By Mike Rosso
Microgrants for community-based projects:
A microgrant serves as an opportunity for communities facing poverty to receive funding for impact-oriented projects, such as schools, health centers, farms and more. Microgrants for community projects provide a novel opportunity for people facing poverty to solve their own local problems with financing that need not be paid back. Source: Wikipedia.
Since June 2015, on the third Thursday of each month, a growing number of Salidans and other area residents pay a $5 admission to share soup, visit, listen to presentations and choose a deserving recipient for the total funds collected that evening.
The brainchild of Jimmy Sellars and Mark Monroe of Sellars Project Space, a web design and marketing firm, the Soups have been helping area nonprofits and other organizations in need of additional funding. Each month, three organizations or individuals are chosen to give a five-minute pitch to the gathered crowd on why they should be the microgrant recipients for that evening.
Attendees are allowed to ask four questions of each presenter and then decide who is most worthy, using a private ballot vote to provide funds to that presenter.
The most recent Soup raised $763 for Veterans Expeditions, a nonprofit group that offers opportunities for outdoor adventures to U.S. military veterans. The group will use the funds toward a Browns Canyon whitewater trip this summer. On that evening they were chosen over Full Circle Restorative Justice and Planned Parenthood, but not by much. Monroe says that so far, all of the balloting has been very close, as voters find merit in nearly all presenters.
Although not the recipient on that particular Thursday night, Planned Parenthood was presented a substantial check by a private attendee, proving the Soups to be a way to raise funds outside of just the balloting.
After deciding to leave city life behind, Sellars and Monroe moved to Salida from Denver in August 2014, where they both worked as artists and designers. Sellars owned and operated Gallery 211 and the Sellars Project Space.
Back then, his gallery hosted a Starving Artists Brunch, similar to the Salida Soup, but for artists only. The inspiration for that came from Detroit SOUP, whose mission since 2010 has been to promote community-based development through crowdfunding, creativity, collaboration, democracy, trust and fun, according to their website. So far, that group has raised over $115,000 at 127 soup dinners for Detroiters.
After relocating to Salida, Sellars and Monroe believed that starting a Soup would be a good way to become involved in their newfound community.
Their hunch was correct as the number of attendees at each Soup keeps growing, offering larger awards for organizations such as: the Salida High School Drama Team; Mindfulness in the Jail Program; Salida Circus; the School of NIN – a health and well being program for children and adults; Shul in Salida – to create a menorah for Salida’s Holiday Park; and funding to paint the exterior of an art truck. So far, the Soups have raised nearly $7,000 in total funds for the individual presenters.
To present, the following criteria are suggested: a concise and informative presentation – creative projects are encouraged; and the idea must be implemented in the greater Salida/Arkansas River Valley area. You do not have to be a resident to submit an idea. There is no fancy technology for the presentations – just the presenter and a microphone.
Donations from individuals and businesses are also encouraged to add their support to the “pot.”
Salida Soup is held at the SteamPlant Event Center Ballroom at 220 West Sackett Avenue in Salida on the third Thursday of each month, with doors opening at 6 p.m. The next Soup will be held on March 17.
For more information and to apply or donate, visit www.sellarsprojectspace.com/salida-soup/