March 14, 2017

Criteria for Building Community grants made clearer, simple

Last year, as part of Meyer’s newly restructured grantmaking programs, we launched the first set of opportunities under the Building Community portfolio. We were excited and heartened by what we saw! We learned about how organizations across the state are working to support marginalized populations and prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion.

This year as part of Meyer’s 2017 annual funding opportunity, the Building Community portfolio is investing $4.8 million in grant funds. We will begin accepting Inquiry Applications on March 15, with a deadline of 5 p.m. April 19, that advance one of the following portfolio goals:

  • Invest in strategies that dismantle inequities and create new opportunities to advance equity.

  • Support efforts to encourage and strengthen civic engagement and public participation in democratic processes.

  • Support arts and cultural initiatives that create inclusive communities.

Learning from 2016

The Building Community portfolio received more than 400 applications as part of the 2016 annual funding opportunity, and it was able to provide funding to 68 grantees. A few characteristics of last year’s grantees:

  • 26 percent were focused in rural communities, 10 percent worked in both rural and nonrural communities and 28 percent were doing work at a statewide level.

  • 25 organizations received project grants, 21 received capacity building funds, 20 received general operating support and two received capital funding.

  • 10 percent were organizations with annual operating budgets of $200,000 or less.

  • Four organizations were first-time applicants to Meyer.

  • The average grant size was $113,000.

Most applications we received were compelling, but the ones that were competitive shared similar characteristics:

  • They focused on historically marginalized populations. The Building Community portfolio has a special interest in people of color, people living on low incomes, women and girls, crime/abuse survivors, indigenous peoples and tribes, immigrants and refugees, the elderly, people with disabilities and LGBT people.  

  • They considered how direct services were tied to broader systems or root causes. It’s important to consider how a direct service or program (e.g., domestic violence counseling) is part of a broader context or connected to other issues that address the root causes requiring the service.

  • They employed strategies that were clearly informed by the intended audiences or those that would be most impacted by the proposed activity. Consider in what ways are the intended audiences for your work included in creating plans? Do they have some opportunity to influence what you do?

  • They considered diversity, equity and inclusion as part of broader strategies to improve and sustain organizational health (e.g., operations, policies and procedures, finances, staffing).

Changes in 2017

This is the second round of annual funding in Meyer’s new grantmaking programs. We received positive feedback from applicants and grantees and have made a few changes to try to make the process as clear and straightforward as possible. Past applicants may notice a few changes this time around.

  • We’re asking more questions about how an organization is informed by the population it seeks to serve. Our application aims to understand how your work and your organization as a whole is informed by the people you seek to impact.

  • Knowing that the process of preparing an application requires a considerable amount of time, we have tried to be clearer about work that is not a good fit with Building Community. You’ll find a list of examples of what does not fit in the funding opportunity materials.  

  • One of the most common questions we received in the application process last year was about grant size. This year, we have tried to provide more specific details, including the average grant size from last year (listed above) and how this relates to grant type (e.g., capacity building, operations, project and capital).

  • Of the 68 grant awards provided last year, two were for capital requests and each of those two was for less than $100,000. This year, we will again consider a limited number of capital requests. These requests will need to show a direct and compelling connection to improving conditions for priority populations and need to demonstrate how diversity, equity and inclusion considerations both informed the project and will be assessed moving forward.

  • One starting point for gauging where organizations are on their pathway to prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion is by collecting demographic data. This year we have created more resources and tools in a new Applicant Resources section of our website to provide more help with demographic data collection.

  • We have been clearer about what we mean by “equity.” Our Applicant Resources also includes more information to help applicants think about how equity takes shape, both externally through programming and services and through internal operations.

Get More Information

We are committed to being transparent about what we seek in an application. Over the next month, Meyer staff will be traveling the state to share information about the 2017 opportunity across all four of our portfolios, including Equitable Education, Healthy Environment and Housing Opportunities. A list of information sessions can be found here. The Building Community team will be hosting three webinars where we will provide more details about this portfolio and and respond to specific questions.

Of course, you can also check out our new Applicant Resources page with more information. And feel free to contact us at questions [at]  

— Dahnesh