WashingtonExec‘s Julie Reiss interviewed Eileen Ellsworth, President of The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, which created The Innovation Fund to support schools and nonprofits dedicated to inventive programs. Northern Virginia’s first Mini Maker Faire is this Sunday in Reston and made possible by the Community Foundation’s Innovation Fund.
WashingtonExec: Tell us about the Innovation Fund.
Eileen Ellsworth: The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia grows philanthropy to help meet the most critical needs of the community. We established the Innovation Fund in 2013 to recognize and promote innovation and to support programs that nurture inventiveness, creativity and new design across Northern Virginia. Members of the Innovation Fund Brain Trust represent a cross-section of innovative fields including entrepreneurs, technologists, STEM educators and philanthropists, and help define the strategic direction of the Innovation Fund’s grant making, community involvement, and impact in Northern Virginia. In its inaugural year, the Innovation Fund made grants totaling $50,000 to local schools and nonprofits. Our goal for 2014 is $75,000.
We are delighted to have the Innovation Fund be a sponsor of the inaugural Mini Maker Faire in Northern Virginia, taking place this Sunday, March 16th from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm at South Lakes High School and Hughes Middle School in Reston. It will bring together inventors, hackers, crafters, artists, and DIY’ers from across the region to demonstrate and collaborate with Faire-goers to make things, new inventions, tools, and gadgets. More than 100 booths will feature “Makers” ages 12 to 92, offering hands-on projects for adults and kids of all ages. A few of the unusual mix of projects and activities include aluminum aerogami (a combination of origami and model airplane building from aluminum cans), 3D scanning and printing, solar-powered car, hand-spinning yarn, and spy gadgets from the International Spy Museum. Tickets are required to this event, and more information is available at http://makerfairenova.com.
WashingtonExec: What other organizations have received awards from the STEM-based Innovation Fund?
Eileen Ellsworth: The initial cycle of grants through the Innovation Fund totaled $25,000, and supported programs at schools and nonprofit organizations such as Children’s Science Center’s Museum Without Walls program, ReSet’s Hands-on STEM Learning & Career Mentoring program, and Girls Excelling in Math and Science GEMS Club Initiative, amongst others. A full list of these awardees is available here.
In September of 2013, we granted another $25,000 to launch the Mason Innovation Lab at George Mason University in Fairfax. The Lab provides a collaborative workspace where students, professors, successful entrepreneur mentors and alumni can come together to work on innovations and entrepreneurial projects that are intended to lead to start-up businesses.
WashingtonExec: Explain how your organization was established.
Eileen Ellsworth: Established in 1978, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia is a public charity that grows philanthropy to help meet the most critical needs of the community. Comprised of giving circles, donor advised funds, community investment funds and scholarship funds, the Community Foundation engages donors and grantees in building the Northern Virginia community, and commissions research to assess the region’s critical needs.
WashingtonExec: Besides the Innovation Fund, what other STEM programs do you offer?
Eileen Ellsworth: In addition to grants from the Innovation Fund, the Community Foundation has also made recent grants to several nonprofits in Northern Virginia that provide STEM programs and early learning programs that have STEM components. These grantees include Higher Achievement, Greenbrier Learning Center, the Audubon Naturalist Society, Casa Chirilagua, Community Lodgings, the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, Loudoun Literacy Council, Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, the Literacy Lab, Literacy Volunteers of Prince William County, and others.
WashingtonExec: What is the benefit to corporations interested in contributing to the Innovation Fund or your other programs?
Eileen Ellsworth: The Community Foundation offers Innovation Fund Sponsorships to corporations at a variety of different levels ranging from $2,500 to $15,000. At the highest level, Platinum sponsors will be featured in our corporate philanthropy publication in 2014. Corporate sponsors receive employee engagement (mentorship/coaching) opportunities through our partnerships with the Mason Innovation Lab and other Innovation Fund grantees; and recognition on the Community Foundation’s website and in annual report publications and tickets to Community Foundation events. All sponsors will be invited to serve on the Innovation Fund grants committee to determine the selection of organizations for funding. For more information about sponsorship opportunities to the Innovation Fund, contact the Community Foundation’s office at 703-879-7640.