Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund awards grants to organizations in host communities

Representatives from community non-profit organizations who recieved the 2016 TNSF grants pose with Tufts University President Anthony Monaco and members of the TNSF board. (Credit: Anna Miller, Tufts Photography)
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The Tufts Neighborhood Service Fund (TNSF) has awarded $19,046 in grants to 36 nonprofit organizations in the Medford, Somerville, Grafton, Chinatown, Fenway and Mission Hill neighborhoods, according to a Jan. 13 news release.

TNSF was created in 1995 by the managing committee of the Tufts Community Appeal, an annual charitable campaign with a goal of demonstrating faculty and staff commitment across all campuses to supporting Tufts host communities, according to Tufts’ Co-Directors of Community Relations Barbara Rubel and Rocco DiRico.

TNSF raises donations year round from faculty and staff for nonprofit organizations in Tufts’ host communities, Rubel and DiRico said.

Any nonprofit organization with Tufts volunteers that serves one of the school’s host communities — Medford, Somerville, Grafton, Chinatown, Mission Hill and Fenway — is eligible to apply for a grant from TNSF, according to Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life Associate Dean and TNSF Committee Member Christopher Swan.

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The application is fairly straightforward, Swan said. An organization must first prove that it is a tax-exempt entity and that there are current Tufts community members serving or volunteering there. Then, the nonprofit must submit a proposal and it is reviewed by the TNSF committee based on impact and merit, according to Swan.

“It’s simply an application followed by the review by the committee,” Swan said. “We tend to recognize that we’re trying to serve all these communities but at the same time, we’re trying to find what we consider to be the most impactful efforts that are being presented. When we have eight to 10 people actually looking and evaluating, some commonality generally comes out.”

Swan said the entire process commences in October, when requests for proposals are distributed to organizations in Tufts’ host communities. The committee does not convene until December, when proposals have already been submitted and are ready for review, according to Swan.

“The process is one of sending out the request for proposals in October, receiving those proposals in November and then being distributed to the committee for a couple of weeks for us to review and come together and decide how that money can be distributed,” Swan said.

Rubel and DiRico explained that Robert Hollister, founding dean of Tisch College, played an important role in starting TNSFHollister and the committee envisioned a program that would recognize civic work off campus and exhibit the university’s commitment to its host communities, according to Rubel and DiRico.

“[The program sought to] create a way to encourage contributions to organizations in our host communities and to recognize Tufts volunteers assisting these organizations,” Rubel and DiRico told the Daily in an email.

Since then, TNSF has grown from an initial grant pool of about $5,000 in 1995 to approximately $19,000 in 2017, according to Rubel and DiRico. Moreover, the program has expanded its scope this year by including the SMFA’s neighborhoods, they said.

“For the first time this year, an award was made to an organization that serves Mission Hill,” Rubel and DiRico wrote. “This will be a regular addition to the program going forward.”

This year, 50 organizations applied for grants but only 36 received an award, according to Rubel and DiRico. Swan explained that this is most likely because some of those projects were quite large.

Swan added that the TNSF board is more likely to award grants to groups with small and specific requests, whereas groups with larger requests had a smaller chance of getting funding.

One of the 36 organizations to receive a grant this year was the Medford Public Library. The organization was awarded $500 by TNSF to purchase laptops for use by visitors, according to Director of the Medford Public Library Barbara Kerr.

“This year, what we wanted to do was purchase some laptops that people could check out and use in the building,” Kerr said. “We do have public access computers, but we’re very full. We’re an older building … so the public access computer areas are not set up for comfort … if you want to sit and read your email or something, you’re not sitting in comfort; you’re sitting at a counter or stool basically.”

Since receiving funding for their new project, the library hopes to purchase the laptops and have them ready to use in April or May, according to Kerr. Kerr believes that the TNSF has helped to bring Tufts and the Medford community closer.

“We have more of a relationship than we used to, I think … we didn’t have that much of a relationship for many years, but now we do seem to have more interaction,” Kerr said. “It seems as though there’s a lot more connection in the last few years between us, the community and Tufts.”

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