In Ronnie King’s family, there was never a question about the value of education.
Growing up in Tampa, his father was in the military, and his mother split her time between taking care of the family and volunteering in his school.
“If you can get communities and families engaged, a lot of the other stuff will take care of itself,” he said. “You can have all the tools and the programs and the initiatives, but I was probably going to end up all right because there was huge family engagement in my education.”
Today, King is doing better than all right. He’s the owner of a software company, Scratchwerk, and spends significant time giving back to the community.
The MyVillage Project was created in 2013 to support small nonprofits run by neighborhood leaders, Black fraternities and sororities, churches, and other community groups that were fueled not by funding but by a desire to give back.
These largely volunteer-led nonprofits were making a difference by and for their own communities: running after-school activities, early learning programs, athletic programs, voter registration campaigns, partnerships with local schools, and more.
If we define philanthropy as giving time, talent, and treasure, these were groups doing more with less because they leveraged the first two so well.
“They have run sustainable programming for our kids for the longest time,” King says. “Imagine if we gave them some funding.”
In 2017, he participated in The Community Foundation’s Weaver Philanthropic Initiative. He met two other Black leaders, Darryl Willie and Imani Hope, and each made their $5,000 grants through the program to create and seed the MyVillage Project Community Fund at The Community Foundation, inspired by the collective funding approach of the Women’s Giving Alliance.
The MyVillage Project Community Fund makes grants to these organizations that go directly into programming because they have little to no staff costs.
For example, MyVillage Project has created an award and incentive program to promote school attendance – students and their families receive recognition and gift boxes for coming to school regularly and on time, and volunteers run the entire program.
More recently, MyVillage Project has started using grant funding to support the organizations that pay students to develop their own educational games, which can then be shared with other students to promote learning in a way that naturally connects, because it’s built for and by students like them.
MyVillage Project is also working on scaling up from Jacksonville into other communities, through the network of community foundations across Florida, including with Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville and Miami, to help them replicate the model locally.
The work has attracted the attention of national funders, and the Walton Family Foundation made a generous grant for three years to help MyVillage Project develop, test, and replicate the model, with the support of The Community Foundation for technical advising and grantmaking.
In the future, King also hopes more donors at The Community Foundation will see the value of the approach and further fund small, grassroots organizations with their philanthropic dollars.