May 26, 2009

Do All Small Grants = Grassroots Grantmaking?

I'm home again from about six weeks on the road, taking stock of dozens of opportunities to introduce Grassroots Grantmakers and grassroots grantmaking to new friends and to visit colleagues who are engaged in grassroots grantmaking.

Over this six weeks, I've talked with a lot of people about small grants and grassroots grantmaking. As has been my experience in the past, I've been delighted by the amazing creativity and insightfulness of people who are using small grants as a compelling invitation to people who have the passion, compassion, and desire to move from the sidelines into the action - connecting with neighbors to make a difference on their block or in their neighborhood. I have also been surprised by the different "takes" I've heard on small grants.

Here's my take on the difference between small grants that are powerful tools for grassroots grantmaking and small grants that are about something else.

In the grassroots grantmaking world:
  • Small grants are not seed money. They are scale-appropriate investments that build civic capacity and community resilience by activating the passion, dreams, skills, talents, and networks of community residents.
  • Small grants are not for non-profit organizations. They are for people who are connecting with their neighbors to do something that they feel has value in their own community. Not people working on behalf of other people, but people who are working together on behalf of their own community.
  • Small grants are not about service delivery. They are about self-help and community connectedness rather than the help that comes from professionals and experts.
  • Small grants are not about doing more with less. They are about helping people discover their own power and the power of community, with the goal of bringing more resources to play - the resources and resourcefulness of community residents.
  • Small grants are not an end. They are a means to an end, with the means - the process of doing - at least as important as the end product of the doing.

Have I missed something? Or do you have a different take on the difference between some small grants programs and those that we associate with grassroots grantmaking. Post a comment to join the discussion!

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