Shift the Power. Free the Money. Lessons in Community-led Grantmaking

Shift the Power. Free the Money. is a 4-part series to understand and embrace community-led grantmaking.

Shift the Power. Free the Money. is a reflection on how to effectively shift power and center the voice and experience of Black people especially when a foundation is committed to place-based community support.   In this series, we will share our working definitions, how to get started and provide a spotlight on community-led grantmaking initiatives.

Part 4. Community-Led Grantmaking Spotlight: Stadium Neighborhoods Community Trust Fund

 In Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, I shared the key characteristics of community-led grantmaking, critical elements to get started, and what it is really like in the middle of community-led grantmaking in traditional philanthropy. 

The Stadium Neighborhoods Community Trust (The Trust) is another example within the city government.

How It Started…

After the sale of the Atlanta Braves Turner Field, the community successfully advocated for $5 million of the sales proceeds to be invested back into the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium.  The City of Atlanta created The Trust Fund Committee in 2017 to oversee the $5 million fund to support community development, affordable housing and job training projects and activities that benefit the Atlanta neighborhoods of Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh, Summerhill and portions of Grant Park.

CommunityBuild Ventures (CBV) was selected by The Trust Committee in June 2019 to support the committee and grant administration. At that time, the committee had not settled on a vision and mission for the fund.  They selected grantees individually from their respective communities but had not moved forward with announcing their selections.  The community was restless and angry with the lack of grants out in the community at that time.  

Based on our initial experience of the committee and current operations, we began with the following:

Ground Retreat

The committee was unable to reach consensus on how to move forward and how to identify and select grantees.  We decided to start with a retreat to accomplish the following:

  • – To create a vision for community grant opportunities that aligns with distribution of funds.
  • – To acknowledge the work that has been done and the best approach for funding moving forward.
  • – To build community among the committee.
  • – To develop a structured, equitable funding system and process that supports the needs of the community.

We grounded the retreat in Brave Space Building™.  This helped the committee to be themselves and to be vulnerable in the space.  Food, music and movement were integral features that grounded the space.  

At the close of the retreat, the committee defined their vision and mission: created shared language for the grant categories; reviewed a draft RFP; defined grant cycles; and, discussed their role in power building.

Community Listening Sessions

The committee was open to hear from the community to shape and support the fund.  CBV developed and facilitated two listening sessions to get community feedback on the RFP and to recruit community members to serve as community grant reviewers.

Grant Application and Review Process

With input and approval from the committee, CBV created a grant cycle that included a grant application, review process that included community members and grant technical assistance sessions for prospective applicants.  For the first competitive process 34 applications were received that totaled over $3.5 million dollars; 6 community grant reviewers; and 2 grant technical assistance sessions.

How Is It Going…

Since CBV support and facilitation of The Trust Committee, the fund has distributed close to $4.5 million dollars.  This also includes emergency COVID-19 funding in 2020.

The committee successfully transitioned after 2 committee chair changes when their term of service ended.  The committee is now winding down and working to create a comprehensive reflection on their efforts and impact in their community.

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We have been a witness to the ebbs and flow of community-led grantmaking.  It is a public learning endeavor for the grantmaker and the community that centers vulnerability, interpersonal grace and integrity.   

How ready is your organization to…

  • Center final grantmaking decisions from a Black community?   
  • – Listen and incorporate feedback from a Black community on your grantmaking process?  
  • Receive and incorporate the funding priorities from a Black community? 

You must interrogate your practices and policies on how closed or open they are to power sharing.   This will determine how ready you are to embark on this journey and what you may need to get ready. 

If you are ready to look inward; tell the truth about your grantmaking; and, find reconciliation, you may be ready to get started.

CommunityBuild Ventures’ community-led grantmaking work is made possible by the genius of our cooperative members, Neith Sankofa, Sheronde Glover, Trequita Overton, Kysha Cameron, and Natasha A. Harrison.  The lessons from community-led grantmaking are made possible by their expertise, commitment, intuition, passion, and love for Black people.