BRUNSWICK, Maine — A group of Bowdoin College students has the heady task of distributing more than $10,000 in grants to local nonprofit groups, an exercise made possible by the continuing generosity of an anonymous donor.
Bowdoin spokesman Doug Boxer-Cook said the same anonymous donor has been giving $10,000 for the Common Good grants program since 2002. That brings the donor’s total donation to $110,000.
Bowdoin’s Common Good Grant Committee typically is flooded with far more grant applications than it can fund, which according to senior Matt Hillard, who co-leads the group, makes it a powerful reminder of the struggles faced by the organizations and the people they serve.
“It’s something that very few people get to experience, getting to see inside the operations of all these nonprofits,” said Hillard, an economics student from Milwaukee, Wis. “Since the program existed, we’ve been able to fund about 20 percent of the applications we’ve received. There is a high demand for these grants, so it becomes a pretty tough decision.”
Though the process is run by students, it is overseen by Bowdoin’s Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good. A group of students aside from the selection committee is working to raise money to supplement the $10,000 through private donations. Last year, that committee raised more than $6,000, bringing the grants distributed to more than $16,000.
Hillard said donors react strongly when they are asked for money.
“As long as the person who’s describing the program is enthusiastic, the program really sells itself,” he said.
The goal of the Common Good grants is to support current programs or fund new initiatives. Applications are accepted from nonprofit organizations that serve the towns of Brunswick, Harpswell, Georgetown, Phippsburg, Freeport, Topsham, Bath, Bowdoinham, Woolwich, Lisbon, Lisbon Falls, Bowdoin and Yarmouth. The grants are intended for use between April 12, 2012, and April 12, 2013. This year’s grants, which can be for up to $2,500, will be awarded on April 11 during the college’s Common Good Grant awards ceremony.
Last year, Common Good grant recipients included ArtVan, Caring Resources for Living, Coffin Elementary School, Freeport Middle School STEM teachers, Riding to the Top, Seeds of Independence, Sexual Assault Support Services of Mid Coast Maine, Topsham Public Library, Trust for our Future and Youth Alternatives Ingraham.
In past years, the grants have funded projects including a new senior citizen companion program, adult literacy programs, the construction of a community garden, playground equipment and the formation of a Safer Sex Club through Merrymeeting AIDS Support Services.
Grant proposals, which are to be postmarked by Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, should be submitted to the Common Good Grant Committee, McKeen Center for the Common Good, 4690 College Station, Brunswick 04011. To donate to the cause, contact staff at the McKeen Center by calling 798-4133. Specific questions from applicants should be emailed to Common Good Grant Committee co-leaders Matt Hillard at firstname.lastname@example.org or Suzie Rawden at email@example.com.