In this issue:
- Bridging the Grassroots Gap (below)
- Young Leaders Help Plan for Our Future by Jill Ratner
- New Voices Testimony Helps Decrease West Oakland Diesel Truck Pollution
- What I’m Doing With New Voices Are Rising By Eliezer Mendoza?
- Click here to read the entire Spring 2012 Newsletter
Bridging the Grassroots Gap
By Tim Little
If not us, who? If not now, when?
That’s what we asked ourselves 9 years ago when we began to build a bridge across the chasm that separates most of organized philanthropy from the grassroots base of the environmental movement. As our Northern California Environmental Grassroots Fund looks back on awarding nearly $2 million to more than 450 off-the-radar small groups from Crescent City to Bakersfield, these questions still ring true today.
Lifeblood of the Environmental Movement
Volunteer-driven grassroots groups are the lifeblood of the environmental movement. They have a direct personal stake in halting pollution, restoring wetlands, protecting wilderness, and educating the next generation of environmental leaders. They understand their local culture and politics. Their passionate volunteers can leverage a small grant into big wins. But most foundations don’t fund these groups. They are perceived as too small, too new, or too risky. But local groups are an important component of any successful national or statewide environmental protection campaign, and they are often left out of the funding stream – this is the grassroots gap.
We are proud to say that in nine years, more than 25 prominent foundations have pooled a portion of their grantmaking dollars with us to bridge that grassroots gap and utilize our efficient, collaborative strategy to leverage high-impact returns in conservation and environmental health.
Big Bang for the Buck
Operating on a user-friendly, quarterly grant cycle, Rose’s Grassroots Fund strategically awards $2,000 – $5,000 grants to small “kitchen table activist” groups at the forefront of our state’s environmental challenges. To find out more about these grantees, check out our searchable grants database.
More than Just Money
But as crucial as our financial lifeline is to under-resourced activists, one thing is certain – the work needs to continue even after the grant runs out. We’re proud of our grantees who have used a grassroots grant to save agricultural land from being paved over in the Central Valley, or to build an environmental education program at a local school. Attached to every grant we give is a capacity building training program. The goal is simple – we want each grantee stronger and more sustainable after our money is spent. So they receive scholarships to attend trainings on survival skills like bookkeeping, board development, media outreach and database management. We also convene them together to learn fundraising, communications, technology and strategy skills from each other and experts in the field.
More than Just Money
But as crucial as our financial lifeline is to under-resourced activists, one thing is certain – the work needs to continue even after the grant runs out. We’re proud of our grantees who have used a grassroots grant to save agricultural land from being paved over in the Central Valley, or to build an environmental education program at a local school. But we also want each grantee to be stronger and more sustainable after our money is spent, so we attach a capacity building training program to each grant. All grantees receive scholarships to attend trainings on survival skills like bookkeeping, board development, media outreach and database management. We also convene them together to learn fundraising, communications, technology and strategy skills from each other and experts in the field.
A Smart Investment
When we started the Grassroots Fund, our goal was to bridge the grassroots gap to give the community access to foundations whose doors are often closed to small and “scruffy” activist groups. But the foundations that participate in the Grassroots Fund reap big rewards too. Our funding partners benefit from Rose’s extensive experience in community-focused grantmaking to efficiently pool their resources to penetrate deeply into communities, watersheds, and forests that they cannot reach on their own. Instead, they use the Rose Foundation as their “eyes and ears” to spot emerging new organizations and then nurture them into direct relationships with funding partners.
While originally designed to help foundations bridge the grassroots gap, many Rose donors have designated their gifts to the Grassroots Fund. Thank you for your generosity! In addition to helping enable community-based environmental work, you are helping us leverage money from big foundations towards the community. If you want to make a contribution to the Grassroots Fund, it’s easy – just hit the donation button on our website and check the box for the Grassroots Fund.
2012 Grassroots Fund Goals
We have some ambitious goals for 2012. With your help, we can:
- Award at least 50 high-impact grants totaling $200,000.
- Increase our capacity building and training program.
- Translate outreach materials and annual convening sessions into Spanish.
- Graduate groups ready for larger grants into relationships with funding partners.
In California, we have seen how environmental health and conservation initiatives that start here have the potential to ripple across the country. Collectively we have the resources, experience and responsibility to build the grassroots base of the environmental movement into a tremendous force for sustainability, conservation and environmental health.
If not us, who? If not now, when?