December 1, 2008
Grantmakers who fund community organizing say it's the best option when you want to promote civic engagement and support lasting solutions to a community's problems. Yet many funders, concerned about the ability to measure its impact and effectiveness, hesitate to take up community organizing as a strategy. In this guide, funders and organizers discuss what makes community organizing unique and uniquely effective, how to manage grantee relationships over time, understanding the value of process, and the grantmaker's special role in fostering change.HighlightsThe benefits and methods of community organizingPoints of entry for grantmakersMapping resources and powerWhen a grantee is under attackWhat's in the Guide? Foundations and Community Organizing: Some funders see community organizing as a way to encourage a more vibrant democracy; others see it as a method for getting better, more durable solutions to deep-seated problems. For grantmakers in either camp - along with those who hold both points of view - funding community organizing can be a good choice.What Community Organizing Can Accomplish:These days, organizing uses a mix of tried-and-true methods and new techniques to bring people together and push for change. For grantmakers, the alignment between what community organizing seeks to accomplish and how it accomplishes those things makes it an attractive strategy - one that holds the promise of leaving communities stronger and individuals better able to advocate for themselves.Getting Acquainted and Other Early Steps:The culture of organizing may seem foreign at first to grantmakers, trustees, and other people inside your foundation. Likewise, the culture of philanthropy may seem strange to people who see the field from the perspective of community organizing. Grantmakers commonly find themselves in the role of translator, clarifying expectations and opening up avenues of communication in both directions - with grantees and inside the foundation.Managing Grants and Relationships Over Time: Change is a constant in community organizing, and it doesn't stop once the grant is made. Priorities and tactics evolve as the work goes forward and the surrounding environment shifts. As time goes on, grantmakers may see the need to help an organizing grantee build its capacity or, in rare instances, cope with a crisis or setback.Evaluating the Effectiveness of Organizing Grants: Good organizing produces outcomes, and those outcomes can be measured. Policies change, communities change, organizations change, and people change. If funders are clear about the outcomes they're after, any or all of those may be relevant.