A Year of Transition for Grassroots Grantmakers

Hello, everyone! It’s a pleasure to introduce myself to you, tell you a little about where Grassroots Grantmakers (GRGM) hopes to go in 2015, and invite you to work with us as a member or ally to build resident leadership for justice and change in local communities. I look forward to being in touch with you on Grassroots Grantmakers’ Facebook page and through my new blog, to be found on our website, http://jd-gd.com/client/grgmdev2/blog/.

A consensus I heard in social media in late December was that 2014 was ‘a brutal year,’ to quote one of my Facebook friends.  Sharp and growing inequality reveals disturbing realities about how  policy redistributes wealth upwards; Ferguson, Eric Garner and the ongoing crisis in the relationship between communities of color and police all over the country has brought racial profiling and structural racism to center stage; disturbing trends in mass incarceration bring the health of our democracy into question; and climate change undergirds all with the urgency of connecting economic models to environmental health to save the planet for our children.

It was also a year of progress, something I want to celebrate.  The implementation of the Affordable Care Act  has resulted in more people receiving health care,  freedom to marry for LGBTQ people  is making its way through the states, and President Obama provided  a new doorway to status for undocumented immigrants late in the year.

It is imperative to know how these issues and this progress plays out on the ground, in neighborhoods that are often forgotten because they are low income communities of color or marginalized in other ways.  It is not enough to generate the analyses, reports, polls, and studies, although we always need good insights and thinking to help guide us. Too often, when we leave aside the voices of those most affected, we worsen problems through programs that we started with the best of intentions. We can no longer afford to weaken our democracy by excluding residents.

At GRGM, we have developed a niche nationally for our work that lifts up resident voices and their concerns within the practice of philanthropy.  We work together to improve our practice in investing in communities, whether it be through grantmaking, developing relationships, evaluating programs, or other learning opportunities to which residents and members guide us.  Historically, long-term, place-based work has been the mainstay of our focus – working with grantmakers, primarily foundations, to strengthen geographically-defined communities through growing relationships with residents.

This will continue, and we are also broadening our perspective.   Recently, other kinds of grantmakers are showing interest in learning with us – municipalities, neighborhood giving circles, a Council on Disabilities, a hospital.  We also want to make more explicit connections between our place-based work and the social justice challenges, such as those mentioned above, that impact the day to day lives of our communities.

This year, Grassroots Grantmakers will explore how to partner even better with residents on the ground who are making change, amplifying their voices and seeking new ways to have impact on more of their issues. We will work with foundations and with new kinds of grantmakers who are seeking to strengthen communities through relationships with the people most directly affected, and we hope to develop collaborations with new partners to create broader possibilities for change.

Won’t you join with us?

Lisa Durán can be reached at lisa@grassrootsgrantmakers.org or (720) 634-6227 (NABR).  She started as GRGM’s new ED in November 2014, after working for 19 years with Rights for All People, Colorado’s oldest immigrant rights organization, first as a volunteer and the last 11 years as its Executive Director. She also studied philanthropy in graduate school and worked as a researcher for the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training.

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