Last week I had the good fortune to attend The Diverse City Fund's second-ever Grantee Celebration. The DC Fund "works to nurture community leaders and grassroots projects which are acting to transform DC into a more just, vibrant place to live". Listening to the stories and spoken word performances, it wasn't difficult to sense the enormous talent and potential impact sitting in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church.
The DC Fund announced grants for 22 grassroots projects, totaling $45,000. All of the projects are volunteer-led and often have few opportunities to access traditional funding streams. Here's a few of the winning projects:
- Affordable Housing DC: A robust community engagement campaign based around the compelling story of the Norwood community
- DC Food Justice TRS: Creating a youth-driven media campaign to bring awareness and action to the lack of nutritional services and high rate of junk food access in Wards 7 and 8
- Casa Ruby: Drop-in center and support for Latina LGBT immigrants.
You can check out the full list here.
For those interested in the philanthropic sector as a whole, the DC Fund is a fascinating project. Technically, it is a sponsored program fund if the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, though it has its own board and grantmaking team. Conceptually, it is not all that different from a giving circle or small grantmaking public charity, or, in a legal sense, a donor advised fund.
There is a great deal of trust when an individual donates to the DC Fund; a relinquishing of control that may be difficult for some donors to accept. The grantmaking team decides which projects will receive funding- not the donor. As a donor, you'll have a general idea of what types of projects your support will go towards, but you do not get to choose specific beneficiaries. The donor trusts that the grantmaking team, made up of committed individuals from within the community, will make a better funding decision than the donor would make on their own. It also makes statement that the donor trusts the community to determine its own needs. A more democratic and representative grantmaking process would be difficult to find.
Perhaps as a result of the of that democratic process, the DC Fund is also about supporting the grassroots groups that, while perhaps not raising $50K annually, are doing wonderful work in their communities. And the proof of that wonderful work is not in a spreadsheet stored in the cloud, but rather in the stories of the people who gather in a DC church basement on a hot July evening.
If you're interested in learning more about The Diverse City Fund, please visit their website.