Investing in “What Ifs” With Grassroots Grants
No matter how rich or poor, every community has a wealth of ideas, often nascent, for making things better. What if we timed the traffic lights differently? What if we added more trashcans, or lights or widened our sidewalks? What if we turned that blank wall or fence into something more beautiful?
Despite the multitude of improvement ideas, people rarely act on them. Residents may feel limited by time, money, or uncertainty about whether formal permits are required. Grassroots grantmaking is the business of investing in “what ifs” and crazy ideas.
Grassroots grants focus on what people can do better together rather than what agencies or institutions can do for them; help people move from dreaming to doing; and invest in people and associations as critical change-makers in a community.
Municipalities, nonprofits, and community foundations are supporting and stimulating citizen-driven efforts through these small grants.
Here are two organizations doing this work:
The Vancouver Community Foundation’s Neighborhood Small Grants program in Canada supports diverse projects like “Host a Hope” murals to increase community connectedness, a mobile Truck Farm to promote local produce and a digital storytelling project for youth called Callingwood Snapshots. Efforts funded by the initiative encourage neighborhood connections and engagement. Learn more. View the video:
Neighborhood Connections, a 10 year old community building and small grants program of the Cleveland Community Foundation has provided resources for nearly 2,000 projects—public murals, after school programs and even a marching band. All funding decisions are made by a resident grantmaking committee. Watch the video below to learn more.
While many grassroots grant programs are affiliated with community foundations and other funding entities, local governments and nonprofits are also establishing them.
After completing the Golden Vision 2030 and Community Heart & Soul™ planning process, city employees and elected officials in Golden, Colorado wanted residents to take action. Golden created the i-Golden Neighborhood Grants program, offering small grants for resident-led projects that support community values. Through i-Golden grants, the city supports many local efforts including beautification, block parties, and pedestrian safety improvements.
The North Fork Valley Heart & Soul Project in Western Colorado featured a mini-grant program to involve residents in their new community vision. Ten thousand dollars was split between seven winners. Projects included the installation of a community bulletin board, creation of a seed library, and a community kitchen feasibility study.
The Youth Leadership and Philanthropy Initiative of Perry County, Kentucky engages youth through community service, leadership development and small grants. The program helps stem outmigration by teaching the value of investment in the local community. In its first year, the initiative awarded four $500 grants raised from individual donations and fundraising events.
Grassroots Grantmakers is a network of many different types of organizations that share a commitment to the values and principles of asset-based community development and a belief in the power of everyone to be contributing, active citizens and changemakers.
On Thursday, July 31, Janis Foster Richardson, executive director of Grassroots Grantmakers, will join CommunityMatters to share how local governments, nonprofits, foundations and other community groups are supporting positive change through small grant programs.