The Microsoft Corporation is offering a Community Empowerment Fund for building “stronger communities and develop ecosystems of local partnerships to achieve social, economic and environmental outcomes”.

There are two types of funds being offered through the program for qualifying organizations/non-profits that serve those in the counties of Mecklenburg, Halifax, Charlotte, Lunenburg, and Brunswick. Community Small Projects are intended to support small projects that contribute to the immediate need of the community. Requests for up to $10,000 will be considered for this fund. Community Large Projects are for requests from $10,000 to $30,000. This project funds are aimed at supporting large-scale projects that contribute to community social, economic, or environmental outcomes.

Projects that fall into one or more of the below funding categories will be considered.

Broadband Expansion: Leverage technology skills and resources to connect rural communities to cloud, to help close the digital divide and to continue to work with Airband team to identify rural broadband opportunities

Workforce Development/ Educational Opportunities: Invest in programs and build on partnerships to deliver workforce development opportunities for the present and future workforce of the region.

Regional Quality of Life: Invest in projects that improve the regional quality of life through increase in access to recreational services, promotion of the arts and culture, increase in environmental sustainability practices, access to community health, increase child and family resources in the community, and promote volunteerism.

Microsoft looks to fund projects that promote social, economic, and civic equity by supporting community organizations in multiple counties. Funded projects will:

• Directly serve marginalized groups or people.

• Involve beneficiaries in the design or implementation of the project.

• Communicate how collaboration is promoted within the organization and project.

• Align with at least one, but preferably multiple funding priority(Broadband Expansion, Workforce Development/ Educational Opportunities, Regional Quality of Life)

• Support the identified community need with current reputable data/ statistics.

• Demonstrate measurable outcomes and milestones and the methods and tools for evaluation.

• Leverage other funding sources beyond Microsoft.

• Detail the proposed use of all Microsoft support (cash and in-kind, when applicable).

• Provide opportunities for Microsoft employees to support and/or volunteer as part of the project or organization.

• Produce results that can be shared, replicated, or scaled up to increase impact.

“Please note that our ideal projects will leverage the above while also being deeply involved in the community and its advancement.”

The list of ineligible activities includes: donations to individuals and organizations, donations/ scholarships for an individual, which are not distributed through a non-profit foundation, academic research, or organizations that do not have legal designation as a non-profit, organizations that permit the exclusion of a group based on their race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or lifestyle, gender, or other social identity characteristics, or sponsorships.

Preliminary applications are due by February 21. Selected applicants will receive a notification on or before March 30 if they are being invited to move to the second step of completing the full application.