Raising money from Tufts employees and choosing local charitable organizations to award grants of varying sums each year, the Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund (TNSF) provides supports for organizations where Tufts volunteers work at. This year, TNSF awarded $18,500 to 38 programs and projects in the four neighborhoods where Tufts has a major presence: Medford, Somerville, Grafton and Boston’s Chinatown.
“About  years ago, we borrowed an idea from MIT for another giving option that would solicit money from faculty and staff, create a fund and then solicit grant proposals from non-profit organizations within our host communities,” Tufts Director of Community Relations Barbara Rubel, said. “Then that money that faulty and staff had given would be given out to these non-profit organizations in small grants.”
Before the conception of TNSF, according to Rubel, Tufts has always had annual campaigns where it raises money from employees for certain causes.
“Initially the money was raised just for United Way of Mass Bay,” Rubel said. “Back in about 1975 or 1976, under President Mayer, there was a decision made to expand the giving options, so faculty and staff could give to the United Way, or they could give to something called Community Works. And then the following year, another option was added, and then the following year, another, until this campaign was getting pretty robust with options for giving.”
With this plurality of charities as options for donating, TNSF was created to streamline the process and is still in place and growing today.
According to Rubel, when the fund began in November of 1995, TNSF raised $8,000 for its selected organizations; in 2015, this amount had grown to $18,500. According to a Feb. 1 article from the Somerville Times, TNSF received 53 grant proposals this year, which totaled more than $79,000 in requests.
“The criteria are that the organization that applies has to be a not-for-profit, has to be located in or serve residents of [Medford, Somerville, Grafton, and/or Boston’s Chinatown], and the organizations must have Tufts volunteers working with it,” Rubel said.
According to TNSF 2015 Recipients page, the selection of organizations is based on “a desire to address the most pressing needs in the communities and to encourage expanded involvement of Tufts volunteers.”
According to Rubel, once the Office of Community Relations and TNSF receive all the proposals, the Community Relations team and TNSF board have to figure out how to split up the donations.
“We send them all the proposals in early December; we have one meeting, a marathon meeting and we decide how to divide up the money,” she said. “Community Relations administers the funds, but there are staff from the Boston campus and from the vet school and there are faculty, administrators and general staff who are on this committee.”
The most recently awarded organizations include Medford’s English at Large, which is putting their grant money towards one-on-one tutoring programs, and Somerville’s YMCA Preschool, which received $500 for music enrichment programs.
Medford’s Coalition for Arts, Culture and a Healthy Economy (CACHE), a former TNSF grant recipient, was awarded $300 this year. This summer, they plan to use the money to help fund their festival series.
“We received a $300 grant this year, and it’s for our Circle the Square program, which is our summer festival series in Medford Square,” President of CASHE Laurel Siegel said. “It’s a street festival of art and music and activities held throughout Medford Square on the third Thursdays in the summer months of June through August.”
CASHE’s mission is to celebrate and promote the arts in Medford.
“We’re a coalition of about 20 arts and culture organizations throughout Medford, and we collectively advocate for the arts and a vibrant community, bringing together the art and business world,” she said. “Our primary activities are large events and festivals. We have Circle the Square in the summer. In the fall we do the Mystic River Celebration at the Condon Shell.”
Rubel said that many of the grant recipients are groups that petition for and receive funds from TNSF every year.
“The proposals tend to come from the same organizations … year after year,” she said. “The largest grants go to food pantries and programs that serve really disadvantaged people or focus on the homeless. Aside from that, it’s a real variety. But all of them have either Tufts students, Tufts staff or Tufts alumni volunteering with them.”
While the grants are somewhat small, Rubel said that TNSF looks to allocate its funds to where it’s most needed.
“The committee really looks for the opportunity to provide little bits of financial support where it feels like it’s really needed,” she said.