Community Benefits Funding

Community Needs Assessment Forum

The Community Benefits Advisory Committee is engaged in a process to act on the Guiding Principles for Community Benefits Funding, adopted by City Council. The Committee will make recommendations to the City Manager for the approval of grant awards with nonprofit organizations to deliver services that benefit Cambridge residents and help address their unmet needs, in accordance with the Community Benefits Ordinance.

The City’s first step was to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to provide an in-depth understanding of Cambridge’s most pressing needs and service gaps. The findings of this assessment will inform the recommendations for the investment of mitigation funds tied to the City Council’s funding principles, and inform other planning efforts undertaken in the City.

In addition to establishing award procedures, the Committee will solicit and evaluate applications from non-profit organizations to provide services consistent with the funding priorities adopted by Council.

For past meeting minutes and information on future meetings, please visit the Community Benefits Advisory Committee in the Open Meeting Portal.


October 2019

The Committee will host a second convening with Planning Grant Awardees and Health Resources in Action to provide an update on key components of the Planning Phase of the Community Benefits Funding Process. This meeting is open to the public.

  • Thursday, October 10 - 2-4pm – Cambridge Public Library, Main Branch, 449 Broadway, Lecture Hall

June 2019

The City has entered into grant agreements with the following partnerships:

  • Cambridge Community Center (Lead Organization) – Agassiz Baldwin Community, East End House
  • Community Art Center (Lead Organization) – Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House, Tutoring Plus
  • De Novo, Inc. (Lead Organization) – Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee, Inc., Transition House, Inc.
  • Just-A-Start Corporation (Lead Organization) – Cambridge Family & Children’s Service, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge Housing Authority, Institute for Health and Recovery

The Committee will convene a Planning Grant Kickoff with Planning Grant Awardees and Health Resources in Action to provide an overview and collectively articulate the vision and goals of the Planning Phase of the Community Benefits Funding Process. This meeting is open to the public.

  • Thursday, June 20 - 2-4pm – City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, 2nd Floor

March & April 2019

Review of Planning Grant Proposals

The Committee will review Planning Grant Proposals and interview each partnership, followed by recommendations to the City Manager for the approval of grant awards with nonprofit organizations.

The Planning Grant Proposals submitted to the Committee can be found in the "Request for Proposals (RFP)" tab.

February 2019

Planning Grant Proposals Due

The application for the Planning Grant is due Friday, February 15th by 12:00pm. Proposals must be submitted to communitybenefits@cambridgema.gov  before the deadline.

January 2019

Informational Session for Potential Applicants

The Committee will convene a second Informational Session on:

  • Wednesday, January 16 - 9-11am – City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, 2nd Floor

November 2018

Informational Session for Potential Applicants

Following the release of the Planning Grant RFP, there will be a data presentation, Q&A session, and networking opportunity for interested nonprofit organizations:

  • Wednesday, November 28 - 3-5pm – Cambridge Public Library, Main Branch, 449 Broadway, Lecture Hall

Planning Grant Request for Proposals - November 9, 2018

Click on the "Request for Proposals (RFP)" tab for more information.

Cambridge City Council - November 5, 2018

The Committee will appear before the Cambridge City Council on Monday, November 5th to request that funds in the Community Benefits Stabilization Fund be made available to be used for grant agreements with nonprofit organizations to address the city's most pressing needs, and to contract with a Project Evaluator to work with grantees and the Committee. Please visit the City Council's Open Meeting Portal for the agenda and supporting documents.

For more information, please contact Wendell Joseph at communitybenefits@cambridgema.gov.

August 2018

CNC/CCF Networking Event

The Cambridge Nonprofit Coalition and the Cambridge Community Foundation will hold a joint network event for nonprofit organizations interested in applying for Community Benefits Funds. This informal gathering is an opportunity to get an update on the City's process to release the Request for Proposals, and for nonprofit leaders to engage with their peers and build on existing partnerships, or form new partnerships.

This event will be held on Wednesday, August 1 from 4:30-6:30pm at the Cambridge Community Foundation, 99 Bishop Allen Drive.

For more information, please contact Elena Sokolow-Kaufman at elena@cambridgenc.org

June 2018

Listening Sessions - Feedback & Comments

The Committee has compiled the feedback received on the Framework for Community Benefits Funding, and will continue to refine its process to provide clarity on key comments and questions.

May 2018

Listening Sessions

The Committee hosted listening sessions to solicit feedback on its Framework for Community Benefits Funding on the following dates:

  • Tuesday, May 15 - 3-5pm – City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, 2nd Floor
  • Wednesday, May 16 - 10am-12pm – Cambridge Public Library, Main Branch, 449 Broadway, Lecture Hall

May 2017

Community Benefits Advisory Committee

The Committee was formed with thirteen members appointed by the City Manager, and charged with soliciting and evaluating applications from local nonprofit organizations for the provision of services to Cambridge residents, and to establish rules, regulations, and guidelines for the proper administration and implementation of community benefits funding.

Community Benefits Ordinance

The purpose of the Committee and its process, is to identify community benefits needs of the residents of Cambridge based on the priorities established by the City Council and to solicit and evaluate applications for the provision of said services by qualified applicants in order to make recommendations to the City Manager for the allocation of Community Benefits Funds for the award of grant agreements or contracts for the provision of said services. (Community Benefits Advisory Committee, City of Cambridge’s Code of Ordinances, Section 2.127)

Community Benefits Funds refer to monies offered to and received by the City, from developers from zoning amendments or agreements entered, to be expended for community benefits or related purposes. Between 2010 and 2018, mitigation funds designated for community benefits purposes were pledged to the City through these amendments and agreements. While over $20 million has been pledged to this fund, approximately $7.5 million has been received by the City to date. Upon completion of various stages of development, additional monies will be deposited into the Community Benefits Fund to further assist in the expansion of services to better meets the needs of Cambridge residents.

Guiding Principles for Funding

The guiding principles for prioritizing needs and resources, and appropriating funds for community benefits purposes, was first established by the ordinance. The Needs Assessment Advisory Committee endorsed and adopted these principles, then recommended additional principles for funding:

Frame Needs Thoughtfully

  • *Fund programs or services that directly benefit Cambridge residents.
  • *Emphasize funding priorities established by the City Council informed by the outcomes of the Needs Assessment.
  • Prioritize support for vulnerable and undeserved populations.
  • *Consider neighborhood(s) impacted by development projects.

Build on Existing Assets and Programs

  • *Consider other public resources allocated to a neighborhood in order to better understand unmet needs.
  • Promote awareness of and connection to existing programs and services.
  • Prioritize approaches that leverage other private and public resources.
  • Encourage an asset-based approach that recognizes and builds on the resilience of Cambridge residents and communities.

Promote Holistic Approaches, Innovation, and Collaboration

  • Recognize the inter-connectedness among community needs.
  • Emphasize holistic and creative ideas that promote prevention and coordination across systems and organizations.
  • Remain open to bold and innovative approaches to challenging issues.
  • Recognize that addressing community challenges takes time, and provide the latitude for longer term interventions.
  • *Prioritize funding for nonprofit applicants that promote collaboration, partnership, and collective impact.
  • Encourage and incorporate program evaluation to identify which strategies work best.

Simplify the Application Process

  • *Establish a transparent, inclusive, and collaborative process.
  • *Provide support and technical assistance to nonprofits in the application process to ensure equal opportunity and access.
  • *Provide opportunities for renewable grants to returning nonprofit providers that have an excellent performance evaluation record and programmatic success
*guiding principles established by the ordinance


Planning Grant Proposals

The following organizations have submitted proposals to the Committee on behalf of their partnerships:

The submitted proposals for the Planning Phase will be evaluated on the Selection Criteria:

The Planning Grant RFP

Per the Community Benefits Ordinance, the Committee is soliciting proposals from non-profit organizations to provide services consistent with the Guiding Principles for Community Benefits Funding, adopted by Cambridge City Council. The Committee will evaluate submitted proposals and make recommendations to the City Manager for the approval of grant awards for nonprofit organizations to deliver services that benefit Cambridge residents and help address their unmet needs. 

Informational Sessions

The Committee will host a data presentation and Q&A session, followed by a networking opportunity for interested organizations, on:

The Cambridge Community Needs Assessment and its findings are essential to the work of the Community Benefits Advisory Committee. The report is provided below. 
For more information on the process, please visit the Cambridge Needs Assessment webpage.

Tiered Needs

As part of the Community Needs Assessment, a framework was developed and refined to prioritize needs and inform future funding. This approach does not suggest that certain needs are more important than others, but recognizes that needs may vary based on breadth (the amount of individuals/neighborhoods affected), impact (the degree of challenges imposed on individuals/neighborhoods), and urgency (the combination of severity and time). This analysis resulted in the following:

Top Tier Needs

  • Affordable Housing and Homelessness
  • Financial Security
  • Mental Health: Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse

Middle Tier Needs

  • Food
  • Civic Engagement and Social Capital
  • Education
  • Employment

Lower Tier Needs

  • Safety
  • Transportation
  • Arts, Culture, and Recreation
  • Health
  • Built and Natural Environment

Additionally, according to the Community Needs Assessment, knowledge about the service context in the City can inform thinking about feasibility (the extent to which Cambridge nonprofits have the capacity to address the relevant needs with additional resources), and synergy (the extent to which directing resources to these needs has the potential to address other needs as well).


The following are key presentations and documents relevant to this process:


The Committee has developed a framework for distributing Community Benefits Funds to address the unmet needs of Cambridge residents, and welcomes feedback from service providers and the nonprofit community on this approach:

The Committee accepted comments on the proposed framework through Wednesday, May 23rd.

The Community Benefits Advisory Committee consists of the following 13 members:

City Staff Appointed by the City Manager (3)

  • Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager (Committee Chair)
  • Ellen Semonoff, Assistant City Manager for Department Human Services Programs
  • Sandra Clarke, Deputy Director, Community Development Department

Representatives of the Local Nonprofit Community (3)

  • Kathryn Fenneman, Executive Director, Tutoring Plus
  • Eva Martin-Blythe, Executive Director, YWCA
  • Elizabeth Aguilo, Executive Director, Paine Senior Services

Cambridge Community Foundation Representative (1)

  • Geeta Pradhan, President & CEO, Cambridge Community Foundation

Business/Property Development Representative (1)

  • Susan Lapierre, Senior Vice President at Cambridge Savings Bank

University Representative (1)

  • Paul Parravano, Co-Director, MIT Office of Government and Community Relations

Residents (4)

  • Cibele Goncalves
  • Daniel Liss
  • Rowan Murphy
  • Amy Salomon

For more information on the Committee and its process, contact Wendell Joseph at communitybenefits@cambridgema.gov or (617) 349-9462.