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Lightbulb Labs sparking bright ideas for grants

Sometimes great ideas come in the middle of the night, or when you’re driving to work.  For Amy Flanders, the idea for a cutting edge sexual abuse prevention program came via a conference featuring Darkness to Light, a non-profit committed to empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse.

“The idea was to educate five percent of the adult population in three years,” said Flanders, Executive Director of Sexual Assault Crisis Center – Fox Cities. “We knew it was being done in places like Pennsylvania and Georgia, but wondered, could it be done in the Fox Valley? How could we get funding?”

Last February, Flanders took her questions to a Lightbulb Lab in Neenah. Lightbulb Labs like the one coming up in Little Chute next week are part of the Foundation’s Bright Idea Grant process.  Labs take place monthly at locations throughout the Fox Valley and are facilitated by Carolyn Desrosiers, community engagement manager for the Foundation.

A Lightbulb Lab at Seth’s Coffee in Little Chute

“These labs provide an informal opportunity to receive feedback about your idea, discuss community needs and creative solutions, and meet other people who are working to make a difference,” said Desrosiers. “Those who attend learn more about the Bright Idea Grant process and whether their idea aligns with Community Foundation focus areas and priorities.

For Flanders, it was the launching point for developing Know More to Protect Children. Following the Lightbulb Lab, Flanders and her team presented their idea at the Foundation’s April Bright Idea Forum and received a grant of $20,000 over two years.

Amy Flanders

“The grant we received from the Bright Idea Fund is going toward training 50 people over the next three years, and in turn each of them will train and educate 80 people annually until we train five percent of the adult population in the Fox Valley.”

Not everyone who’s attended a Lightbulb Lab has gone forward and received a grant from the Bright Idea Fund, says Desrosiers. “However, what we hear again and again is how much nonprofit leaders appreciate the open conversation, and the opportunity to network with other leaders they wouldn’t otherwise have met.”

Bright Idea Fund Update

It’s been over a year since the Foundation transformed its unrestricted grantmaking into the Bright Idea Fund.

This past summer the Foundation brought staff, committee members, and nonprofit leaders together to share results.

“We are happy to report that feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are thrilled to share that in our 2018 fiscal year we awarded more grants, and distributed more money from the Bright Idea Fund than ever before,” said Desrosiers.

You can read about the grants awarded (and get proposal ideas) here.

If you represent a charitable organization and are seeking funding for your bright idea, consider signing up for a Lightbulb Lab Oct. 3Nov. 7 , or Dec. 4.  This will allow you to introduce your idea to the Foundation and start the application process prior to the Winter Forum deadline of Dec. 20. Ideas should align with one or more of the Bright Idea Fund focus areas and priorities.

Questions? Check out the Foundation’s FAQ page, or contact Desrosiers via email.

You can make the Bright Ideas burn even brighter by adding your support.

Check out our current Bright Idea Fund results from 2018 – 2019!
See how our Bright Idea Fund impacted our community last year.


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