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PEAK Grantmaking

Adjusting the Grantmaking Process to Address Equity and Inclusion

Sponsored by Foundant Technologies  

Grantmakers have an opportunity to examine their grantmaking process and consider what changes could help increase access to funding for the communities experiencing the most significant inequities.
We asked our clients about their work in the areas of equity, inclusion, and justice (EIJ) and were truly inspired by their responses. Find actionable ideas for your own organization by reading about adjustments that several organizations leading change across very different communities have made to support EIJ.
Understanding impacted communities and root causes 

Funders know that proactively asking individuals about their experiences is the best way to understand a community’s needs. This has never been more important than when addressing issues of equity.

“When we center voices of communities experiencing the inequities we seek to address, our programs are better, our funding decisions are better, our initiatives have greater impact, and that’s what donors care about at the end of the day,” explains Diego Zegarra, vice president of equity and impact at Park City Community Foundation (PCCF).

Expanding programs to meet community needs  

When a generous donor approached PCCF about launching a program to increase Latinx youth participation in skiing and snowboarding, PCCF talked with community members to better understand their needs. They learned that participation was not just low in snow sports, but across all non-school activities. In fact, Latinx participation across all categories of youth sports and recreation averaged just 4 percent, while 20 percent of students in the Park City School District identify as Latinx.

PCCF decided to expand the scope of the Solomon Fund to “create a more inclusive, integrated, and complete community by reaching 20 percent Latinx participation in recreation programs to reflect the diverse makeup of our town.” The program addresses several barriers that hinder Latinx participation, including communication and outreach, transportation and access to scholarships and gear. In 2020, just four years after the fund was created, Latinx participation rates in recreation programs hit 19 percent—nearly reaching the Solomon Fund’s goal.

Supporting front-line organizations 

Seeking to address racial equity gaps, Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville (CFGH) launched a Racial Equity Fund to provide grant funding for “nonprofit organizations that are on the front lines addressing the issue of racism and inequity in the community.”

When establishing the fund, CFGH established a majority-minority grants committee to include voices from impacted communities. In the first grant cycle alone, CFGH distributed $115,000 to 13 different organizations.

Program Officer Ann Kvach explains, “We tried to be very intentional about looking at smaller, grassroots organizations that were working in the minority community.”

Appreciating smaller, grassroots organizations 

During the pandemic, Pasadena Community Foundation reframed the question they asked nonprofits. Instead of inquiring about their organizational needs, Pasadena Community Foundation (PCF) staff asked nonprofits what they saw in the community. When food insecurity and support for vulnerable, homebound seniors were identified as two of the most significant community needs, Pasadena Community Foundation sought to fund nonprofits focused on these areas. They discovered smaller, grassroots organizations doing great work.

Senior Program Officer Kate Clavijo reflects, “What we learned and will incorporate is an appreciation for these smaller, grassroots, low budget organizations that we saw become the true champions of serving the community.”

Adjusting grant applications 

Add Equity-related Questions. Seeking to institutionalize this increased accessibility for smaller, grassroots organizations, PCF plans to adjust a question about the population served on its new Racial Equity Grant Program application. Instead of only asking an open-ended question that invites responses that are difficult to measure and summarize, they will also include a quantitative question to ensure they reach the communities with the greatest needs. 

Other organizations reported adding equity-related questions to their grant applications. Kim Konikow, executive director at North Dakota Council on the Arts, explains, “We now ask more established applicants how they address diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of their strategic plan.”

Foundations Community Partnership (FCP) in Newtown, Pennsylvania, has added a question about whether a nonprofit’s programs and services match the clients they serve and whether the nonprofit’s clients have input on the types of programming they offer. While FCP does not score the question, they hope it helps raise awareness among grant applicants about the importance of EIJ.

Simplify grant applications. Smaller organizations without professional grant writers or with fewer staff don’t have time to prepare long, complex grant applications. Therefore, removing unnecessary questions can also help make grant applications more accessible.  

Ann Kvach shares, “As a community foundation, we sit in that role where we are both applying for and awarding grants. We understand the challenges of the process and want to make sure that we are being intentional in not causing hurdles for our nonprofits.”

Kim Konikow agrees that complex or undefined language can be a barrier for grantseekers. While the National Endowment for the Arts requires North Dakota Council on the Arts to ask specific questions that are not necessarily essential to the evaluation process, Konikow sees an opportunity to move these from its grant applications to grantees’ final reports to avoid overwhelming potential applicants on the front end of the process.

Offer grant writing training. Also seeking to extend their reach and connect with organizations that may not have dedicated grant writing staff, Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville staff offered a webinar last February focused on the top 10 things to know about grant writing, based on the knowledge staff had gained while participating in grant committee meetings. This session was so popular that CFGH had to upgrade its Zoom license.  

Funders can use a variety of strategies to increase access and address equity in the grantmaking process. Look for opportunities to include members of the community you serve in the process. Identify nonprofits tackling the inequities your organization seeks to address or establish your own equity grants. Getting started on this journey can be as simple as reviewing your grant applications. Consider including a question that will help address equity and inclusion, or remove unnecessary questions to simplify the process and make it more accessible for smaller, grassroots organizations.

Foundant Technologies as a four-part series.