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Midlands Gives Day is May 7, 2024.

Fostering equitable communities through foundation partnership

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports free expression, arts, culture, democracy, and the success of American communities through strategic grant funding in 26 cities across the country where the Knight brothers once published newspapers.

The Knight Foundation has partnered with Central Carolina Community Foundation since 1993 to bring vibrancy, equity, inclusion, and engagement to the Midlands through its donor advised fund.

The Community Foundation staff and Knight Foundation Senior Director Lilly Weinberg selected the 2024 fiscal year grant recipients in Dec. 2023: Made with Cola Love, Riverbanks Foundation, and Columbia Museum of Art.

In total, the organizations received over $200,000 to improve the vibrancy of downtown Columbia as a place to live and work through economic and arts initiatives.

By the numbers: The Knight Foundation has awarded $3.9 million to 188 organizations in the Midlands region. The donor advised fund at the Foundation doubled from $2.5 million to $5 million in 2008, when its Community Foundations Program began in 18 of the 26 cities.

Between the lines:

  • Made with Cola Love aims to repurpose vacant commercial real estate buildings for small business popups in downtown Columbia. Participating small businesses will receive tailored business development support through peer mentorship and skills-based workshops.
  • Riverbanks Foundation’s Women and Minority Business Development Accelerator Program through the Columbia Chamber of Commerce advances economic inclusion and accelerates minority, women and veteran-owned businesses in Columbia. Its project will increase awareness of its 12-month program and begin three-year data tracking for businesses post-graduation.
  • Columbia Museum of Art will revitalize its Boyd Plaza by incorporating programming and art installations to create a more vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. This urban center will allow people to gather and connect in new and exciting ways, making downtown a more attractive place to live and work.

What they’re saying: “Our partnership with Central Carolina Community Foundation is a crucial collaborative effort with the Foundation being our eyes and ears in Columbia,” said Weinberg. “We hope to continue prioritizing people and reaching the heart of Columbia with new and innovative projects.”