First Step Recovery Homes offers housing to men recovering from addiction and homelessness. Residents (L-R) Kuleo, Gary, William, and Gary pose in the entry way of the home they live in. Photo by Jason Cohn.

As the needs of the region’s most vulnerable populations grow exponentially, groups that aid them also need help. For small, local community organizations with limited staff, it’s often difficult to access grant money.

That’s where the Small and Mighty Grants program of The Pittsburgh Foundation comes in. Since 2016, the program has awarded $1.6 million to 63 Pittsburgh-area organizations with budgets of $600,000 or lower — 57% of which are led by people of color. These groups fight poverty and inequity and help people meet basic needs.

In this current round of funding, 22 organizations have been selected. The Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh received $20,000 to support this immigrant community in Pittsburgh by providing literacy and civics education, family and youth programs, in-language services, outreach for older adults and cultural programming. Due to Covid, calls for assistance with food housing, and more have soared from 80 to 300 per month.

Other groups receiving funding include First Step Recovery Homes, Inc. ($15,000), to help homeless men with a history of chronic substance abuse in the Mon Valley, and Hilltop Urban Farm ($15,000), which plans to expand its operations to include providing free boxes of food to nearby families in Mount Oliver and St. Clair.

Hilltop Urban Farm. Photo courtesy of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

“In working with Small and Mighty program grantees through four years of grant cycles, we’ve learned that simplifying the application process is as important as the funding itself,” says Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Lisa Schroeder. “As a result of grantees’ helping us shape that process, we’re now able to award funding rapidly. And because of the focus on organizations that deliver essential human services in communities of color, our grantmaking is becoming more racially equitable.”

In 2015, The Pittsburgh Foundation began a review of its grantmaking processes and found that grants to small nonprofits and organizations led by people of color were both fewer and smaller than grants to bigger, white-led nonprofits. After a series of focus groups and interviews with smaller nonprofit leaders, recommendations were made that resulted in the Small and Mighty Grants program.

From 2015-19, the Foundation’s discretionary grants increased from 12% to 21% to organizations led by people of color, and the total annual amount increased from $1.5-$3.1 million.

Other recipients of the new round of Small and Mighty funding include:

• 1Nation Mentoring ($15,000)
• Anchorpoint Counseling Ministry ($12,000)
• Arsenal Family and Children’s Center ($15,000)
• Brothers and Sisters Emerging ($20,000)
• BTC Center, Inc. ($10,000)
• Christopher’s Kitchen ($15,000)
• Coraopolis Community Development Foundation ($20,000)
• First Step Recovery Homes, Inc. ($15,000)
• Fishes and Loaves Cooperative Ministries ($9,100)
• Foster Love Project ($20,000)
• Friendship Community Presbyterian Church ($15,000)
• His Place Contact Center ($15,000)
• Hopebound Ministries Inc. ($15,000)
• Lettuce Turnip the Beet Community and Schools Garden Association ($15,000)
• Nabhi Christian Ministries ($15,000)
• Pittsburgh Dream Center ($20,000)
• Serenity Living Transitional Home ($20,000)
• Shepherd Wellness Community ($20,000)
• STEM Coding Lab, Inc. ($15,000)
• Za’kiyah House Housing ($15,000)

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.