Participatory Grantmaking

About this collection: This Content Collection features research, case studies, discussion guides, and other articles and blog posts on the practice of Participatory Grantmaking (also sometimes referred to as Community Led Grantmaking).

Curated By: Jason Born

NCFP believes that one of the core tenets of enlightened philanthropy is listening to end beneficiaries and being regularly informed by the people donors seek to serve. Participatory grantmaking takes listening one step further to engage community members in the decision-making process around grants. This Content Collection features research, case studies, discussion guides, and other articles and blog posts on the practice of participatory grantmaking (also sometimes referred to as “community led grantmaking”).

Please also see the following NCFP Content Collections for additional information and resources on topics related to this collection:

Board Composition, Diversity, and Recruitment

Listening and Feedback Practices

Power Dynamics in Family Philanthropy

Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Looking to connect with other foundations pursuing this approach? Consider joining the Participatory Grantmakers Community, a global network focused on sharing knowledge to improve participatory grantmaking and encourage its use within philanthropy.

NCFP Fundamentals Webinar

June 9, 2022

Participatory Grantmaking

What is participatory grantmaking, and why are funders utilizing this method of community-led grantmaking? What are some case studies of family-led philanthropies that have successfully used a participatory grantmaking approach? Learn how funders engage community members in the decision-making process and what strategies have been successful.     Find more…

Research and Reports

Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking

Deciding Together: Shifting Power and Resources Through Participatory Grantmaking looks at why and how funders are engaging in participatory grantmaking and shifting decision-making power to the very communities impacted by funding decisions. Through examples and insights from a diverse range of participatory grantmakers, the report explores the benefits, challenges, and…

Participatory Grantmaking: Has Its Time Come?

The paper synthesizes several existing participatory frameworks, identifies common components, and applies these to philanthropy as a “starter” framework that can, hopefully, be used as a springboard for ongoing discussion and development among grantmakers and non-grantmakers. The paper explores whether these existing frameworks—or at least key components of them—can be…

Blog Posts and Perspectives

So You Want to Do a Participatory Strategy?

Blog Post
This article was originally published by Alliance and is re-posted here with permission. Love the intention—but let’s make sure you get it right. These days, the word ‘participation’—or rather, its sophisticated cousin ‘participatory‘—is tossed around the social impact space like the word ‘organic’ in a hipster grocery store. Everyone wants to do…

How Participatory Grantmaking Can Strengthen Your Philanthropy

Blog Post
This article was originally published by Exponent Philanthropy and is re-posted here with permission. Money affects power dynamics in relationships and as donors, we have the responsibility to send money carefully. When considering alternatives to a traditional funding approach, participatory grantmaking leverages knowledgeable input and democratic checks and balances. Being…

Engaging Youth Voices in Participatory Grantmaking Practice

Blog Post
Photo courtesy of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation A group of teenage philanthropists sit around a boardroom table at an urban community foundation in Massachusetts. As they explore the needs they see and face in their communities, they begin to understand how different life is only a few miles from…

Democratizing Family Philanthropy: Shifting Practice to Share Power

Blog Post
“Nothing about us without us,” is commonly used by community activists when speaking about the changes they want to see in their communities. The idea is simple: those most affected by social problems—the intended beneficiaries of any program—should fully and meaningfully participate in decisions about programs, policies, and strategies that…

Case Studies and Foundation Profiles

Participatory Grantmaking Case Study: Durfee Foundation

Case Study
Questions addressed include: What are your grantmaking and/or strategic priorities (in terms of geographic focus, issue, etc.)? Who decides the grantmaking priorities? The overall strategy for the fund? What’s the process by which these decisions are made? Is the participatory decision-making process the same for all grant types and sizes?…

Participatory Grantmaking Case Study: Catherine Donnelly Foundation

Case Study
Questions addressed include: What are your grantmaking and/or strategic priorities (in terms of geographic focus, issue, etc.)? Who decides the grantmaking priorities? The overall strategy for the fund? What’s the process by which these decisions are made? Is the participatory decision-making process the same for all grant types and sizes?…
car accelerating through tunnel

Accelerating Change: A Model for a Funding Response to COVID-19

Blog Post
Like many of you, our fund has been rocked by this global pandemic. At The Tzedek Social Justice Fund (formerly known as the Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund), our staff are juggling the lack of childcare and the time-consuming, sometimes traumatizing, preparation to protect the lives of the vulnerable…

At the Kataly Foundation, a Pritzker Heir Pursues the Democratization of Wealth

Impact Story
A longstanding pattern in philanthropy holds that as vast generational wealth passes from parent to child, attitudes toward giving often liberalize as heirs reckon with unearned fortunes. That trend, operating alongside wealth inequality unparalleled in living memory, has generated speculation about a new golden age of philanthropy—in numerical terms—befitting what…

The Canary Fund: Participatory Grantmaking at the David Rockefeller Fund

Impact Story
The following excerpt from Leading with Love and Gratitude: The David Rockefeller Fund at 30 shares the story of the DR Fund’s work and strategies seeking to address the long-term impact of penal system policies on people, families, and communities, featuring the participatory grantmaking approach of the Canary Fund. In…

Learning Together: Reflections on a Participatory Grantmaking Project

This document serves as a shortened brief of a longer report, illustrating recent efforts by United Way of King County (UWKC) in co-creating and facilitating a participatory grantmaking process. This report summarizes reflections and insights gained, and aims to be a resource for other funders and community based organizations interested…
A group of young children write on a whiteboard

The Perrin Family Foundation: A Funder Journey Story

Blog Post
The Perrin Family Foundation is a family foundation based in Connecticut, with a focus on supporting youth-led social change focused on addressing the root causes of injustice and inequity statewide Sheila and Charlie Perrin founded PFF in 1994 to create a permanent vehicle for their family philanthropy and allow their…

Toolkits and Guides

Flipping the Script: Shifting Foundation Power to Community

This session handout prepared by leadership of The Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota shares a series of discussion questions designed to help family foundations and other funders move from a traditional decision-making process to one of authentic community involvement.

Additional Posts and Perspectives

Learning to ‘Embrace the Beauty of What Exists’: A Conversation About Participatory Grantmaking: Two community participants in Fund for Shared Insight’s participatory grantmaking initiative interview Ciciley Moore, a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, about what it was like to experience a grantmaking initiative where the people most impacted by the funding decisions decided how the process would work and where the money would go.

Participatory Grantmaking: How We Failed, and What We’re Learning: In this piece, Marni Rosen, Senior Advisor to the Kataly Foundation’s Environmental Justice Resourcing Collective (EJRC), and Shaena Johnson, EJRC Program Officer, offer reflections on the process that has happened within Kataly to facilitate the Collective’s grantmaking, where there were breakdowns in communication, and what the impact has been.

An L.A. Program Takes a Unique Approach to Participatory Grantmaking — Putting it to a Vote: Instead of relying solely on program officers, board members or committees to decide on the funding priorities, the Goldhirsh Foundation asks the people of Los Angeles to decide which issue areas get funded. This is done through the annual LA2050 Grants Challenge, which first launched nine years ago.

How a Philanthropic Family Is Putting Power in the Hands of a Historically Under-served Community: This Inside Philanthropy profile explores the story of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, a neighborhood-focused nonprofit organization dedicated to uplifting southeastern San Diego through community engagement, economic development, and real estate development.

Getting Your Board on Board with Participatory Grantmaking: Addresses some of the most common concerns of embedding participatory grantmaking approaches.

Who Owns Philanthropy? A Look through an Antiracist Lens: Questions the uses, effects, and basic ownership rights of philanthropy in a democratic and racialized context, applying it to disaster philanthropy.

The Historical Case for Participatory Grantmaking: Makes the case that participation has always been part of philanthropy as a value, ethos, and practice.

Big Philanthropy Faces a Reckoning, Too: It’s time to challenge philanthropists and their foundations to open up their grantmaking decisions to those who’ve been marginalized.

A Funder Collaborative’s Promising, Participatory Model for Diversifying Arts Funding: Housed at the New York Community Trust and guided by funders and arts practitioners, the Mosaic Network and Fund serves as a promising and potentially replicable model for foundations looking to better engage historically underrepresented communities.

Not Just Cute Faces: Youth Grantmakers Are Strengthening Philanthropy: Youth are driving grant dollars to organizations that are changing communities through more than 800 programs around the world.

How Youth Are Advising a Foundation Leader and Guiding a Major California Grantmaker: The California Endowment’s President’s Youth Council is one of many examples of the far-reaching potential of getting young people involved at the highest levels of philanthropy.

Participatory Design Approaches to Impact Investing: Identifies four key stages in which a participatory approach can make a difference in your foundation’s impact investing strategy.

Additional Resources on Participatory Grantmaking: GrantCraft’s comprehensive collection of blog posts, articles, and other online media produced on the topic.