What do I mean by grassroots grantmaking?
Grassroots grantmaking is a place-based grantmaking tactic that is simple yet powerful. Quite simply, it utilizes modest grants and common sense to help people reclaim their place as change-makers in their own community. It is about civic engagement at the most human level. It supports the determination and passion of people to actively join with others face to face to create the community that provides the supportive environment they need to live the life that they want.
Grassroots grantmaking is powerful in that it recognizes the potential of a largely untapped resource for community renewal - the informal associations at the community level that most frequently operate under the funding radar screen. These informal associations (grassroots groups) serve as the locus for “active citizenship” in a community. Investing in grassroots groups provides a mechanism for activating a critical missing ingredient in more traditional community development strategies - the knowledge, passion, commitment and enduring presence of people who in live in a community.
Grassroots grantmaking is a rapidly growing funding area - appropriate for funders of all types who believe that people - not programs - are the generators of change. Community foundations, family foundations, private foundations, corporate funders, city governments, United Ways, giving circles, community-based nonprofits, and neighborhood groups themselves are discovering the possibilities of grassroots grantmaking.
Grassroots grantmakers are funders that are:
- investing in resident-initiated and resident driven activities;
- helping communities discover, claim and activate the leaders in their communities that have been waiting in the wings;
- working from a possibility perspective - using an asset-based approach to solve community problems;
- realizing that grants that are small for funders but big for the grassroots groups can have big impact;
- thinking local - very local, as in blocks, neighborhoods and groups of neighborhoods - with work that is tailored to maximize local resources and respect local culture;
- helping to spread the word about the power of grassroots grantmaking!
Why a blog?
I believe that the combination of my personal experience in my own community, my work as a place-based funder, my years as Executive Director of Grassroots Grantmakers and the number of years that I've been observing and contributing to the ebbs and flows of community philanthropy gives means something. I recognize that I have been privileged to witness to the learning journey and innovative work of people and organizations who are walking the walk of social change - putting money in the hands of community residents who are connecting with neighbors to move a good idea into action. With this blog, I am creating a space where I can share the view and try out some "meaning making" with others who are on this journey. I am especially interested in encouraging critical thinking and dialogue about what funders can do to promote active citizenship by thinking bigger about small grants.
- Reflections on the work of grassroots grantmaking - sharing what I think might be interesting or noteworthy from my big picture perch in the world of grassroots grantmaking;
- Thoughts on active citizenship and why it's important for funders to be in the grassroots grantmaking business;
- Flags on work that is important for grassroots grantmakers to know about and think about - research, innovative practices, cutting edge thinking;
- Queries about what stands in the way between desire and practice - especially how well-intentioned funding organizations get in their own way when they are aspiring to work in a different way;
- Notes on the innovative edge of community philanthropy and what opportunities and challenges it is offering to more traditional philanthropic approaches.