case studies

CTK Foundation Grant Award: Social Media, Technology, and Poetry for the Soul

1 Comment 01 March 2011


I was contacted by my colleague John Haydon last week to write about an interesting foundation grant challenge by the CTK Foundation. John was reaching out to bloggers, asking us if we would write about the launch of the fourth annual CTK Foundation Heart and Soul Grant Award to nonprofit organizations. I agreed to write about the award because of several interesting aspects: the award will help nonprofits support their mission through technology, applicants must create an original poem to submit, the Foundation’s use of bloggers to create awareness, and the opportunity for nonprofits engage stakeholders during the application process by using social media.

The Heart and Soul grant awards cash and technology grants. The mission of the CTK Foundation is to recognize and celebrate the work of nonprofits and to promote technology utilization in creating impact and addressing root causes of social issues. This is a great opportunity to fully support mission through appropriate technology, and so many nonprofits don’t have the resources to support their tech needs. A full list of awards can be found here.

I’m intrigued by a foundation using bloggers for outreach; I applaud this foundation for opening itself up to the public. The CTK Foundation is using bloggers to create conversation and publicity about the grant application (we bloggers cannot publize the grant award until 2pm in our time zone March 1, 2011). The concept isn’t new; it is essentially a press blitz. It’s been done before, but I’ve never heard of a foundation using social media blitz to announce a grant application. The catch: CTK Foundation is opening itself up to a public blog-driven conversation. I can only hope that it will participate in these conversations throughout the blogosphere.

The other thing that caught my eye was the “twist” on the traditional grant application: every applicant must also submit an original four-to-eight-line poem that reflects the work or mission of the applicant nonprofit organization. When I asked John Haydon why the CTK Foundation would include submission of an original poem, he answered that “the goal is to have organizations go through a process to get back to their roots and remember their mission. The process honors the mission and focuses on that.” I love that the CTK Foundation is urging nonprofits to ask themselves “why do we do what we do,” but answer it using the left side of the mind. Like a 140-character tweet, the eight-line limit will force an organization to consider what is important to say, economically.

Lastly, the grant process offers a great opportunity for a nonprofit to crowdsource content and ideas for the original poem. The CTK Foundation states in its award guidelines that “this poem may be written by staff members, consumers or volunteers of the submitting nonprofit, and must be wholly original.” Writing a poem by consensus is no one’s idea of a good poem. However, asking stakeholders to submit three words that come to mind when they think of your organization, or the phrase that describes your mission, is an inclusive engagement exercise. Post it as a status update on your Facebook Page: “The three words that best describe us are ________ (fill in the blank).” Tweet the question: “we’re applying for a grant. How would you describe our heart and soul?” Write a blog post about it. Make it a conversation that encourages everyone to participate.

My guess is that this is exactly what the CTK Foundation would love to see happen.

A few details about the award:

  • Grant applicants can be based in either the US, UK, or Canada
  • First Prize is a cash grant of $10,000 USD and a song that will be written by Bill Dillon, to be used in public education or awareness, based upon the selected nonprofit applicant’s poem. The winning nonprofit will also receive two signed guitars by Los Lonely Boys, to be auctioned off.
  • Second Prize is a grant award valued at $5,000
  • There is a $1,000 blogger’s choice award. A randomly selected blogger will receive $1,000, to be awarded to the organization of his or her choice
  • 20 technology software grants will be awarded

The window for submitting applications is March 1 through March 28, 2011. Apply here!






Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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