Tips for Reviewing Applications from Grassroots Groups

Look For:

  1. An agenda that is defined and governed by community residents.  This is an essential ingredient, one that differentiates a grassroots group from a service provider.
  2. Organization members and leaders who display a clear sense of the community and the people their organization represents.
  3. Members who share a common vision.
  4. Members and leaders who reflect the demographic characteristics of the community.
  5. Clear, well-publicized opportunities for participation and leadership.  Ideally, there should be a variety of opportunities for participation (though these may not be present at first).
  6. Energetic and persistent leaders who are accountable to the membership and can draw people together and develop organizational capacity.
  7. Basic rudiments of organizational structure (written records of meetings, elections, checking accounts) – although sometimes even these rudiments do not emerge for several months.
  8. Realistic plans that address important community concerns, develop the capacity of the organization itself, and reflect internal consensus.
  9. A record of accomplishments, however modest.

A few caveats to keep in mind when reviewing applications:

  • A group with only one leader has an extra burden of proving that it’s legitimate and able to get important things done.  Broadening its leadership base could be a priority.
  • A collaborative effort among adjoining neighborhoods can be an excellent idea, but it must be supported by the individual neighborhoods.
  • Staffing, if any, should be fully accountable to the community through a Board or Steering Committee.
  • Attend a community meeting to see who shows up, who is in charge, how decisions are made, how conflict is handled, and how power is shared.  Imagine in what ways a grant can help.

From “Supporting Low-Income Neighborhood Organizations:  A Guide for Community Foundations” by Rainbow Research.


Related Posts...