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. They understand their local culture and politics, and are powered by dedicated, passionate volunteers. Yet, most foundations don’t fund these groups because they are too small, too new, or are perceived as being too risky. The importance of listening to and involving the community in guiding responsive, competitive grantmaking is at the core of the lessons learned in six years of grassroots grant making.
The Northern California Environmental Grassroots Fund was launched in 2003 to energize and empower the environmental grassroots through small grants, coaching, training, workshops and other services. Program officers at the Compton Foundation, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, and Rose Foundation created the Grassroots Fund as an avenue for foundations to effectively direct resources to grassroots activists and communities. Although the Grassroots Fund now channels the support of more than 16 funding partners and has awarded over $1 million in $2,000 – $5,000 grants to small and emerging groups, the Fund remains guided by community leaders, who comprise a majority on its funding board.