Community Programs Accelerator Accepting Applications for 2019

The Community Programs Accelerator at the University of Chicago is now accepting applications for its 2019 program cycle. An initiative of the Office of Civic Engagement, the accelerator provides a range of support for nonprofit organizations based on or serving the South Side of Chicago. The application is online at communityprograms.uchicago.edu and will be accepted until August 31.

Launched in 2014, the Community Programs Accelerator develops and strengthens nonprofits through connections to University resources and partnerships with industry experts. The program provides three levels of assistance tailored to an organization's needs, such as office space, coaching, strategic planning, and board development. 

“Last year we had a record number of applications and welcomed three new organizations into the core program at different places in their growth and development," said Ryan K. Priester, director of community programs in the Office of Civic Engagement. "The Community Programs Accelerator is designed to meet groups where they are and provide them with the resources to get to the next level.

(From l to r): Melanie Anewishki, Featherfist; Ryan K. Priester, Office of Civic Engagement; Tammera Holmes, AeroStar Avion Institute; and Judy Gall, Alternatives, Inc., at 2018 announcement of incoming organizations.

The accelerator’s core program provides funding along with intense, focused, and customized support over a period of up to three years. Organizations at the associates level receive general capacity building support from accelerator staff and interns to help fulfill a core function through three to five relevant projects over the course of a year. Special Projects organizations receive discrete technical assistance through staff support and student engagement to address a specific issue or project over the course of 10 to 20 weeks.

The AeroStar Avion Institute, which provides aviation and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education to minority students, was accepted to the core program in 2018. In addition to financial support, the organization received consulting for organizational assessment, board development, strategic plan review and implementation, as well as special projects, help from University staff volunteers and nonprofit CEO development training. Tammera Holmes, AeroStar’s founder and executive director, said, “I would recommend that nonprofits apply for the accelerator, particularly those that have already been established but need reorganization, stronger foundational guidance, and funding for operational costs in preparation for future growth.”

Founded in 2010 by chefs Jason Hammel, Paul Kahan, Matthias Merges, Pilot Light’s mission is to help children make healthier choices by connecting the lessons they learned in their classrooms to the foods they eat on their lunch trays, at home, and in their communities. The organization was accepted into the Accelerator’s associates program and 2018. “Ryan and his team have provided support across all of our organization's most pressing needs, ranging from marketing and public awareness, to board development, to government relations and community partnerships. Their thoughtful approach has truly ‘accelerated’ our growth by opening new doors and building our capacity to fulfill our goals,” said Executive Director Alexandra DeSorbo Quinn.

The Community Programs Accelerator seeks nonprofit organizations, preferably with 501c3 status, at any stage of development that serve at least one of the nine mid-South Side neighborhoods: Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park, and Woodlawn.

The accelerator will host an information session on August 28 at 6:30 p.m., at 5225 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

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