City officials yesterday announced the formation of the Berkshire Funding Resource Center, a program housed at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Wendell Avenue, that will provide free direct online access to the Foundation Center, a subscription-only database that includes more than 80,000 foundations and corporate giving programs, and more than 500,000 previously awarded grants. The center also features a selection of directories and guides to proposal writing and grants research, along with other topics.
"It provides information on every nonprofit available," Mayor James M. Ruberto said during a news conference held in the athenaeum's auditorium. "We really have made it easier to open up the doors of opportunity to significant dollars to come into the Pittsfield community that otherwise wouldn't be tracked down."
"Anyone who visits the library has access to this database," said Madeline Kelly, the athenaeum's supervisor of reference services.
During a demonstration, Kelly said the Foundation Center's database can be accessed on the athenaeum's computer system by accessing the library's Web page. The database identifies foundations that are currently offering grants, and lists the qualifications that grant applicants are required
People seeking access to the Foundation Center's database previously had to travel to "satellite centers" in either Springfield or Albany, N.Y., Ruberto said. Pittsfield becomes the fifth site in the state to be designated a "satellite center." Two sites are located in Boston, while the others are in Springfield and Worcester.
The establishment of the resource center was made possible through a $65,000 John and Abigail Adams grant to the city of Pittsfield from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the organization that is also funding the Cultural Pittsfield Initiative.
"The whole notion of the John and Abigail Adams grant process is as an economic development tool," Berkshire Athenaeum Director Ronald Latham said. "They want to put money into their grant recipients so that the communities that get those grants will have the ability to grow economically.
"For a number of years now, Pittsfield has been thinking of itself in terms of its downtown doing something with the arts that will enhance the community and help turn it around economically," Latham said.
According to Latham, the Berkshire-Taconic Foundation has identified 1,200 nonprofit organizations within the immediate area (the foundation also provides funding to nonprofits located outside of the Berkshires). A minimum of 100 nonprofit organizations is required for an area to be considered a satellite center by the Foundation Center, officials said.
Diane D. Carlo, who is both president of the Berkshire Athenaeum's board of trustees and the Berkshire United Way's resource development director, said one-third of the county's nonprofit organizations are located in Pittsfield.
"Having the resources of the Berkshire Funding Resource Center available to our agencies will be a tremendous boon to our community by helping worthy organizations find desperately needed funds," Carlo said.
Sculptor Phylene Amuso of Pittsfield, a member of the Storefront Artists Project, said the establishment of the resource center will help her seek funding for an initiative she intends to start.
"I'm trying to launch a community type program," Amuso said. "This is pretty exciting."
Community access to the Berkshire Funding Resource Center begins immediately, but training sessions at the athenaeum begin Sept. 13.
Access to the Foundation Center is currently available only on 10 computers at the athenaeum, but Latham said the library hopes to make the building available to wireless technology within the next four months.