Charlotte Is Creative’s ‘Helpful Unfettered Gifts’ are more than an infusion of cash; they’re the push that keeps creatives going. As a proud sponsor of the HUG Micro-Grant program, we at the LendingTree Foundation believe in supporting all types of creative initiatives, no matter the size.
Chris Woodfolk, Corporate Citizenship Partner



(Yeah, that statement deserves some explanation.)

Giant ideas are frequently derailed by tiny challenges.

The statement above is as true inside large companies as it is within the hearts and minds of individual creatives.

For Charlotte to be recognized as the innovative, artistic, and creative City it is, creatives need the freedom and confidence to move forward.

But, too often, creative projects, innovative approaches, and amazing ideas never see the light of day because something (usually something small) got in the way.

There are many obstacles: lack of funding, lack of training, lack of promotion, lack of social capital and … most of all … lack of confidence. 

So, in 2017, we decided to do something about it. We were hearing from creatives the existing grant structure in Charlotte wasn’t working for them. 

  • They were intimidated by grant applications.  
  • They weren’t able to write grant applications the way grantors wanted them, too.
  • The timing of grants didn’t meet their needs.
  • They were scared off by the reporting process.
  • The amount of the grants was too large for what they wanted to do.
  • Grants were available for for-profit ideas or nonprofit ideas. Rarely both.

We wanted to disrupt all of that and see what could happen if we provided creatives will just enough financial help to remove one obstacle to their success.

We had $250 a month to start.

We were not prepared for what happened next.

Receiving a HUG grant from Charlotte is Creative feels like a warm embrace from our creative community. The funds allowed us to make critical updates to our physical space, and the encouragement from Charlotte is Creative has been invaluable. We are so grateful!
Beth Bell, Executive Director of Fashion & Compassion


To tackle the challenges, creatives have with grants …
and see what disrupting grant culture could do …
we took the $250 we had and launched the HUG Micro-Grant program.

HUG stands for “Helpful Unfettered Gift.”

What was different?

First of all, we know $250 isn’t a lot of money, but it’s just enough to remove one (or maybe two) obstacles to a creative idea or endeavor. And, $250 is small enough to take chances. 

  • HUGs are available every month, 12 months a year.
  • The HUG application takes about 10 minutes to complete.
  • Grant applications can use plain language. We ask that we understand what they’re doing and how the $250 will be used exactly.
  • HUGs are open to nonprofit AND for-profit ideas and initiatives.
  • We don’t ask for final reporting, but we follow up with our HUG grantees.

HUGs can be used for just about anything in support of a creative endeavor – buying equipment, paying rental fees, paying legal services, boosting social posts, printing promotional materials, hiring a photographer, etc.


As more and more HUGs have been given out, companies and individuals have pushed us to support creatives in new and surprising ways. They challenged us to make the HUG an entry point into a world of support for those who receive them. Once you get your first HUG, more opportunities open up to you:

  1. You can apply for two rounds of $250 funding.
  2. You are invited to attend free, monthly meetings – HUG It Outs – where industry experts play host to short training sessions on business skills, from strategic planning to building Websites.
  3. You receive promotions through Charlotte Is Creatives Web site, newsletter, and social feeds.

Thanks to The Lending Tree, existing HUG grantees can apply for a bigger, $1,000 “Bear HUG” once they’ve proven they can use their first grant well.

One “unofficial” perk of being a HUG grantee (or HUGgee) is that we get to know you. And, when we know you, we can advocate for you. We’re asked by large organizations and companies every day to suggest who they could hire to do creative work. Our HUG grantees are always the first folks we share.




If you’re a creative who is ready to apply for a HUG, click here. There are several versions of the HUG grant (described below) you can apply for.

If you want to donate to the HUG program in any amount, please click here or complete the form below and we’ll reach out to you. We're excited to talk about that if you want to create a special HUG, you sponsor.

Creative Entrepreneurs Initiative

With funding from Wells Fargo, we’ve taken granting to a new level. With their help, we developed the Creative Entrepreneurs Initiative, providing creatives with funding AND access to 10 instructional sessions with business experts teaching them about:

  1. Contracts and Proposals
  2. Strategic Planning
  3. Success Measurement
  4. Marketing and PR
  5. Billing and Bookkeeping
  6. Incorporating 
  7. Business Communication

We teach our creatives that their time is valuable and that they need to invest it in themselves. So, we pay them to attend the classes that will move them forward.

We don’t want to pick between handing out fish or fishing poles. We want to do both. The Creative Entrepreneurs Initiative allows us to do that.


Charlotte needs creative ideas and projects.

Creative ideas and projects need finances to move forward.

And, the creatives behind them need to know they’re seen, appreciated, and supported.

In short, they need a HUG. And, that’s where you can help!   Your donation makes this program possible.  Thank you for supporting the HUG Program!

We know. It’s hard to resist. Give in! Give a HUG.

85% of your donation goes directly into a creative’s hands so they can get started making something amazing. DONATE HERE.
Creativity, for me, came from the rawest, most emotional space and lived experience. Receiving a HUG was the monetary seedling I needed to create a peer-led community for bereaved young people. A community that fosters creativity and provides hope and support while on their education journey, whatever that may be. The same community I wish I had when I lost my parents.
Nathalie Santa Maria, Founder of Leaves from Stella