Notes From the Field #7

Hear from Groundwork Lawrence (2013 Social Innovator) and Catie's Closet (2015 Social Innovator)

The Social Innovation Forum (SIF) is incredibly proud of the work Social Innovators are doing every day. During this crisis, their efforts to maintain connections with their community members and ensure their programs continue to operate while they also pivot to meet new, immediate needs with fewer resources make it exceptionally clear their work is more important than ever. Many of our funders and volunteers have stepped up with support while others are asking, “How can we help?”

With that in mind, we will regularly share stories from our current cohort of 2020 Social Innovators and Alumni organizations, spotlight members of our funder portfolio who have responded quickly and effectively, and offer additional resources that can help you reflect on a range of different perspectives and experiences of those in our community during the COVID-19 crisis. As you receive these updates, we hope that you will respond and reach out about how you can offer support


SIF Updates & Events
Nominate a Nonprofit for the Social Innovator Accelerator today!

The deadline is quickly approaching to nominate a nonprofit for the Social Innovator Accelerator program. The Social Innovator Accelerator provides a unique opportunity for innovative nonprofits to gain visibility, expand their networks, and build capacity. Each year, we select a cohort of Social Innovators through a six-month evaluation process that brings together a range of stakeholders, including funders, practitioners, and leaders from business and academia. Once selected, each Innovator receives access to cash and in-kind benefits valued at $150,000 over the course of 24 months. Visit our website to learn more about the program and to submit any last-minute nominations for this year’s cohort. 

Our team is growing! Meet SIF's New Summer Interns & Co-Ops!

Say hi to Lauryn, Mayowa, Syed, and Abby! They're diving right in helping our team with various long-term projects. Mayowa and Lauryn, our Program Interns, will primarily help support outreach for and management of the application process for the Social Innovator Accelerator program. Syed, our Fundraising & Development Co-Op, will take the lead in grant writing and assisting with the development of the Annual Report. Abby, our Program & Events Co-Op, will support the planning and managing of events including the ongoing Social Issue Talk Series and SIF's Winter Reception. We are so excited to work with them and can't wait to see what they teach us in return!

New 2020 Showcase Materials Available!

Now available on our website is the digital copy of the 2020 Social Impact Investment Guide, featuring prospectuses from each of the 2020 Social Innovator organizations. Also, you can find the pitch videos for each of our 2020 Social Innovators on our Youtube playlist here.


Updates from our Portfolio Organizations
Groundwork Lawrence, a 2013 Social Innovator 

GW Lawrence
Knowing that the economic and social health of a community is inextricably linked to its environmental conditions Groundwork Lawrence (GWL) brings together government, schools, businesses, and other nonprofits, and leads community-driven initiatives focused on building a healthier, stronger, more vibrant city. With programs centered on youth education and employment, fresh food access, environmental awareness, healthy living, community engagement, and the restoration and revitalization of open spaces, Groundwork Lawrence is changing places, changing lives, and changing systems.

With lessons learned from GWL’s critical response to the Columbia Gas disaster of 2018, GWL quickly pivoted resources to ensure programs continued to serve Lawrence and that escalating COVID-19 related needs were addressed. GWL launched a virtual farmers market, which transitioned this month to three weekly open-air markets. Addressing the need for enrichment and youth programming, online nature activities were posted via the website and social media to keep youth and their families engaged. The Green Team program, GWL’s year-round program that offers part-time, paid positions for Lawrence high school-aged youth, virtually completed their school year pilot Winter Crow Roost program and the summer program launched with a record 32 youth hired. Urban Adventures, GWL’s free summer youth program that combines environmental stewardship and healthy living with fun activities that build social-emotional skills, kicked off in July with three community partners and using a variety of platforms to creatively deliver curriculum virtually and in-person. Although circumstances are different, GWL continues to ensure that trees get planted, parks and open spaces get built, trail networks expand, and urban farms and gardens flourish.

Descriptive of the innovative solutions GWL implements to respond to community needs, GWL launched an inventive restaurant meals program. Each week, 1,600 meals were delivered through partners to individuals and families in need, enabling eight minority-owned restaurants to re-open. Originally funded for 2 ½ weeks, GWL raised additional funds enabling the program to run for a total of 10 weeks – just as restaurants were allowed to reopen for indoor dining on June 29. GWL and other organizations are advocating for state, federal, and other funding sources so this critical program can continue and expand to combat food insecurity while supporting local businesses.

Donations would help support GWL to:
  • Continue to adapt fresh food programming to provide healthy, fresh food and combat food insecurity
  • Create and expand youth programming that taps the potential of our environmental leaders of tomorrow in the new-normal of COVID-19
  • Invest in open space improvements – park design, playground installation, trail development, and cleaning up contaminated sites

Looking to make your donation dollars work twice as hard? Consider the Community Investment Tax Credit. GWL is a certified Community Development Corporation (CDC). As such, your donation of $1,000 or more is eligible for a 50% rebate on your Massachusetts taxes or, should you not have that much tax liability, a check from the state for that amount.

Make a donation here!

Or make checks payable to: Groundwork Lawrence 50 Island Street, Suite 101, Lawrence, MA 01840

For additional information or questions please contact Sharon Mason, Development Director: smason@groundworklawrence.org.


Catie's Closet, a 2015 Social Innovator

Catie's Closet
Catie’s Closet, which provides an in-school resource of clothing and toiletries so that kids can succeed in school and life, has been growing exponentially since 2010. The organization caught the attention of many startup accelerators, innovative thinking programs, and news outlets. Awarded the Mass Challenge Diamond Award as well as Non-Profit of the Year in 2014, the organization continues to make a difference across communities. With the help of many key partners, Catie’s closet was able to provide more services to youth and families in need. In response to the pandemic, key collaborators – Hope & Comfort (Needham), Dignity Matters (Framingham), and Technology Underwriting Greater Good (TUGG of Boston) – were instrumental in increasing Catie’s Closet resource capacity.


On the daily, Catie’s Closet has been receiving donations of toiletries, clothing, new shoes as well as financial support. In Boston, Lowell, Lawrence, Springfield, and Nashua Catie’s Closet has managed to donate 459,000 essential products to public school emergency sites over the last few months in the area. Together with their partners, they will continue to support these sites during the summer and will deliver another 240,000 units of essential products across Massachusetts and New Hampshire. These products give economically disadvantaged children and their families a better chance to fight the spread of the virus through proper hygiene. The organization gained media attention when Mayor Marty Walsh recognized them for their contributions to the community during a time when many people were unable to pay a visit to food emergency sites due to concerns about COVID-19. Catie’s closet is encouraging more donations to support the delivery of these critical resources to their communities facing.

Additional ways you can support Catie’s Closet: 

  • Give to our COVID-19 relief fund here
  • Purchase items from our Amazon wish list and all ordered supplies will be shipped directly to our distribution center. 
  • Tell us about your donation and we will send you a prepaid shipping label (view here). Please measure the exact weight of your packages using postage or household scale prior to requesting your label.
  • Bring your donations to either of our Distribution Centers located in Dracut & Boston. A special bin has been placed at the entrance to accept donations Monday thru Friday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. If you are dropping off at the Dracut Center, please call prior to plan ahead: (978) 957-2200. 

For additional information or questions please contact
Mickey Cockrell, CEO and CoFounder: mickey@catiescloset.org.


Other Resources & Readings 
  • Independent Sector, in partnership with Edelman Intelligence, conducted a new survey to understand the factors that drive trust in nonprofits and philanthropy. Related sources can be found on their website here.
  • Philanthropy activist and author Edgar Villanueva recently announced the release of funds for a $1 million direct cash program for Native Americans, who have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. This effort, featured in a recent Inside Philanthropy article, is part of Villanueva’s Decolonization Wealth Project, which supports Indigenous and other people-of-color-led social change initiatives.

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