Over the years, the Schrafft trustees had learned about the in-depth work of the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) by attending events and participating as evaluators in the Innovator selection process. From these experiences, they saw an exciting opportunity in partnering with SIF.
In 2013, the Trust joined the SIF funding community as a track partner for the “Sustainability in Our Communities: Building Greener and Healthier Cities” social issue track. After 25 years of focusing their grantmaking on education, the trustees of the Schrafft Charitable Trust became interested in the area of urban environmental sustainability. They thought that SIF could be a resource to help them explore urban sustainability in a deeper, more structured way than they could achieve on their own.
Partnership with Social Innovation Forum educated us in urban sustainability and gave us confidence to involve Schrafft in newer and smaller nonprofits.
Partnership with SIF gave the trustees confidence to move forward in exploring a new social issue area. Working closely with the SIF team, Schrafft trustees were able to better understand urban sustainability, to explore organizations working on this issue in greater Boston, and to learn from experts and other funders. After a six-month evaluation process, Mill City Grows was selected as a 2014 Social Innovator.
Mill City Grows was a smaller and earlier stage organization than the Trust had generally supported through its grants program. SIF’s evaluation and due diligence process gave the Trust the opportunity to meet the organization’s leadership and more fully understand the drive and potential of an earlier stage organization. Already, the trustees have seen returns on the investment in Mill City Grows, as the number of people who have access to fresh produce through its community gardens and mobile market increased by 77% in just one year.
"For a long time at Schrafft we focused primarily on education in Boston," said Schrafft Trustee Lavinia Chase. "A new area arose as a concern for us: the effect of climate change on our cities. Partnership with Social Innovation Forum educated us in urban sustainability and gave us confidence to involve Schrafft in newer and smaller nonprofits."
Thrilled with its first experience as a track partner, the Schrafft Charitable Trust signed on to support a second sustainability track the following year and chose the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) as a 2015 Social Innovator. EK Khalsa, Executive Director of MyRWA, took the Schrafft Executive Director and a trustee on a boat tour along the river, making concrete the work the Trust was accomplishing.
The experience of narrowing of the field through applications and evaluation, meeting the finalists through interviews and site visits, and learning from SIF’s unique selection process has enabled Schrafft trustees to better understand the field of urban environmental sustainability and to direct their resources toward organizations that are best positioned to leverage engagement and financial support.
In 2016, the Schrafft Charitable Trust will partner with SIF to support a new pilot project, the Social Innovation Forum Boot Camp. A condensed version of the Social Innovator Accelerator, this program will provide additional nonprofit organizations in the community with access to many of SIF’s high-value services and resources. In addition, the program will engage more members of SIF’s funder/supporter community, broadening its social impact network.