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Making a Difference: Getting Grants for Sustainable Community Initiatives

We talked with Sofia John ’23 about what she learned volunteering as a grant reader for a regional organization dedicated to seeding and supporting sustainable communities.

Sofia John

In this series, Karen Guzman talks to Yale SOM students about how volunteering complements their business education and connects them to their community.

Student: Sofia John, a joint-degree student at Yale SOM and the Yale School of the Environment
Organization: New England Grassroots Fund, a nonprofit that helps create healthy, safe, and environmentally sustainable communities throughout New England

Where drew you to this particular volunteer opportunity?

The opportunity to read grants for New England Grassroots Fund interested me because I knew I’d get to learn about projects happening throughout the region.

What are the values that motivate you to volunteer?

One of my core values is generosity. I enjoy lending time to others—be it friends, family, or volunteer organizations. Before I moved to New Haven, I volunteered with the parks department in San Francisco, helping to restore habitats for native species. I also enjoy connecting with other volunteers; they tend to be very excited about the work, and that is contagious.

How does volunteering complement your MBA education?

I’m exploring impact investing as a possible career path. Reading grants puts me in the mindset of an investor. There are finite funds in the program, and it’s interesting to think about how to maximize impact given the available resources.

What's one surprising thing you have learned through volunteering?

The New England Grassroots Fund offers grants to a variety of organizations, including those without formal tax status and with few paid staff. I am always amazed by what a few motivated individuals can accomplish. Additionally, it is fascinating to read about the diversity of passions that applicants pursue.

What have you learned about the city of New Haven through volunteering?

Through reading grants, I’ve learned about organizations that serve the New Haven area. This experience has shed light on some of the pressing issues facing the city, beyond the Yale bubble.