Care in Awarding Grants
by Billy Euell
Several years ago, a friend invited me to volunteer on the Fort Bend Cares Grants Committee. I knew already that Fort Bend Cares raised money to help youth in Fort Bend County, but I did not know much about how it worked. So, I decided to join the committee to help the organization and learn more about it. Since then I have come to appreciate the unique approach to engaging area non-profits that differentiates Fort Bend Cares. I also found I really enjoy volunteering with a group of people having a wide range of experiences, talents, and perspectives, and a common focus on helping disadvantaged youth in our community.
The Grants Committee exists to determine which area non-profits will receive funding from Fort Bend Cares for proposed projects or programs. Requests are made by area non-profits via the grant application process and form described on the Fort Bend Cares website. Typically, about 40-50 applications are received by the end of January deadline each year. These come from a variety of organizations – over the past 15 years, 65 different organizations have applied for grants at one time or another. Once the applications are received, the Grants Committee performs a thorough review to determine which ones best align with the Fort Bend Cares mission and priorities. Recommendations are made to the Board of Trustees for final approval, and on average about 75% of the applications are funded.
The grant application reviews are done by a group of approximately 40 volunteers comprising the Grants Committee. This is the part I particularly enjoy and find to be a unique opportunity to support non-profits in my community. Volunteers read the applications, research the organizations who submitted them, and discuss the proposed projects/programs with others on the Grants Committee. In addition, each volunteer visits one or more of the organizations to see their operation firsthand and to better understand how they serve disadvantaged youth in the area. As a volunteer, I have always found the site visits to provide a much greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the work done by our area non-profits. Visits I have made to Texana, SIRE, Fort Bend Family Promise, and the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center stand out in my mind. In each of these I was able to interact with the wonderful staff and volunteers in these organizations as well as the clients they served. The breadth and depth of reviews done as part of the Grants Committee is something I find unique to Fort Bend Cares.
The mission of Fort Bend Cares is to provide community non-profits with resources to meet the needs of disadvantaged children. While the “resources” are ultimately transferred in the form of monetary grants, the contributions of the many volunteers, donors, and event sponsors are essential enablers. The care taken by the Grants Committee aims to ensure those resources – whether in the form of dollars, donated goods and services, volunteer time and energy, feedback and ideas, or publicity – do the most good in the community. I am grateful and happy to be a part of Fort Bend Cares and to serve on the Grants Committee. I encourage anyone wanting to help disadvantaged children in Fort Bend to also get involved and contribute!