Funding Community Organizing Discussion Guide for Thoughtful Funder Reflection

These questions pertain to GrantCraft's guide, Funding Community Organizing: Social Change Through Civic ParticipationRead the guide independently. Then, together with your executive and program teams, dive into the following questions:

Focus on Grantees

1. What community organizing groups are working in your area? What are the priorities of these groups and how might they align with your priorities? Are you already funding them for something else?

2. Think of current or prospective community organizing grantees and reflect on the following:

  • Are their leadership and members representative of the community they are trying to affect?
  • Is their membership renewing and growing?
  • In what ways do they develop their leadership?
  • What are they learning and are they sharing that publicly?

3. Look at the seven methods of organizing on pages 7-8.

  • Which of these methods do your community organizing grantees use?
  • Where do their strengths lie and where do they need improvement?
  • How could your foundation support their improvement and build their capacity in some of these areas?

4. One funder describes the program officer as a “bridge builder between the community and the board room.” Examples of how program officers have put this into action include forming advisory committees, conducting site visits, and creating stakeholder charts (page 14).

  • What are effective tools or strategies for translating the work of community organizers to trustees and board members?
  • Conversely, how would you help an organizing grantee better understand the point of view and concerns of your board?
  • Is there one strategy that you would recommend to other funders?

5. Understanding the language of organizing is a key part of taking on the translator role and communicating with organizing grantees effectively. List the five words or expressions you come across the most in your work, and then review the organizer’s lingo glossary on page 10.

  • Are these terms listed in the glossary?
  • Do these terms have multiple meanings depending on the context or have their meanings changed over time?

6. In the case study about the state-wide health foundation (page 18), the funder recommends acknowledging intermediate outcomes as being part of the change. Think of a specific grantee that is trying to change public policy or doing other community organizing work.

  • How can they incorporate intermediate goals and outcomes into the overall big picture goal?
  • Have a conversation with the grantee about what you both consider the intermediate outcomes to be, how they can work them into the plan, and attempt to measure them.

Focus on Your Foundation

7. How do you see your role in community organizing? Use the Roles@work card deck to identify six to twelve critical roles that your foundation plays or you think could play. With colleagues, discuss the challenges of each role and what the right balance of roles might be.

8. Applying a community organizing lens to your foundation’s practices can be energizing and refreshing.

  • How are you developing leadership within the foundation?
  • Ensuring diverse hiring?
  • Listening to different voices in the community?
  • Consider sharing your answers with your grantees.

9. Convincing your board to fund community organizing, if your foundation doesn’t already, can prove challenging.

  • Think about the issues the board cares about and who is on your board.
  • Are they representative of the community and aware of the pressing issues?
  • Are there ways to get them interested by focusing on specific issues or populations that could be served?

10. In the funders’ collaborative case study (page 18), eight local and national funders come together to invest in education organizing.

  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of forming a collaborative?
  • Can a collaborative further your foundation’s work or be a way to get your feet wet with funding organizing? Why or why not?
  • Are you involved in a collaborative now or previously, and how did it differ from simply partnering with other organizations without operating as a formal collaborative?

Zoom Out: Strategic Direction

11. A good community organizer “creates public tension in a healthy way.”

  • Do you have an emergency plan in place if your foundation comes under attack for funding a specific grantee?
  • Have you shared it with your organizing grantees?
  • What is the plan or what should be on it based on reading this guide?

12. Conduct a power mapping exercise (page 29) and ask yourself what a strong community would look like. Then, identify the problems and key institutions involved.

  • Who are the key actors?
  • What key relationships or alliances can be built to achieve a positive impact on the community?
  • Who should be involved that hasn’t yet been?
  • Who is already an ally and who is new to this work but could become an ally?
  • How can you apply this to your program’s strategy?

Following the exercise, reach out to your grantees to discuss the mapping and ask them for their reactions.   

13. Pairing organizing with other complementary strategies, such as advocacy, public education, or service delivery can further complement and support organizing work. What non-organizing tactics would be particularly suited to your foundation’s strategic direction and goals? Why?

Dive In: Building off of examples

14. Recall a recent grantee site visit.

  • What are some things you learned that you wouldn’t have known otherwise?
  • How did you conduct the site visit?
  • What kinds of questions are top of mind during a site visit?
  • What recommendations would you make to other funders to make the most of a site visit?

15. Think of a specific grantee who leads successful community organizing.

  • What is their theory of change?
  • What are the metrics and outcomes they use to measure the work they do?
  • How can you encourage other grantees to shape the outcomes they will ultimately measure when reporting on the success of a grant?

About the author(s)

Manager of Strategic Philanthropy
Foundation Center