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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Pensacola CAN Nonprofit Helps People Launch Grassroots Projects

Apr 06, 2016 04:28PM ● By Susan Feathers

Many people dream of taking on a cause to improve their community, but starting and maintaining a nonprofit can be daunting. Paperwork, lawyers, accountants, fees … all those vital details can keep groups from focusing on their core mission. Pensacola Community Action Network—Pensacola CAN—is a nonprofit charitable organization that helps people fulfill the vision that began in their hearts. 

Pensacola CAN is the brainchild of local businessman Tom Hutchings, whose lifetime of work on environmental issues convinced him of the need for a support organization to help grassroots groups be more effective. He established Pensacola CAN to support a range of social and environmental causes, from restoring neighborhoods and communities to improving public health or saving a favorite waterway. 

By partnering with Pensacola CAN, a fledgling organization can start raising money for its cause immediately, and donations are fully tax-deductible under the law. For a modest fee, Pensacola CAN acts as fiscal sponsor, keeping records of the organization’s bank account, tax-deductible donations and memberships. It can receive and administer grant awards under its own 501(c)(3) designation.

 Established nonprofits and their donors can also benefit from Pensacola CAN’s online donor/sponsor platform. Members can receive donations and generate a thank you letter with a tax-deductible statement. Records are secure and available for use by the organization when it launches a new fundraiser.

Brian Stone, co-owner of Cycle-Sports of Pensacola, says his small business partnered with Pensacola CAN to launch Funky Bike Fest, promoting bicycle safety and bike-friendly communities.

“With Pensacola CAN serving as the fiscal sponsor for the Funky Bike Fest, we have the assurance of knowing our donation is properly handled and accounted for,” he says. “Also, Pensacola CAN is a registered nonprofit, and as such, our donation is tax-deductible, which is a win-win for a small business looking to support community efforts.” 

Pensacola CAN partnered with several community projects in 2015, and Hutchings says it hopes to support many more as word spreads about its services. Here are two more examples of community groups that improved their impact with Pensacola CAN:

Slow Ride promotes cycling, community conversation and health and wellness. Pensacola CAN assisted its organizers with marketing, liability insurance and accepting donations from sponsors and individuals.   

The Clean Energy Fest brings residents and visitors together to learn about the latest clean energy technologies in transportation, home energy and lifestyles. 350 Pensacola successfully applied for a Foo Foo Festival grant with Pensacola CAN’s assistance, which included event liability insurance and management of donor, sponsor and grant award funds. 

Christian Wagley, executive director of Pensacola CAN, says it offers services that are vital to helping nonprofits do more. 

“I have seen so many grassroots efforts never achieve their full impact or really even get started because they are intimidated by the work required to become an official nonprofit organization and to legally and properly handle funds,” he says. “This is a great community with big ideas for improvement, and with Pensacola CAN we can help support those grassroots efforts so that they can succeed far beyond what they could do on their own.”


For more information, contact Pensacola CAN at 850-426-4226 or [email protected], or visit

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