About the Fund California Environmental Grassroots Fund


Fund Objectives

The Grassroots Fund supports small grassroots groups across California that are tackling tough environmental problems including toxic pollution, urban sprawl, sustainable agriculture, climate change, environmental degradation of our rivers and wild places, as well as, of our communities and our health. Our objectives are to:

  • Strengthen and diversify the capacity of the grassroots base of California’s environmental movement.
  • Provide grantees with training opportunities, as well as scholarship funds, to develop skills in budgeting, communications, strategic planning, computer software, working with volunteers and more.
  • Enable communities that often fall through the cracks of traditional funding processes to gain crucial recognition and support.
  • Offer fiscal sponsorship to allow groups that lack 501(c)3 status to receive grant funds.

The Grassroots Fund is a pooled-fund supported by more than 20 foundations. Since the Grassroots Fund started in 2003, we have given away more than 2 million dollars, one small grant at a time. Grant decisions are guided by a volunteer funding board that is composed of 3 foundation representatives and 4 community activists.

The Grassroots Fund supports numerous strategies such as community organizing, policy development, citizen enforcement (litigation), hands-on stewardship, environmental education as well as general support and organizational development. Constituencies served and mobilized are similarly broad, ranging from monolingual farmworkers, native communities, urban and rural youth, recent immigrants, seniors, business owners, and more.

While groups that have $100,000 or less in annual expenses are eligible, most of our Grassroots grantees tend to be very small groups – 60% have annual expenses of less than $25,000, and 80% have expenses of under $50,000. Maximum grant size is $5,000. There are four applications deadlines each year, and grants are awarded approximately 7 weeks after the deadline.

Groups don’t have to be a 501(c)3, nor do they need a fiscal sponsor to receive a grant.

We work with grantees to increase their capacity and efficiency through our training and travel scholarship program, by providing grantees with fundraising resources, and by convening grantees once a year for training and collaboration. We also work one-on-one with groups to help them develop a competitive application.

Why Become a Funding Partner?


Why Fund the Grassroots?

Grassroots groups are the lifeblood of the environmental movement. They have a direct, personal stake in halting pollution, restoring watersheds, protecting wilderness and open space, and educating the next generation of environmental stewards.

Yet, most foundations don’t fund these groups because they are too small, too new, or are perceived as being too risky. Most funders, instead, focus their support towards national, statewide or regional non-profits. But to be fully effective, these larger organizations often need to partner with much smaller grassroots groups which collectively form the heart, soul and people power of the environmental movement.

In 2003, program officers at the Compton Foundation, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, and Rose Foundation recognized that few foundation grants were not reaching all the way to the true grassroots strata of the environmental movement. In response, they launched the California Environmental Grassroots Fund to bridge the grassroots funding gap and empower the base of the environmental movement through small grants, coaching, training, workshops, and other services.

The Grassroots Fund identifies human assets and strategic opportunities in rural and urban communities across California. Then we listen to and trust the local residents who understand their neighborhood and ecosystems’ needs, and integrate funding, coaching and networking to create impactful grantmaking that leave grantees stronger and more sustainable after the grant funding is spent.

Top 10 Reasons to Invest in Growing the Grassroots

  • The Fund is a bridge between your big-picture mission-related goals and the pressing local issues that mobilize community members into concerted action.
  • Funding partners enjoy the stability of a long term grant relationship with the fund’s host (Rose Foundation), while reaching a fresh mosaic of end grantees each year.
  • Efficiently expand your reach into underserved communities.
  • Provide essential services that most foundations do not, or cannot, provide to small, emerging organizations.
  • Build the capacity of grassroots organizations and leaders through a structured management and technical assistance program.
  • Support our Fund as an incubator where you can send emerging groups that look promising but need coaching before they are ready for a bigger grant.
  • Help grantees step up into specific relationships with appropriate funding partners.
  • The Fund offers you as a funder the rare professional development opportunity to serve on a funding board alongside veteran community activists.
  • Strategically pool resources while consolidating administrative tasks and minimizing costs.
  • Find and support the most energetic and creative community-based groups working on a wide range of environmental issues, thereby sowing seeds of community stewardship with tremendous growth potential.

From our Funding Partners

“When we planned the fund, we thought that awarding grants to some pretty scruffy groups might be risky given the low capacity, kitchen table nature of many of these groups, and we anticipated that some of them would fail… But we’ve seen that carefully targeted small grants result in tremendous return on the investment”
-Amy Lyons, The John & Marcia Goldman Fund

“The Grassroots Fund builds capacity in diverse communities in the Bay Area that are essential to our mission, but hard for us to reach.”
-Tom Steinbach, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation

“Through the community members on its funding board, the Grassroots Fund has valuable on-the-ground knowledge of environmental health issues in remote parts of California. One of the reasons The California Wellness Foundation participates in the Fund is that it helps us penetrate into some communities that we would otherwise have trouble reaching.”
-Earl Lui, The California Wellness Foundation

“Grassroots activists can speak passionately about their issues, and the environmental threats they are facing. But they tend to be so absorbed in the projects at hand that they don’t always think to explain the bigger picture, offer a detailed work plan, or delineate strategic objectives. The Grassroots Fund teaches small groups how to tell their story — of course this helps them raise money, but it also helps them to be more effective in the work they do every day.”
-Jen Sokolove, The Compton Foundation

Impacts of the Fund

  • Lessons from the GrassrootsA 2010 report on lessons learned from six years of grassroots grantmaking by the California Environmental Grassroots Fund.
  • Growing the GrassrootsA 2005 report details the first 2 years of grantmaking of the California Environmental Grassroots Fund, which makes small grants to small organizations that confront critical environmental challenges on the ground in their communities.
  • 2018 Grassroots Fund Statistical Report
  • Review our grantees using our grants database by clicking here.

Grantee Insights

In their own words, our Grassroots Fund grantees share the impact of the Fund on their work:

“It is clear that assisting grassroots activism is a mission for your staff, and not just a job.”
– Friends of Del Norte

“This application process is the most flexible and forgiving process out there.”
– Tolowa Dunes Stewards

“Compared to other grant applications, this one made us assess the impact of our programs in a new way.”
– West Oakland Asthma Coalition

“Though our bicycle rickshaw compost-pickup routes, we diverted over 18 tons of waste from the landfill.”
– City Slicker Farms

“We constructed a traditional medicine and food garden with the Trinidad Rancheria, and will be teaching traditional plant medicine classes at the garden.”
– Sustainable Nations Development Project

“We rallied people from Lamont, the town where 1,168 people were sickened by pesticide drift, to get involved, to participate in a press conference, organize and mobilize. Hearing these stories compelled the legislature and governor to pass the Pesticide Drift Exposure Law.”
– El Comité para el Bienestar de Earlimart

“In addition to the direct monetary support, the grant helped establish the credibility of our then fairly new nonprofit and enabled us to be recognized as a growing force and voice for the community.”
– Donner Summit Area Association


Aurora Heying, Program Officer
Email: aheying@rosefdn.org

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