the CRA forward fund 2017

Click these links to read more about Forward Fund 2015 or 2016.

Purpose and goals

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority hopes to offer awards to a diverse set of entities whose proposals are both feasible and supportive of economic vitality, livability, and sustainability in Cambridge.

The CRA's Forward Fund is a micro-grant program intended to support specific physical improvement projects that better Cambridge's built environment for the benefit of all the city's residents, workers, and visitors.

The Fund's goals are to:

  • Advance the CRA’s mission to implement creative initiatives that promote social equity and a balanced economic system. 
  • Support innovative proposals that craft resourceful projects to take advantage of local knowledge in order to maximize potential benefits.

For 2017, the theme for the Forward Fund grant program is to support projects that create, maintain, or enhance Connections within Cambridge.  Grant applicants should approach this theme by promoting inclusive, collaborative, and a resourceful processes as defined below:

  • Inclusive:  Projects that meaningfully engage key stakeholders, and/or provide a venue to engagement.  Applicants should be thoughtful identifying those needs to create the intended change and including those directly affected by the problem.
  • Collaborative:  Applicants are encouraged to undertake joint efforts with partners willing to share ownership and decision-making regarding a project and the program its project may facilitate.
  • Resourceful:  Projects should use existing resources and assets creatively to make the most of what a community already has, and build upon them.

The Forward Fund seeks proposals that lead to a community innovation - projects that present a breakthrough in addressing a community need or opportunity for connections in effective, equitable, and sustainable approaches.

Available Funding

The CRA will distribute up to $125,000 for 2017.  Grant awards will have a maximum of $25,000.  The CRA reserves the right to allocate funding flexibility depending on the quality of the applicants.

TWO Award Types

Applicants may apply for one of two award types. The award categories are:


Funding Level Requested: ($5,000 - $25,000)

Awards would be offered to applicants piloting innovative specific physical improvement projects that encourage, enable, or execute a physical innovation, avant guarde placemaking, or tactical urbanism in a public and civic space, whether publicly or privately owned.


Funding Level Requested: ($5,000 - $25,000)

Awards would be offered to applicants seeking to fund a physical improvement project that serves a civic facility that provides public services and facilitates community connections or meets a neighborhood need regardless of innovativeness.  This may include a building or infrastructure project for a non-profit or a Cambridge-based independent small business with a neighborhood function that touches a significant amount of the population.  Projects involving private property will need to specifically demonstrate the "publicness" and civic value of the investment.  If the proposal is for the grant to be part of a much larger project, it will need to demonstrate that the CRA investment is filling a critical gap in the viability of that project and demonstrate how that money will be used for a particular project element related to the Forward Funds purpose and theme.

Capital Grants require a 1:1 organizational match - which could include another outside funding source or in-kind/volunteer matching resource[1]. Innovation Capital Grants are to be paid 50% at the time of award, and 50% at the completion of the project. Funds are to be primarily for specific physical improvements, but up to 5% may be used for associated programming.


Capital Grants require a 1:1 organizational match - which could include another outside funding source or in-kind/volunteer matching resource[1]. Infrastructure Capital Grants are to be paid 50% at the time of award, and 50% at the completion of the project. Funds are are not to be used for programming, only for specific physical improvements.

Who should apply

The Fund is intended to use resources generated in Cambridge, combined with talent and organizational capacity within Cambridge, to ultimately benefit the city in new and imaginative ways. Eligibility is intentionally left open to any nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, nonprofit organization that has an agreement with a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, or a Cambridge-based independent small business[2]. It is anticipated the applicants may include neighborhood groups, human services organizations, independent restaurants, retailers, inventors, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, civic organizations, and more.

Previous awardees will be allowed to apply, and those who won a planning & design grant in previous years will be encouraged to apply for a 2017 Forward Fund Capital Grant.  

Eligibility Criteria

Projects must meet all of the following yes/no criteria in order to be eligible:

  1. Located within Cambridge.
  2. Achieves a physical improvement that does not require any additional ongoing funding from the CRA or the City to operate or maintain. Funds are not to be used for programming, only physical improvements. 
  3. Request does not exceed award maximums.
  4. Applicant is a nonprofit organization, a Cambridge-based organization that has an agreement with a fiscal sponsor, or is a Cambridge-based independent small business[3].  No public sector applicants are allowed. Please read the FAQs for further detail.
  5. All applicants must explain and/or how the project relates to the CRA mission and operating principles.
  6. The applicant must have control over the proposed installation site, or have a letter of support from the property owner. 

Evaluation Criteria

Project proposals will be evaluated and scored based on the following criteria by an advisory group to consist of a combination of CRA staff and City of Cambridge staff from various departments:

Project Related Scoring Criteria:

  1. Alignment with the purpose and goals of the Fund and the CRA mission and operating principles.
  2. Improvement to the quality of the built environment, the public realm, or a built structure that provides a public need, or neighborhood amenity.
  3. Provision of a tangible public-purpose investment, preferably in an under-resourced area of Cambridge designated by the City of Cambridge Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Areas.
  4. Alignment with and support of current Cambridge planning and development efforts[4].
  5. Clear public accessibility and visibility of the project.
  6. Ability to inspire, or inform other community investments.
  7. Alignment with the 2017 Forward Fund theme of Connections.

Applicant Related Scoring Criteria:

  1. Capacity of applicant to successfully implement the project.
  2. Partnerships and programmatic connections to the proposed site.
  3. Financial need of applicant.

The CRA reserves the right to apply additional evaluation criteria before accepting projects.


Application and Awarding of Funds

Capital Grants (max $25,000)

  • Submit online application form and attachment
  • Forward Fund advisory group assesses proposals
  • Finalists meet with CRA staff
  • Applicants and awardees are notified
  • CRA Board approves recommended slate of awards
  • Awardees seek to obtain permits necessary for project implementation and submit finalized budget proposals
  • Provisional 50% awards are granted to awardees who have successfully obtained the necessary permits and documentation of matching funds and/or services
  • Final 50% of funds are granted after completion of the project
  • Outcome reporting by awardees within two months of completion date to Program Manager


As the CRA seeks to continuously improve and expand our program offerings, we hope to understand and document our impact in the Cambridge community.

  • Awardees need to document the impact of the final project with any combination of photos, a 1-2 page written narrative, a video, or other creative mediums.
  • Within one year to the date of award being granted or April 16, 2018, awardees are asked to submit these materials regarding their project’s impact for the community.
  • Quantitative data is encouraged if relevant and available (i.e.: number of people visiting the site, number of people attending an event, associated matching or fundraising, economic impact, etc).

Governance Structure

A CRA staff member responsible for receiving applications and responding to questions regarding the application process will manage the Forward Fund on a day-to-day basis. An advisory group consisting of CRA and City of Cambridge staff from various departments and agencies (Community Development Department, Department of Public Works, Department of Human Services, Cambridge Housing Authority) will be appointed to evaluate proposals and determine program awardees. Advisory group members for 2017 are currently being determined.

Submission Deadline

Grant applications are due Tuesday, March 21, 2017, with funding approvals announced by Friday, April 14, 2017.

Submission Format

Digital submissions using the online application are required. Please click the button below to start your application. Applications can be worked on and saved and then returned to later if necessary before submitting the final version. If you would like to see a preview of the questions on the form, click here for a PDF. Note that not all questions seen in the PDF are applicable to all grant types. Many questions found in the PDF form only need to be answered if you are applying for one of the two types of capital grants and do not need to be answered if you are applying for a planning & design grant.


[1] For example, due to the required 1:1 match if the ask is $10k, the total project value is expected to be $20,000 and above, if the ask is $7k, the total project value is expected to be $14k and above, etc. In-kind matches such as pro-bono work by an architecture firm for example must have a letter that specifies a statement of value of those in-kind matching services.

[2] If an organization is not a 501c3 it must have an agreement with a 501c3 fiscal sponsor that will act as the fiduciary for the purposes of disbursing CRA funds

[3] If an organization is not a 501c3 it must have an agreement with a 501c3 fiscal sponsor that will act as the fiduciary for the purposes of disbursing CRA funds

[4] Cambridge planning and redevelopment efforts can be found on the Community Development Department website under “Planning & Urban Design,” “Transportation,” “Climate & Energy,” and “Parks & Playgrounds”


Please see our FAQ page. All interested parties with questions not answered there are encouraged to contact the CRA. 

Contact:           Carlos Peralta, Program Manager


Telephone:        617-492-6800 x14


CRA Mission:

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) is committed to implementing imaginative, creative development that achieves social equity and environmental sustainability. Our goal is to work in the public interest to facilitate infrastructure investments and development projects that integrate commercial, housing, civic and open space uses. We are a public real estate entity with a unique set of redevelopment tools, working in close partnership with the City of Cambridge and other organizations.

CRA Operating Principles:

  1. Act
  2. Operate with transparency
  3. Maximize the public benefit
  4. Operate with fiscal responsibility
  5. Set an example

Learn more about the CRA's mission and history and its 2014 Strategic Plan.


The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority reserves the right to terminate the distribution of awards if it is determined that the funds are not, without prior notification and approval, being used for the purpose approved through the project application.