The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

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    Tips and insights on applying for the Knight Cities Challenge

    Oct. 7, 2015, 6 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth Miller Tilis

    The Knight Cities Challenge will award $5 million for the best ideas to make the 26 Knight communities more successful. Applications are open through noon ET, Tuesday, Oct. 27. Apply at

    Knight Foundation’s Vice President of Community and National Initiatives Carol Coletta took to the popular social media platform Reddit this past Friday to answer questions about the Knight Cities Challenge.

    Kicking off the chat, Coletta told participants that the challenge is seeking the best ideas that support civic innovators who help attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of civic engagement in one or more of the 26 Knight communities.

    “We want projects that teach us something important,” she said, opening the floor to comments, questions and feedback about the challenge.

    Below is a lightly edited summary of the some of the most popular questions and Coletta’s answers. 

    Question: When you talk about getting ideas from people you wouldn’t normally hear from, what specifically are you doing to solicit ideas from people in marginalized communities normally not involved in governance?

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    Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal's University of Akron residency culminates in concert performance

    Oct. 6, 2015, 3:40 p.m., Posted by Roger Durbin

    DANCECleveland and The University of Akron are strong and frequent collaborators. The two organizations–which will receive $5 million from Knight Foundation to fund the creation of the National Center for Choreography–teamed up to bring Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal to Akron, Ohio last week.

    During a busy, weeklong residency at the university that culminated in a performance at the E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall on campus, company members from Les Ballets Jazz worked with dance students on ballet technique in a series of master classes. I had the chance to watch one such session for upper-level students, led by Ballet Master Cyrille de la Barre. He guided students through warm-up and stretch exercises at the barre that are much like those that the professional dancers do during company classes. He also showed them some center work that included dance phrases that were reminiscent of the full company. The inclusion of hand-played drums in place of the piano at times helped convey the sense of rhythmic movement that de la Barre was going for.

    Cyrille de la Barre, ballet master of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, instructing dance students from The University of Akron.

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    Giving Day trends: Highlights from spring 2015 campaigns

    Oct. 6, 2015, noon, Posted by Whitney Caruso, Director of Strategy at Third Plateau

    Above: Photo by Wichita Community Foundation.

    This spring, Knight Foundation supported five community foundation partners to host online Giving Days, as part of its multi-year effort to help these foundations democratize philanthropy. As part of ongoing research, Third Plateau conducted an evaluation of these campaigns, and found that a number of the Giving Day trends we’ve seen over the past few years have remained steady. Here are some highlights:

    Giving Days are increasingly driven by smaller donations, but they struggle to attract a demographically diverse or representative donor base. This year, the average donation decreased by 4 percent in comparison to 2014, and the majority of donors made donations of less than $50—indications that Giving Days are making philanthropy more accessible to smaller dollar donors. However, the campaigns are not attracting a diverse or representative set of donors from their communities, as the majority of Giving Day donors continue to be Caucasian women over the age of 40. This is a challenge we have seen in many communities, and is the theme of Knight Foundation’s upcoming webinar, Reaching Diverse Donors, on Oct. 15.

    Giving Days are helping community foundations fundraise and engage their donors online. The community foundations that listed themselves on their Giving Day platforms raised an average of more than $15,000, and most credited the Giving Days with changing the way they use social media. Additionally, Giving Day trainings provided a platform for the community foundations to teach these skills to nonprofit participants, who reported that they are more effective at raising money online and that they increased their own social media presence as a result of their participation.

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