Pride Foundation’s Community Grants Program supports groups and organizations across the Northwest that are working to advance justice and equity for LGBTQ+ communities. Since its inception in 1987, we have awarded nearly $10 million dollars in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
In reflecting on all that has happened this past year and strategizing on how we can minimize barriers to organizations through our Community Grants program and increase positive impact for our community partners, earlier this summer we decided not to open a public application. Instead, we are proactively making our first-ever multi-year general operating support grants to many of our previous and existing grantees whose work is aligned with our Community Grants priorities. Organizations can expect to hear from our Programs team, if they haven’t already, by the end of this month.
These changes to our Community Grants Program—and all of our programs—have been intentional shifts to continue to center racial justice in our work, improve the experience of grantee partners, and align our grantmaking with our organizational priorities to move resources to LGBTQ+ communities most impacted by injustice.
With these values driving our work forward, our current grantmaking initiatives are:
- Our Community Grants Program – awards proactive multi-year, general operating grants bi-annually
- Our Crisis Community Care Fund (CCCF) – has an open application that awards on a rolling basis
We have plans to launch an additional initiative in 2021 that complements these two, and builds upon our larger grantmaking strategy. More to come on that in late 2021 and 2022!
Prior to Jeremiah J. Allen’s (our former Director of Programs & Strategy) departure from Pride Foundation in early September, he and Kim Sogge (formerly our Senior Program Officer and our new Director of Programs) worked alongside the rest of our Programs and Leadership Teams to envision this new grantmaking approach.
In my conversation with these two, we dig into what has changed and why. Note: this conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
For the first time in decades, we didn’t open an application for our Community Grants Program. This is big news! What is the background that went into this decision?
Jeremiah: A lot! We are seeing this as a moment to pause and think about our goals and about the impact of our grantmaking more broadly, and the different ways we can support our community. We are constantly thinking about how we can best support community organizations in low barrier and proactive ways, and we will continue to grow and make shifts as needs arise.
From the beginning of our grants cycle this year, we knew that what worked in prior years wasn’t going to work this year—it had to look different. Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic first arose, we created our Crisis Community Care Fund (CCCF), and through that fund we made proactive grants to our current and previous grantee partners. We did a lot of research upfront to see what organizations needed funding and awarded grants without requiring them to fill out an application, especially because we knew their capacity was already tight, responding to the pandemic and supporting community. Because that model worked so well, it caused us to take a hard look at our Community Grants Program.
Kim: We asked ourselves: who are the groups we already fund regularly and consistently, and who we will likely be funding again through this program? And if we already know those groups, does it make sense to have an application? Does it make sense to ask them to take the time to apply—especially in the midst of the continued pandemic?
Jeremiah: For both Kim and myself, our thinking quickly shifted to a proactive funding model that was grounded in the principles of trust-based philanthropy. Instead of having an application, we are shifting this work to our staff to research organizations, and we are focusing on what we learned about organizations this past year through the pandemic, and our relationships with community groups to make making proactive grants aligned with our priorities.
Kim: Thinking about the past year during COVID, we knew we couldn’t spend the last year funding proactively only to go back to requiring an application. We get to learn from the last year and a half. To not change our process didn’t feel like an option.
We thought to ourselves: what information do we really get from an application? Who the organization is, what they’ve been up to, etc. But what if it was on us to gather that information from existing sources? We can create the write-ups and gather the information we need to facilitate our decision-making process. Long-term, it’s beneficial for organizations to not have to apply, and for it to be on us to do the outreach and research about potential organizations. That way, our due diligence isn’t on them—it’s on us.
Jeremiah: Earlier this year, we passed our first-ever three-year budget, which created the foundation for the longer-term planning that would enable multi-year grants. Our Community Grants Program will now be able to award multi-year grants every two years for the first time in Pride Foundation’s history, and we will also be able to increase the average amount awarded to organizations.
With this shift, we’re seeing our Community Grants Program as a ‘community maintainer’ and capacity building fund, and a tool to continue building relationships with organizations that are serving LGBTQ+ communities and are most aligned with our Program priorities.
How have you approached who will receive a Community Grant this year?
Jeremiah: For our Community Grants program, the majority of the organizations we fund have consistently been funded for three or more years. We have continued to partner with these groups because their work is vital for LGBTQ+ communities across our region. Based on that, we looked at our Community Grants docket for the last three years to see who those groups are.
We also looked at the groups that have received CCC funding because there were groups who were new to receiving funding from us that stepped in to support LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities through the many crises throughout the past year. We knew from that CCC funding that these groups are deeply aligned with our program priorities, and it is important to us to continue to support and be in partnership with them.
Over the course of July and August, we did extensive research and outreach to community groups. We also confirmed with organizations that they need the funding and want to be in partnership with us over the next two years, or if their circumstances have changed.
What has it taken for us to approach grantmaking in this way? What will it take to be successful?
Jeremiah: I think the answer to both of those questions are: resources from and relationships with our community of donors and institutional funders, and trust from community, staff, and our board. We need to be intentional with the trust we are building with community, naming past harms, naming our organization’s history with racism and working proactively to not repeat those harms. That has meant researching, listening, discussing, and the implementation of trust-based philanthropy practices.
Kim: I think we—the collective we at Pride Foundation and in philanthropy—could get a lot better at not knowing everything. We don’t know every single piece of an organization’s work—but do we need to? Do we need to know everything about an organization in order to move resources to them, if we know that they are in line with our priorities? Probably not. We can do enough homework on our own to know what we need to in order to feel confident and do our due diligence. And it also comes down to our strategies around building relationships with those organizations so that we are well acquainted with their work, and share with one another.
Jeremiah: We need to ask ourselves with all of these programs: what do we need to know based on the resources we are providing?
Kim: Our recent staffing restructure helped make these changes possible too.
Jeremiah: I think that’s definitely true. With our new staffing structure, we now have Programs roles entirely dedicated to the grants program. This shift made the Community Grants Program approach more realistic and sustainable this year.
Earlier this year, I felt a lot of pressure to open Community Grants. But with the additional staff capacity, we actually took the time to be intentional and to think through a process that is most aligned with our values. I think if we would’ve rushed, it would’ve looked how it used to look.
Kim: It’s taken a lot of work for this to happen. There’s no guide or roadmap, and no easy answers for building an equitable grantmaking program. We will keep evolving, being open to feedback, and adapting based on community needs—letting our values guide the way.
Learn more about our Community Grants Program Guidelines here and keep an eye on our website for our awards announcement in the coming weeks!