Sarah Owen and Scott Fischer

FORT MYERS, Fla. (June 16, 2014) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently brought together 100 nonprofits from Lee, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry and Collier counties for the redesign of their funding process for regional and agency programs and projects.

Hosted by Arthrex at its Naples headquarters located at 1370 Creekside Boulevard, iLAB 2014 was the launch of the Foundation’s new Community Impact Grant process. The five-hour iLAB was the first phase and an “idea-to-project” event. Participants spent essential time moving from issue clarification to project design. At the end of the five hours, participants had created two to three regional projects and presented them to a team of reviewers. The Foundation plans to evaluate the potential of these ideas and consider funding one or more through this year’s Community Impact Grants.

“iLAB is all about increasing our region’s ability to think together about innovative solutions to real issues,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “We want to create new regional partnerships while strengthening existing ones.”

Owen added that additional goals were for nonprofits to learn to design projects with greater ingenuity, adaptability and collaboration and to emphasize the importance of regional innovation.

Only iLAB participants are able to submit an individual agency Letter of Idea for funding during phase two. Called the Compassionate Shark Tank, phase two will include two rounds in June and July. In round one, agency leaders interested in an individual agency grant will submit an LOI that is a one-page snapshot of their program/project idea that includes the issue, change, action, partners and funds needed. If their letter is accepted, round two will have them participate in the shark tank with a few minutes to share their idea with the shark tank panel made up of individual and corporate funders from across the region. If the panel accepts the agency’s idea, they will be invited to submit a stream lined RFP. Final awards will be announced in September.

“There is always more need than money when it comes to community projects,” said iLAB attendee Susan Mitchell, director of grants for Lee Memorial Health System. “iLAB is a novel approach that stimulates a collaborative and effective use of resources.”

In 2013, 15 agencies in the five-county Southwest Florida area were the recipients of funds totaling $439,812 in Community Impact Grants provided by the Foundation.

Founded in 1976, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation supports the communities of Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Glades and Hendry counties and also acts as the regional convener and leader with firsthand knowledge of community needs. With assets of more than $75 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $57 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. During its 2013 fiscal year, it granted more than $4 million to more than 100 different organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and $450,000 in scholarship grants.

For more information, visit the Community Foundation’s website at or call 239-274-5900.

Kathryn Kelly and Pam Beckman