Creating Social Change With Community Led Grant-Making
- Centers community members that are the most marginalized
- Foundations’ ways of shifting power and decision-making toward the communities they intend to serve after realizing that the people closest to the work have the most expertise to solve problems and develop innovative responses
What is Community Led Grant-Making?
- Community members join funding decision-making team and help you decide what is valuable for their community/what to fund
- Communities can be geographic or thematic
- enables people who actually experience a community’s challenges to direct funds to produce most effective work; community leaders know what their communities need and can identify high impact projects and individuals
- by inviting leaders to the decision-making table, you’re strengthening their voice, contacts, and skills; which makes them more valuable to the community and better able to continue work after you’re gone
- Harness talents of diverse communities; more room for creativity and genius to emerge from people across income levels.
- Help navigate community landmines. When you begin funding in a community, you change the power dynamics. Having guides to help you understand the community’s history, culture and personalities can help you avoid problems down the line. Curiosity and open-mindedness are essential qualities that support successful collaborations.
Build strong and creative relationships between people who rarely sit together at the decision-making table: community power holders and financial power holders. When you take the leap and bring community members in as equal partners, you create opportunities for deep personal relationships, dynamic collaborations and greater impact.
One common thread among the leaders at this meeting was a passionate vision that this type of grantmaking isn’t solely about more effective grantmaking, although often an important byproduct, but rather demonstrates a paradigm shift in how we work with our grantees as agents of change in their communities rather than simply as beneficiaries of aid. It goes beyond grantmaking into the importance of advancing public and democratic participation in decision making. In essence, the process itself is part of the impact!
Many strengths were shared about working in this framework: shared responsibility, community responsibility for due-diligence, transparency and accountability to the community, advanced democratic practice, civic engagement, accessibility, innovation and trust, bridges across communities and issues, leadership development, self-determination, and collaborative learning. A culture of participatory grantmaking increases the diversity of decision-makers, strengthens decisions, and allows more funding at the grassroots level.