The Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and the Tom Tom Founders Festival are teaming up on a new approach to philanthropy.

This year, when the foundation’s Future Fund members make a grant, they’ll do so at a public pitch night. Nonprofits will make their case for support before a live audience and hope to walk away with a $10,000 grant.

“This will be a great venue to showcase all the innovative and great work that nonprofits are doing in Charlottesville,” said Carolyn Zelikow, Tom Tom’s assistant director for marketing. “It’s a great way to extend this startup ethos to a segment of Charlottesville that doesn’t usually get that kind of attention.”

The event builds on Tom Tom’s crowdfunding pitch night for local entrepreneurs, one of the April festival’s most popular events during the past three years. Now, local nonprofits will be in the spotlight at their own event.

“The Tom Tom Founders Festival is really interested in innovation and engaging the community, and the Future Fund is primarily interested in engaging young people in philanthropy,” said Daniel Freedman, who manages the foundation’s Future Fund.

Launched in 2009, the Future Fund is composed of community members in their 20s, 30s and 40s who pool their resources to make collective grants. Through the program, officials said, the Community Foundation hopes to plant the seed for the next generation of philanthropists and demonstrate the power of collective giving.

Last year, more than 100 people joined the Future Fund by paying a $200 membership fee. The group focused its giving on the environment and, with matching support from the foundation, awarded four grants totaling $30,000.

The Future Fund announced Friday that it will focus its support this year on arts and culture, environment and education. The application process for interested nonprofits ends Jan. 18.

Freedman said the final award total will depend on participation, but he is planning for three $10,000 grants to be awarded, one in each category.

“The job of the Future Fund members between now and the pitch night will be to conduct due diligence on the proposals,” Freedman said. “That could be everything from interviewing the staff that will implement the program, talking with the [nonprofit’s] executive director, to making site visits and reviewing financials.”

Future Fund members will narrow down the applicant pool in each category to about three nonprofits that will compete for a grant. Immediately after the pitch competition, Future Fund members in the crowd will pick a winner.

Non-Future Fund members will be allowed to help award a fourth prize — an overall audience favorite will receive the event’s ticket proceeds.

Tom Tom ‘pivots’

As Tom Tom prepares to hold its fourth festival April 13-19, the nonprofit also will plans to make some changes of its own, such as a revamped schedule, enhanced tourism marketing throughout Virginia and new fundraising goals.

In 2012, Paul Beyer launched Tom Tom with an emphasis on art, music and innovation. Zelikow says the festival is now “pivoting” its approach in several ways.

“The festival started out as a monthlong for-profit music festival,” Zelikow said. “We found that wasn’t really the right model for Charlottesville. What people wanted were more free events, block parties, educational opportunities and public arts.”

This year, Tom Tom has a weeklong schedule that includes more than 100 free events and a new, ticketed all-day innovation conference at the Paramount Theater. This conference is slated to be headlined by University of Virginia alum Alexis Ohanian, who co-founded the social networking and news aggregation website Reddit.

The Tom Tom Foundation, which puts on the Tom Tom festival, received its nonprofit status from the IRS in early 2013 and conducted its first community fund drive in December. While Zelikow and Beyer are making sure the community is aware of Tom Tom’s need for support, it’s also facilitating the Community Foundation’s venture philanthropy.

“It’s cliché that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ but we have found that our value is to be a platform for creativity and leadership in Charlottesville, and a big part of that comes through supporting other nonprofits,” Zelikow said.

“I think it is a cool new way of approaching grant making,” Freedman said. “I think that Tom Tom is so relevant and such a big part of Charlottesville now, that it’s fun to be able to work with them on this. It’s also a fun way to engage in community issues, and I am really excited about the partnership.”

Freedman said he wants to recruit at least 100 members for this year’s Future Fund. Membership is $225 for 2015, and signups will remain open between now and the April 14 pitch night event. The Community Foundation will add $100 to the pitch night grant pool for each membership.

To learn more and signup online, visit

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