Big ideas can change communities.Finding a way to share those ideas and bring them to fruition isn’t always easy. Central Carolina Community Foundation, the Midlands charitable partner, has long been committed to bringing people together to create a more generous, vibrant, and engaged community. Three years ago, CCCF launched the On the Table initiative to encourage citizens to come together to share and discuss their ideas for making the community better and stronger. Part of a national initiative funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, On the Table replicates an annual civic engagement initiative of the same name developed by The Chicago Community Trust in 2014. First Citizens Bank also provides funding support for the local initiative.
On the Table conversations are designed to bring a diversity of voices together to discuss who we are, our vision for the future, and what we can do to get there together. Thousands of residents have come together at hundreds of events over the past three years, sharing their stories and big ideas and creating meaningful, lasting connections across the community. While residents typically would gather in person to share ideas while breaking bread, due to COVID-19 these events, like so many, were held virtually in 2020. While at first a challenging thought, virtual events actually enabled a greater number of people to come together, in essence making the program even more accessible, which is critical to the effort.
To motivate people to act on the ideas generated during On the Table conversations, CCCF has created a grant program called Beyond the Table, which provides financial support to help residents put their ideas into action. Individuals and organizations can apply for a grant to help fund their project. If an individual applies, they must partner with a local nonprofit organization in order to be eligible to receive a grant.
“Our tagline for On the Table is ‘Meet. Share. Do,’” says Cherise Arrendale, director of strategic initiatives and communications for CCCF. “The conversations enable residents to ‘meet’ to form new connections that collectively address community challenges and opportunities. During these conversations, participants ‘share’ their opinions, views, and ideas. After the conversation we ask participants to take a survey to help us identify — and ‘share’ — our grantmaking focus areas and then, we ‘do’ by providing mini-grants up to $2,000 to individuals and organizations to help them put their ideas into action.”
Past grantmaking focus areas have included improving economic security for residents, developing more walkable areas in the community, enhancing diversity and inclusion efforts, and improving safety and security. Since 2018, CCCF has awarded nearly $60,000 in Beyond the Table mini-grants.
The community foundation is focused on collaborative philanthropy — collaborating with other partners in the community who are also working to create a better place to live, work, and play. This year, CCCF is partnering with Columbia Metropolitan Magazine’s Dream Home event to raise money to fund these grants and support nonprofits in their efforts to improve and enhance the community.
“We really believe that philanthropy can’t be achieved by one entity alone,” says Cherise. “We must partner together to truly impact our community. Our partnership with Columbia Metropolitan and its Dream Home event is a great example of how working together allows us to create a stronger community.”
Columbia residents can help support the On the Table and Beyond the Table efforts by touring the Dream Home April 9 to April 18. Visitors will have an opportunity to tour the lovely new Mungo-built home, with each room styled by Columbia’s leading interior designers, in Irmo’s Ascot Woods neighborhood. Proper social distancing precautions will be in place.
Individuals who are passionate about improving the community and who want to share their ideas can participate in an On the Table discussion throughout the year or during Oct. 3 – 9, 2021. More information can be found at OnTheTableCola.org.