January 11, 2012

Lessons from Hamilton about Balancing Strategy and "We Begin with Residents" Grantmaking

I am back from a holiday hiatus, looking forward to another year of thinking big about small grants and connecting with big thinkers everywhere via this blog.  I can't think of a better way to begin the year than to share the thoughtful work of The Hamilton Community Foundation, one of the funders affiliated with Grassroots Grantmakers, the network that I lead as Executive Director.  I have followed the work of The Hamilton Community Foundation for almost  ten years and have huge respect for their work.  If I could point to one funder and say "look here for patient money in action", I would be pointing toward Hamilton.

You can learn more about The Hamilton Community Foundation's approach to grassroots grantmaking by checking out the profile that we just updated on Grassroots Grantmakers' website or watching the wonderful video below. 

As I read their profile and looked at their video, I remembered how nervous I was when I learned that they were moving their "Growing Roots" grassroots grantmaking out into the community, fearful that this move was really more about putting the program "out to pasture" so it could fade into the sunset.  I heard what they were saying about the strategic decision that is described in the video, but was worried because of what I have seen happen with other grassroots grantmaking programs, when moving out really means "done with you" from the funder's point of view.  How wrong I was to be worried.

The hub concept that they are utilizing, with hubs designed to be authentic community spaces (vs. institutional spaces that where community residents feel more like guests or clients) and the approach that they are taking to balancing community planning and priority setting and the more nuanced, day to day work that strengthens people to people connections and supports neighbors coming together in a spirt of mutual aid, has a lot to teach us about balancing funding priorities (in their case, alleviating poverty) while working from a "we begin with residents" perspective. 

Take a look - you'll see what I mean.

Thanks to the team at The Hamilton Community Foundation for your generosity in sharing your work and your learning with our big thinking community!

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