking Matters classes, and work with local farmers to reduce food waste.
  • Harpswell Aging at Home (Harpswell) to fund a food coordinator for Lunch with Friends and Meals in a Pinch, Food Safety Training for volunteer cooks, and to purchase needed equipment and supplies.
  • Indian Township Museum (Princeton) to transcribe and recreate the world’s oldest field recordings of ancestral songs and stories on wax cylinders made in 1890 with Passamaquoddy speakers.
  • Marine Mammals of Maine (Bath) to create updated signage along Maine’s beaches to provide the public with clear information on reporting injured marine mammals, and to support a satellite tag for data collection on a rehabilitated seal.
  • Midcoast Community Alliance (Bath) to expand a Youth Leadership and Healthy Activities program to work towards ending youth suicide and to promote youth empowerment.
  • Oasis Free Clinics (Brunswick) to implement a pilot program that provides transportation assistance to low-income, uninsured patients attending medical or dental appointments.
  • Portland Housing Authority (Portland) to support our summer youth leadership, job skills, and community development programming for youth residing in Portland Housing Authority’s family public housing.
  • Restorative Justice Institute (Brunswick) to partner with young adults who have lived experiences in the criminal justice system in designing and implementing a restorative justice program for young adults.