Research Roundup: Grassroots Grantmaking

Proximate
January 2024
In partnership with:
Magic Cabinet

We know: there’s a lot to read out there.

We all wish we had time in the day to curl up in bed with a good white paper. In our series TL;DR, we read the latest research, reports and white papers that advance the grassroots grantmaking movement, so they can read as wide an audience as possible. And we try to keep it short, so you can know what’s worth a long read later on.

An introduction to language justice

The language we speak in, listen to, and read influences how we think. The West Africa-based Sankofa d’Afrique de l’Ouest (ISDAO) released a guide to linguistic justice for grantmakers called Kuûmã, which means “to speak” in some regional languages. The guide draws from several years of experience at ISDAO to implement language justice and inclusion; now they want to share their learnings with others.

While the first half of the report is focused on French language nuances specifically, Part 2 (page 12) has some good advice for any grantmaker looking to be more thoughtful on language inclusion. For example, ISDAO budgets for language learning for every staff member who is not bilingual such that they can learn French or English. They also support staff, when hired, to identify the best option for language instruction and learning for their particular needs and context.

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative reflects on PGM

The foundation released a case study about their experiment with participatory grantmaking. They used a participatory model to grant $13 million to 139 community groups in California’s San Mateo County; the foundation engaged local community members to sit on a series of “review panels” that weighed in on who received funding.

The details of the model are worth reading. Of note: the CZI team reached out to grantee partner to recruit review panel members, before running their own screening process. They also point to their experience with reviewer bias, and their solution to normalize scores along a standard deviation. We wrote a full recap of the report, which you can find here.

Grassroots, Black and Giving

Historically, Black-led nonprofits are funded at levels dramatically lower than their White counterparts. This report, by the Young, Black and Giving Back Institute, explores how philanthropy can better support Black-led and Black-benefitting grassroots nonprofits.

They surveyed more than 100 “grassroots” nonprofits, which they define as those that are small and lean, distinguishing them from “the large or even mid-level nonprofits that mirror corporate structures.” Their findings: these nonprofits largely operate on budgets less than $500,000, with many taking in less than $30,000 annually; they work primarily on issues related to poverty and economic security; and they want capacity-building support.

A map of PGM in the UK

Participatory grantmaking has been on the rise in UK philanthropy over the past few years, driven by movements like #ShiftThePower and outspoken advocates from inside and outside the sector. The Advocacy Team and National Community Lottery Fund, released the first-ever map of PGM in the UK

They received input from 41 charities – a combination of charities and NGOs, private and family funds, corporate funds, and even a few public sector funds and local authorities. They found that the PGM space in the country is relatively new: most respondents had practiced shifting power for less than five years. We wrote a full recap of the report, which you can find here.

Giving platforms as centers of proximity

More and more dollars are being given online – an increase of 42% in the past three years alone – and tech platforms like crowdfunding are playing an increasingly important role in that giving. At the same time, funding disproportionately flows to the biggest and most well-known organizations, leaving out grassroots and BIPOC-led organizations.

What if giving platforms centered equity in their design? This report from Radiant Strategy and IDEO offers suggestions for leaders in both tech and philanthropy.

Participatory Grantmaking and Family Philanthropy

Family philanthropy has been slower than other sectors of the industry to take on participatory grantmaking. A new report from the Share Fund reflects on the Washington-based foundation’s experience ceding control to a Design Group made up of five BIPOC community leaders and a facilitator.

The Group collectively chose aligned grantees who were local, BIPOC-led and focused on their communities’ visions. Each of these 17 grantees received a one-time unrestricted operating grant ranging from $1,000 to $55,000 and a $3,000 Opportunity Fund. The report highlights how clarity of values and a focus on elevating equity can help other wealthy families trust the process, letting go of power to add participatory practices within their own giving plans. 

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