When we launched our Grassroots Leadership Fund (GLF) last fall, we had two major goals: to channel funding to groups around the country that are building community resilience by addressing urban flooding; and to support these grantees in building their organizations, so they can thrive and grow long after our grant dollars are spent. Key to thriving as a nonprofit is raising enough money to support and sustain the work. So, we strive to teach our grantees how to “crack the code” and connect with big foundations that can give them much larger grants than we can here at the Rose Foundation. To this end, we offer training and practical experiences to teach grassroots activists how to craft polished grant applications that can be competitive against applications from larger and more resourced organizations in a foundation’s grant review.
Last week, we hosted a Reality Grantmaking workshop for our GLF grantees. This workshop gave grantees the chance to submit grant proposals for live and direct feedback from a panel of judges — including Pam Allen from the Lisa & Douglas Goldman Fund; Jalonne White-Newsome from the Kresge Foundation; and Brian Zongolowicz from the Satterberg Foundation — all of whom are program officers from large endowed foundations. As Executive Director Tim Little explained at the workshop,
“We’ve done this reality grantmaking process about a dozen times over the past 20 years. It’s always great to hear from different program officers who share their personal lenses” to get a sense of how your proposal might be received by different foundations.
All seven grantee groups that submitted proposals for the workshop received participation awards in recognition of how challenging and vulnerable it can be to have their grant proposals picked apart in front of an audience. And at the end of the workshop, our esteemed panel of judges picked one proposal for the $1,000 grand prize!
During the workshop, the judges reviewed finalist proposals from A Community Voice, Community In-Power Development Association Inc, Greater Treme Consortium, and Hollygrove Neighbors Association. The judges shared their insights with the group, outlining each of the proposals’ strengths and pointing out some areas for improvement. And then, our grantees had the opportunity for some Q&A with our panel. Throughout the workshop, our panel emphasized the importance of following all instructions — “Don’t let yourself get kicked out on a technicality early on in the process,” as Executive Director Tim Little explained. The panel also highlighted how critical it is to provide a clear, line-by-line budget in a grant proposal. And the judges pointed to the value of telling your story through your background, accomplishments, and the context of your community to really center the reader and make them care about your work.
Our workshop ended with one piece of advice from each of our judges:
“Put your passion on paper.”
— Jalonne White-Newsome, Kresge Foundation
“Understand the prompt and ask questions to understand it further. You want to have a clear sense of your audience and what you’re writing for.”
— Brian Zongolowicz, Satterberg Foundation
“Be yourself and be honest. We [program officers] are human; we do this work because we care about it too!”
— Pam Allen, Lisa & Douglas Goldman Fund
This workshop was a powerful way to “demystify foundation funding,” as Program Officer Aurora Heying reflects. She continues, “I think it was really valuable for our grantees” and will go far in their capacity building to find more, long-term funding and continue their critical community-led work!