What is the aim of the Loudoun County Community Challenge?
The aim of the Loudoun County Community Challenge, sponsored by the Microsoft Datacenter Community Development Team, is to support existing groups and individuals (once they form a team) across Loudoun County and Prince William County, Virginia, to start new projects that improve community wellbeing, ultimately improving the quality of life for community members. Communities choose the project they want to start based on their community’s needs, from a portfolio of ideas on the ChangeX site. Once the applicant has demonstrated their commitment and ability to start the community project by successfully completing a 30 Day Challenge on the ChangeX website, ChangeX will provide funding, information guides and support to give the applicant the best chance of success. In addition, once the applicant has demonstrated the impact the new project is having in their community, they will receive a further installment of funding to support the maintenance of the project. All projects should be managed in an inclusive and welcoming manner.
The challenge opens for applications on February 1st 2022. Registrations will close when the grant funds have been distributed to applicants who have successfully completed the 30 Day Challenge. Please visit our fund website (www.changex.org/us/funds/loudoun-county-community-challenge) to confirm whether we are still accepting entries.
Who can apply?
The Loudoun County Community Challenge is open to existing groups and individuals (once they form a team) across Loudoun County, Virginia, to start new projects in their community, from the portfolio of ideas on the ChangeX site (www.changex.org/us/funds/loudoun-county-community-challenge), that improve community wellbeing. Examples of eligible groups include schools, universities, colleges, daycares, churches or other faith-based organizations, hospitals and hospital rehabilitation centers, mental health facilities, community gardens, neighborhood groups, senior citizen centers, community centers and recognized government entities.
What can the funding be used for?
The Loudoun County Community Challenge is for new projects and can be used to cover direct costs relating to the set-up or maintenance of the new project. For example, funds can be used for space rental, insurance fees, technology (hardware or software), seeds and planting materials, tools, training fees; pretty much any materials you might need to start a new project that benefits your community.
What can the funding not be used for?
Funds may not be used to promote or engage in criminal acts of violence, terrorism, hate crimes, the destruction of any state, or discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, military and veteran status, disability, sex, age, gender identity or sexual orientation, or support of any entity that engages in these activities.
Community groups outside of Loudoun County and Prince William County, Virginia are not eligible for funding. The fund cannot be used to cover costs of work that has already been carried out and can’t be used for anything that is not related to the set up and maintenance of the new community project. It cannot be used to cover the promotion of religious causes, non- charitable activities, sponsorship or fundraising events. Funds cannot be used as payment to group members for their work on the project.
Reporting Requirements and Funding
In return for any funding you may receive, you are required to share the outcomes of your new project with ChangeX.
The funding allocated to your new project is divided into two stages. The first payment (70% of total funding amount) can be accessed upon successful completion of a 30 Day Challenge on the ChangeX website. During the 30 Day Challenge, several steps that demonstrate the commitment and ability of you or your community group to start the project are taken. These include scheduling a support call with a ChangeX team member; setting up your first team meeting (a virtual meeting qualifies); sharing a photo of your first team meeting (a screenshot of a virtual meeting qualifies) and providing a narrative on what you will spend the funding on, your next steps as a group including a COVID-19 safety plan, and how you hope the project will ultimately benefit your community.
The second payment (30% of total funding amount) will be issued to you after you have completed an impact survey demonstrating the outcomes of your project. The impact survey will be accessible to complete on your page on the ChangeX platform from three months after you applied to start the project. You will be sent email reminders about completing this survey and will have up to six months after you originally applied to complete it. You will be asked to answer questions such as the number of beneficiaries impacted by your project, as well as specific questions related to the idea you have started (for example: number of items repaired, or number of trees planted). At this stage, you will also be asked to share photos that show your project is up and running and having an impact. These photos should show your group in action and should ideally be taken at any significant events, for example: planting events, harvesting events, trainings, workshops or planning meetings and should include as many of your organizing group and beneficiaries as possible.
It is very important that you keep all receipts and records of how any funding you might receive is spent. ChangeX will perform random spot checks on these receipts. If receipts cannot be shown, or the funds are found to have been spent on costs other than those relating to the set-up or maintenance of the new community project, no further funds will be allocated to this project and ChangeX reserves the right to retrieve the funds that have already been distributed. The applicant will be indefinitely ineligible to apply for any subsequent grants through ChangeX.
Each individual or community group is only eligible to submit one application to receive funding. Multiple applications from the same individual or group will result in disqualification from entry. Existing community groups can apply for and receive funding to start up to three of the portfolio ideas, once each application and the resulting project is led by a different member of the community organisation's leadership team.
Family and close relatives of ChangeX employees or of Microsoft are not eligible to apply for funding.
How to apply
Once you have ensured that you meet all of the criteria above, you can go to ChangeX.org, select your preferred idea and register to start the project in your community. The amount of funding available for your project depends on which idea you chose to start. Funding amounts generally range from $500 to $5,500. The amount of funding available per idea can be found on the webpage of each idea. Funding amounts align with the cost of starting each project. The full amount of funding will be allocated to you upon registering. You will be able to access this funding in 2 payments; the first payment (70% of your total funding) is unlocked upon completion of the 30 Day Challenge, and the second (30% of your total funding) once your project outcomes have been demonstrated. If you do not complete the 30 Day Challenge within the allocated time period (30 days from registration), your funding will be reallocated to another group and will not be accessible to you any longer. If you do not report your impact in the allocated time (6 months from registration), the second payment will be reallocated and will no longer be accessible to you.
Once you have completed your Challenge and entered your bank information ChangeX will review your application to make sure all elements of the Challenge have been completed successfully. Payment will then be made, and the transfer will take an average of 4 working days to reach the applicant’s bank account.
When the final impact survey has been completed (between three and six months after the original application was made) it will also be reviewed, to ensure the project is active and the second installment of funding is necessary. Payment will then be made, and the transfer will take an average of 4 working days to reach the applicant’s bank account.
In order to give you the best chance of success to get your new project active, ChangeX will provide you with a number of supports, resources and tools. These include a 5-Step Guide relating to the idea you are starting, a general guide to starting projects in your community, a call with a member of the ChangeX team (which is a mandatory step in completing the 30 Day Challenge), email support, a local webpage to manage your team and previous starter stories to provide information and inspiration.
Where is this funding coming from?
This fund is sponsored by the Microsoft Datacenter Community Development Team. ChangeX is solely responsible for the management of the fund, including the selection of applicants, starter support, fund distribution and impact tracking.
Sharing your project with media or on social
We encourage you to share news about your community project through your local media or on social media in order to find people to join and support your project, or just to share some positive news with your wider community. When talking to media, we kindly ask you to mention the source of the funding for your project. For example, you can say: “The project received funding through the Microsoft Community Challenge, run by ChangeX.” OR “The project has been made possible thanks to funding from Microsoft and support from ChangeX.” On social media, please use the following hashtags when announcing your project: #MicrosoftCommunityChallenge #MicrosoftDCCD
We hope your new community project will help your community to stay active, sustainable and connected as we adapt to new ways of living during the COVID-19 pandemic. However it should be noted that there is a need for your team to exercise personal responsibility and good judgement in their activities, and to stay up-to-date and adhere to any state, county or local safety laws, rules and regulations relating to COVID-19. National COVID-19 guidelines must always be followed. The 30 Day Challenge can be completed with no physical contact between team members. If adherence to COVID-19 guidelines result in unavoidable delays to the set-up of your project, an extension will be given to the impact survey deadline.