Communities are better places to live, learn, and thrive because of the people and ideas supported by The Sprout Fund.

The Sprout Fund improved Pittsburgh by inspiring and nurturing people with innovative, grassroots ideas to positively impact their communities. From 2001 to 2018, Sprout worked with regional and national philanthropic partners to build strong networks and make nearly $8 million of community-decided investments in 1,500+ early-stage projects, organizations, innovators, and activities.

Now, upon our sunset as an organization, we’re sharing the philosophy and ideals that drove our work for almost two decades so others can leverage our unique approach and processes.

Our catalytic funding helped major funders reach new audiences of first-time grant seekers and enabled communities to make fair decisions for themselves about which projects should be supported. Assuring that these micro grants were responsive to the interests of both the grassroots community and major regional stakeholders enabled us to build coalitions of support among engaged residents at multiple levels of civic engagement. While many projects yielded individual successes, their cumulative output produced a critical mass of innovative approaches designed by and for the communities we aim to serve.

Over the course of our history, we also developed in-person and digital practices to further engage and empower community members. Our work showed the power of community building through engaging face-to-face experiences. Our interactive, facilitated events used human-centered design principles and focused on building trust, forging connections, and sparking high-impact next steps. Through our storytelling practice, we documented changes in the civic landscape with photos and videos, and we raised awareness about unique people, projects, and ideas.

This Field Guide includes our lessons learned from 17 years of cultivating applications, making decisions, hosting events, leading community building campaigns, telling stories, and working with our grantees and our funders to achieve meaningful results together. We hope you’ll use these resources as a starting point for your own community work—no matter where you live or what you do.

We’re incredibly grateful to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which provided support for the staff time necessary to complete this long-desired organizational project. Furthermore, we wish to acknowledge all the staff, interns, board members, project leaders, facilitators, and vendors that worked together through Sprout to make Pittsburgh a better place to live, learn, and thrive.

May the information we share here help you achieve the kind of meaningful, positive change we’ve been privileged to be part of in our community.

All of us at Sprout
Pittsburgh USA
June 2018