Small grassroots groups across California are working passionately to make their communities healthier and safer, and to protect the natural environment. They are at the forefront of tackling tough environmental and social justice problems including toxic pollution, urban sprawl, equity, resilience, climate justice and the degradation of our rivers, wild places and neighborhoods. The people involved in these groups have the most at stake, because this is were they live, work and play. They have the local knowledge to get things done and credibility within their communities to leverage support. They have the vision, creativity and connections to be successful.
We know from a long history of funding grassroots groups that a small grant can go a long way. But we also know that these nascent organizations need more than money. They need help building an organizational structure that allows them to efficiently advance their mission, and even though they are small, they need access to development, communications, legal, IT and HR help.
This is a strategic moment to support a dynamic leap in the capacity building that has always been core to Rose Foundation and our Northern California Environmental Grassroots Fund. Building on our 12 years experience awarding $2.5 million in grassroots grants, leveraging our 6+ years of intensive participation in the Community Leadership Program (CLP), and the Rose Foundation’s overall position at the intersection of California’s grassroots environmental and social justice movements, we will pilot the Grassroots Training Institute (GTI). The GTI will help grassroots environmental and social justice groups build community power by providing them with the skills, training, systems and resources they need for long-term success.
Grassroots Training Institute Structure
The GTI is an annual capacity-building, cohort-based learning program using CLP-style organizational assessments and mentoring in focus areas such as fundraising, communications, board development, or technology. The GTI will create a customized approach for grassroots environmental and social justice participants based on their specific needs. Acceptance criteria will include readiness for growth; a high level of staff and board commitment to the process; organizational diversity and commitment to low-income people and communities of color; and ability to contribute to a cohesive cohort.
We’ll use the organizational assessment tool we developed through the CLP as the central part of the application process to help applicants’ key staff, volunteers, and board members assess organizational strengths, weaknesses, and prioritize focus areas – thus providing real value even to groups who are not selected for the GTI cohort. We’ll help each cohort grantee translate their assessments into a written action plan that identifies the steps, resources, timeline and workplan for at least one primary capacity area. We’ll help every grantee achieve their capacity plans – money for staff time and overhead to pursue their workplan, and access to needed outside resources, including technology, software, training, and consultants. And through the cohort approach, we’ll foster peer learning and the opportunity for networking beyond the formal grant structure. Through the GTI’s capacity-building, we will help small groups “graduate” to another level of success as nonprofit organizations, helping them achieve greater impact with the dollars they have while also positioning them for entrée to larger funders and contracts.
The Rose Foundation developed the organizational assessment through the CLP to help GTI applicants’ key staff, volunteers, and board members assess organizational strengths, weaknesses, and prioritize focus areas. We would like to make the assessment available to the public, so any group may use this tool to identify their main capacity-building areas of focus.