Grassroots Grantmakers kicked off its 2012 webinar series recently with a conversation about grassroots grantmaking through an environmental lens. Three leading grassroots environmental funders - Cheryl King Fischer from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, Tim Little from the Rose Foundation's Northern California Grassroots Environmental Fund, and Kelly Purdy from Global Greengrants Fund - shared insights on these questions:
- Issue-specific grassroots grantmaking - how it is alike or different from the more generic grassroots grantmaking that is used for broad civic engagement and community building purposes?
- What can issue focused grassroots grantmaking do beyond giving voice to residents?
- What are you already doing that might be considered environmental grantmaking - and how can you be more intentional and effective in that work?
- How can you employ grassroots grantmaking to position you to effectively do place-based funding in multiple places?
- Remember that even if you are not a place-based funder, grassroots grantmaking is a place-based proposition - requiring funders to go the extra mile to understand the local context. For Cheryl, that means understanding the nuanced contextual differences between the hundreds of communities in New England where NEGEF has funding relationships. For Tim, that means never assuming that one community in California works like another - and remaining curious about the differences. And for Kelly and her colleagues at the Global Greengrants Fund, that means investing in the relationships they need to work authentically and appropriately in 140 different countries with 13 regional advisory boards representing areas from Brazil to Russia to West Africa.
- Work with a spirit of co-creation and the belief that people coming together can find the answers. When I asked about balancing a commitment to working from a grassroots perspective - focusing on what everyday people can do - and a desire to have impact on pressing environmental concerns, all three of my guests spoke about traveling down the road with everyday people to get from here to there. I was impressed that they did not describe themselves as leaders - leading new people down the road - but instead as fellow-travelers. While there was experience to share, it was clear that the sharing is multi-dimensional, with funders, those with specific issue-oriented expertise, and the grassroots groups that they are funding all sharing and learning. People coming together can find the answers.
- Trust the community. Trusting gets back to the "we begin with residents" position that the best big thinkers on small grants utilize - fully understanding how important it is to involve grantees in setting the objectives that they will be expected to achieve. This is true no matter what - even if you're interested in those issues where you can also call on a full array of experienced professionals on such livelihood, transportation, health, environment, education - issues that directly impact the people that you are engaging with grassroots grantmaking.
If you missed this webinar but would like to check it out, the recording and associated materials are available on Grassroots Grantmakers' website. Also check out and register for the upcoming webinar - Community Network Building (February 21, 3:00 ET), featuring Bill Traynor and Frankie Blackburn sharing insights from a recent convening of a group of highly innovative community network builders. Hope to see you there.