Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth

Established in 2018, the Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth is a growing fund with the goal of ensuring a source of revenue for dynamic and innovative youth programs in Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, and Woodford in perpetuity.

Youth are important. When young people in a community thrive, they make their communities more vibrant. They volunteer in the community and help their neighbors. They speak up and speak out about their values and aspirations. They engage in school. They are creative. They take part-time jobs and internships. They value the land and work to protect it. They give a community a sense of pride and promise.

When youth struggle not only are their lives harmed, but the community’s future is also compromised. The Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth is helping youth thrive, get the supports they need to overcome personal and community challenges, and pursue their dreams.

A rotating committee of Bennington-area residents with lived and professional experience about issues facing local youth collaborates with Community Foundation staff to review proposals and select grant recipients. Most grants are for small organizations and projects where a $500 to $3,500 grant can make a big difference. Since the Fund opened in 2018, thirty-three projects have received grants totaling $98,840.

What We Fund

The Opportunity Fund for Southshire youth awards grants for creative and effective initiatives that empower and support Bennington-area teenagers, particularly those facing challenges and limited access to opportunities due to economic distress, disengagement from school, mental health issues, racism, gender identity, disability, legal status, or other reasons.

Guided by a community engagement process in 2018, the fund has supported projects over the past five years that:

  • Elevate youth voice, leadership, and empowerment in the community and youth-serving institutions, especially of historically marginalized youth;
  • Provide opportunity and access for youth facing hardships related to poverty, marginalization, violence, and other traumas;
  • Expand youth engagement in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) activities and increase youth exposure to STEAM careers;
  • Advance youth workforce development and rural entrepreneurship; and/or
  • Support youth disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2024, Vermont Community Foundation staff is engaging with Bennington-area youth directly to understand the current needs and interests of youth in the region. We anticipate changes to the above guidelines based on what we hear and gather, to be completed in mid- to late August. Projects and/or organizations that propose work aligned with the youth's needs and interests will receive priority. Please see the 'Deadline & Notification' section below for the 2024 program timeline.

The Fund will support programs that benefi­t teenagers entering or enrolled in 6th through 12th grades (typically ages 12 to 18) including students at Mount Anthony Middle School or High School and/or those who live in the communities served by those schools.

Who May Apply

  • First time applicants are encouraged to apply. Please be in touch if you have any questions or need help with the application.

  • Grassroots organizations and community groups are encouraged to apply. Nonprofit organizations or community groups that do not have 501(c)(3) status may apply for grant awards if another tax-exempt organization, school, or municipality acts as a fiscal sponsor.

  • An organization serving as fiscal sponsor for an Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth applicant or grantee does remain eligible to submit their own application for a different project.

All applicants to programs at the Vermont Community Foundation must meet these guidelines.

Grant Size

Grants will be in the range of $500-$3,500.

Deadline and Notification

Applications will be accepted between September 3, 2024 and October 15, 2024. Applications must be received by 5PM on Tuesday, October 15 in order to be considered.

Applicants will be notified of decisions in December 2024. Grants may be used to cover activities beginning in December 2024 and extending through December 2025.

Grant funds cannot cover activities that have already taken place; please keep the notification timeline in mind as you prepare your application.

Application Process

All applications must be submitted electronically. Visit our Online Grants Center page to learn how and to register for a new account. Or click here to access your existing account.

A PDF sample of the application will be available to view in August 2024. Please note that this will be a PDF sample and not the actual application. To view and begin working on the application once it is live, you will login to the Online Grants Manager (OGM), which can be accessed at www.vermontcf.org/OGM.


No gifts to The Vermont Community Foundation shall directly or indirectly subject the Vermont Community Foundation to a prohibited material restriction as defined by federal law. All gifts are subject to a federally required amendment or variance power that permits the Vermont Community Foundation to vary from the terms and conditions of agreements with donors relative to the purpose, investment, and management of its funds subject to the procedural requirements of Vermont state law. In practice, the Foundation uses this variance power rarely and only if the needs of the community have shifted. The Foundation will be in communication with donors should such a shift occur.