Assembling Your Resident-Led Grantmaking Committee

The characteristics and outlook of the committee members are what differentiates resident-led grantmaking from other forms of committee-led grantmaking. When using resident-led grantmaking, the grantmaking committee is comprised of residents who are active in their own neighborhoods and those neighborhoods are typically eligible for the grants. This means your decision-makers share similar viewpoints and experiences with those applying for the grants. Persons with various backgrounds can be taught to review a grant, but the emphasis here is on creating a grantmaking committee that has first hand knowledge about working in recipient neighborhoods – the challenges, the benefits, what works and what doesn’t, and why doing this work is important.

It’s a very overused adage but we recruit people who look at the glass half full or realize that the glass is full, it’s just partly full of water and partly full of air…but it’s full!
– Lee Kay, Grantee Coach and Consultant with Neighborhood Connections, The Cleveland Foundation

What to Consider When Recruiting a Committee Member

Following are questions that grantmakers in the Grassroots Grantmakers network have found helpful when considering people for service on a resident-led grantmamking committee:

  •  How does his/her gender, age, cultural background, geographic background, and race play into your committee diversity? Will the committee make-up represent the communities being served?
  • Is the candidate a usual suspect – someone consistently called upon to represent his or her community? Is the person a grassroots leader who doesn’t often get called upon to be a neighborhood representative?
  • Is the candidate somebody who is known and respected in the neighborhood they live in?
  • Is the candidate educated about what is going on in the communities eligible for grants?
  • Does the candidate have a positive outlook?
  • Do the candidate’s personal values align with the mission of the grantmaking program?
  • Will the person’s personality get in the way of hearing others and letting others speak during decision-making when everybody’s opinion is of equal weight?
  • Is the person respectful of everyone?
  • Does the candidate have the ability to teach other committee members and grantees?

Strategies from Our Network: How to Recruit New Committee Members

Grantmakers in the Grassroots Grantmakers’ network use a variety of methods, and sometimes several at once, to recruit the right mix of committee members. When starting these committees, it is common for foundation staff members to use their community connections to nominate and recruit people. Then, as the approach gains some prominence in the community, nominations start to come from the outside – from grantees, grantmaking committee members, self-nominations, and neighbors nominating other neighbors. Regardless of the recruitment method, according to Lee Kay there are characteristics that have proven helpful:

[We nominate] people who are open to really looking at new ideas and get excited about stuff that is going on, on the ground. They get excited about little stuff and they really understand the importance of small change and targeted community impact, grassroots impact.

To learn more about Neighborhood Connections’ recruitment strategies listen to Lee’s full interview.

The Hamilton Community Foundation in Hamilton, Ontario does not have a standing committee, rather they assemble an ad hoc group after each grant deadline. This method allows for a heavy rotation of new opinions and voices in the decision-making room.

If you get a small grant we would like somebody from your group to join the planning team and be involved in reviewing other people’s small grant applications.  So you’ve received a grant…are you available to review this next small grant?
– David Derbyshire, Community Development Worker, Wesley Urban Ministries, Hamilton Community Foundation

To learn more about the Hamilton Community Foundation listen to their interview.

Other resident-led grantmaking committee recruitment strategies include:

  • When birthing their resident-led grantmaking, Grove Hall Trust, Boston Rising held Marketplaces – a convening of residents to discuss quality of life and community. During these convenings, the Grove Hall Trust was discussed and committee members were recruited.
  • The Raymond John Wean Foundation’s Neighborhood SUCCESS program initially required every committee members to nominate a person each round. However, they found only moderate success with this approach as committee members worried if they nominated someone who was not a good fit, it reflected poorly on them. Now the program relies on committee members to nominate whenever meet a neighbor that is a sure fit; creating a requirement to nominate each round was not productive or necessary.

Strategies from our Network: Interviewing and Vetting Grantmaking Committee Applicants

At Neighborhood Connections, interested candidates fill out an application that asks about present involvement in the community, for a list of pressing concerns for the candidate’s neighborhood, and about the skills and gifts that will make the candidate a good. The candidate is interviewed by a small panel of current committee members for further discussion about the answers to application questions.

Neighborhood SUCCESS also uses this method and committee member Corky Stiles talks about her interview experience:

I thought one of the good things about the recruitment process was the fact that the committee brings you in for an interview so they actually speak with you and talk to you about your experiences and what you’re going to bring to the table and I think that’s very important rather than just ‘We’ve got this application. We need one more member. Okay, here ya go.

To learn more about Corky’s recruitment, listen to the Neighborhood SUCCESS interview.

From Grassroots Grantmakers’ Document Bank:

Committee Member Nomination Form (Neighborhood Connections)
Interview Questions for Potential Committee Members (Neighborhood Connections)
• Committee Member Application (Neighborhood Connections)
• Committee Member Application (Neighborhood SUCCESS)
• Small Grants Process Template (Hamilton Community Foundation)


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