After 17 successful years, The Sprout Fund will sunset in 2018.

The Sprout Fund improved Pittsburgh by inspiring and nurturing people with innovative, grassroots ideas to positively impact their communities.

Helping others become catalysts for civic change has defined our organization for nearly two decades. More than $7 million of community-decided investments went to 1,100+ people, projects, and ideas.

Our pioneering efforts to achieve this mission have spread further and wider than we could have imagined.

Now, a cultural shift has taken root and our community is stronger and more resilient. It’s a good time to sunset.

Thank you, Pittsburgh. This work was only possible because of deep, trusting relationships with all who shared their ideas, money, leadership, and time.

All of us at Sprout

Cathy Lewis Long & Matt Hannigan, Sprout’s Co-Founders

Cathy Lewis Long & Matt Hannigan

Sprout’s Co-Founders / photo: Rob Long

Final Plans

As an investment in Pittsburgh’s bright future, we are documenting our best practices, sharing our enduring values, and giving the rest of our money away.

Last Will & Testament

We’ve looked back on the beliefs and ideals that guided our work from 2001 to 2018 and shared our reflections for Pittsburgh’s continued bright future.

Read the Will & Testament

$1,000 Legacy Awards

We’re looking for the next generation of “Sprouters” who commit to carrying our vision forward. Nominate someone who exemplifies our ideals by May 4, 2018.

Submit a Nomination

Field Guides

We’re working hard to document nearly 20 years’ worth of lessons learned and best practices to help others lead. Look for their release in early June 2018.

Learn More

Celebrate #SproutSunset

Our impact will live on through thousands of people working hard every day to make Pittsburgh better for all.

Share your pictures and stories about the change we seeded together!

In lieu of flowers... make a contribution to your favorite Sprout-supported idea. Or give directly to Sprout and help us make more Legacy Awards.


Legacy Awards

Nominations due at 5pm on Friday, May 4, 2018

Help us find the Pittsburghers who will commit to carrying our vision forward. Awardees will receive an unrestricted grant of $1,000 to advance their work.

Submit your nomination via social media or email. Tag the nominee and say why they embody Sprout’s ideals. Add #SproutSunset.

That’s it! Well, except for a bit of fine print.

Don’t do social? Stop by our office and submit in-person.

Sunset Timeline

April 9

Announce sunset; release Will & Testament and Call for Nominees

May 4

Deadline for nominations for $1,000 Legacy Awards

Early June

Issue field guides for catalytic funding and community building

Late June

Award legacy grants and conclude programmatic activities

Throughout the sunset process, we will finish other organizational business and meet all of our current obligations. Questions? Contact Us.

Press Inquiries: please contact Joanna Doven at [email protected] or 724-420-0870.


Our Story

Communities are better places to live, learn, and thrive because of the people and ideas supported by The Sprout Fund.

From 2001 to 2018, we helped projects and programs in the early stages of development—when just a small amount of investment had the potential to yield big results. We worked with regional and national philanthropic partners to build strong networks and make more than $7 million of community-decided investments in 1,100+ early-stage projects, organizations, innovators, and activities.

We were led throughout by our co-founders, powered by a dedicated staff, and governed by an engaged board of young community leaders. The Sprout Fund was an important force for change in Pittsburgh and a national leader in responsive philanthropy, participatory events, and effective networks.


Our History

For nearly two decades, Sprout’s partnerships with regional and national foundations helped power Pittsburgh’s grassroots response to a wide range of social, environmental, and economic challenges.

Beginnings & Early Success


Created the Seed Award as mechanism for young people to support innovative ideas to make Pittsburgh a better place to live, work, and play. Supported initially by the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Heinz Endowments.


Launched Public Art community mural program to transform the visual landscape and bring communities together around shared goals. Longstanding program supporters were PNC Foundation and Laurel Foundation.


Hosted first Hothouse event, our “live annual report” to the community and annual fundraiser until 2010. It regularly earned “best party” accolades and drew crowds to recent redevelopments.


Partnered with Club Café, The Andy Warhol Museum, and the Brew House Association to activate Pittsburgh in winter through a 3-month series of art, music, and performances.


Issued first RFPs on community-generated topics through Engage Pittsburgh after the Idea Round Up. Lead support provided by Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.


Commissioned local artists to design Giant Inflatables that were erected at cultural sites throughout the city to raise awareness about the Pittsburgh Roars marketing campaign.

Growth & Expansion


Stewarded $1 million in Community Connections grants to help citizens take part in regional celebration of Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary. Worked on behalf of Allegheny Conference on Community Development.


Launched Spark program in partnership with The Grable Foundation to forge collaborations between early learning educators and digital media technologists.


Partnered with The Pittsburgh Foundation to support local efforts to enhance biodiversity when Pittsburgh was North American host city for UN World Environment Day.


Celebrated 10th anniversary of organization with TENACITY, a one-night-only performance retrospective from Sprout’s first 10 years of investments in the arts.


Formalized the learning innovation network now called Remake Learning and helped it grow from a hundred people and a few dozen organizations to thousands of teachers, techies, and civic leaders from 500+ regional orgs.


Issued first annual batch of $1,000 innovation grants that would come to be known as Grand Ideas as the conclusion of the year-long Social Innovation Exchange.

Regional & National Leadership


Secured national funding from MacArthur Foundation to establish a Hive and support Connected Learning activities for teens that were interest-driven, peer-supported, and production-centered.


Hosted an international summit in Silicon Valley to focus the attention of educators and employers on the potential of open digital badges—on behalf of MacArthur Foundation and in partnership with Digital Promise.


Established The Digital Corps to deploy trained-mentors into afterschool community centers to help improve digital literacy skills. Supported by The Grable Foundation and part of the Mozilla global community.


Piloted the use of digital badges to recognize learning and achievement through support from The Hillman Foundation. Defined shared competencies for the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of 21st century learning.


Empowered residents to take action in their communities and advance the One Northside community vision through support from The Buhl Foundation.


Published the Remake Learning Playbook to help other communities create effective regional networks for teaching and learning with support from The Grable Foundation.


Facilitated a White House event on behalf of the Office of Science & Technology Policy to discuss ways to apply maker learning principles and reimagine underutilized municipal assets.


Partnered with City of Pittsburgh on Rec2Tech to demonstrate the potential for municipal rec centers as 21st century learning labs with lead support from Comcast NBCUniversal.


Applied Sprout’s strategies for participatory events and knowledge management through national community work on behalf of LRNG and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Final Years


Used $100,000 of our organizational reserves to fund local solutions to pressing national issues during the first 100 Days of the new presidential administration.


Called on communities to create posters and yard signs in support of immigrants and refugees and convey the important idea that Pittsburgh is a place where we all belong.


Led a digital literacy collaborative for My Brother’s Keeper on behalf of the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County with support from The Heinz Endowments.


Helped regions like Springfield, Ohio, and the Research Triangle in North Carolina remix Sprout’s effective network approach and build their own learning innovation ecosystems.


Mobilized 3 working groups to develop collaborative solutions that expand economic opportunity in the region through support from the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania.


Announced plans to sunset the organization after 17 successful years. Published Last Will & Testament and Field Guides to document our practices. Made last round of grants to support individuals to carry forward Sprout’s ideals.

Our Team


Cathy Lewis Long
Co-Founder & Executive Director
Matt Hannigan
Co-Founder & Deputy Director
Dustin Stiver
Senior Program Officer
Diana Avart
Program Associate
Tricia Monticello Kievlan
Program Associate
Image and dozens of talented writers, photographers, filmmakers, facilitators, contractors, and advisors


We are directed by a board of community leaders who champion civic action in our hometown of Pittsburgh.

Mark Broadhurst, Chair
Eat’n Park Hospitality Group
Dan Byers, Secretary
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University
Megan Cicconi
Fox Chapel Area School District
Meredith Grelli
Wigle Whiskey
Mike Haggerty, Treasurer
The Hillman Company
Alexis Howard
Pittsburgh Public Schools
Cathy Lewis Long, President
The Sprout Fund
Henry J. Simonds, Emeritus

Our Friends

Thank you to our recent supporters, partners, and collaborators!

Contact Us

6101 Penn Avenue, Suite 102
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

 6101 Penn Ave Ste 102, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
 +1 (412) 325-0646
 [email protected]

You can reach any Sprout team member via the email formula: «firstname»

Our storefront office is open to the public each weekday from 9am–5:30pm.