Reflecting on the 2023 Collective Grants

It’s been a remarkable journey since we refreshed our process and implemented Collective Grants last year, and the 2023 Collective Grants cycle gave us the opportunity to build on our learnings and continue to improve the experience for our members and nonprofit organizations.

About 45 members participated in one or more phases of Collective Grants. These members spent time learning about and discussing organizations working in three priority areas: Early Childhood Education, Food Sovereignty & Security, and Reproductive Justice & Maternal Healthcare. We also had a wonderful team of work group leaders, leading and guiding their groups through the process. Our deepest gratitude goes to all the members and the leadership team of the 2023 Collective Grants Committee for their service, commitment, and amazing work this year!

As we close the chapter on the 2023 cycle, I’d like to share some reflections as we look back on this past year of Collective Grants.

Intentionality

Looking back on this year, intentionality is a theme that comes to mind because we want Collective Grants to be an intentional process of learning and adapting. Last year, we implemented several changes as part of the grant refresh, and it was a year of figuring things out and listening for feedback from our members and organizations.

This year, based on this feedback, we introduced the Priority 101 learning series and added an extra meeting to the LOI phase so that work groups could spend time diving deeper into the priority areas. We heard from members that this would be valuable not only for group cohesion but also to set a foundation for the work group to reflect on what organizations are saying about the priority before reviewing all the LOIs.

This was also the second year of the Research phase and we simplified some of the steps based on feedback from last year and we were happy to hear from members that the phase went smoothly and that researching felt a lot more comfortable the second time around.  

Talking About Race & Gender Identity

We’ve come a long way since we first pivoted to focus our criteria on reducing disparities due to race and gender identity, and our conversations have evolved to richer discussions around race and gender identity. The first few years were challenging as we had to re-learn and change our mindset and approach to grantmaking. But we’re seeing that members are more comfortable with applying our criteria and talking intentionally about race and gender identity. We are also attracting new members that are excited about this focus and wanting to get involved because of the changes that we’re making as a Foundation.

This is not to say that we are satisfied with where we are or think that we fully understand these complex problems. We are still generously learning with each other and we want our work groups to be a safe space where members can be vulnerable to share, to say the wrong thing, to learn and be challenged to expand our view of the world. One member shared, “My perspective and understanding of cultural issues has expanded exponentially.” It’s been inspiring to see our work groups lean into these important conversations on race and gender identity.

Flexibility

The last reflection I’ll share is on how we’ve embraced flexibility to adapt to our changing times and evolving membership.

Participating in the full Collective Grants process can be hard due to varying schedules and time commitments. Some members work full-time, some have little ones at home, and some stay with their out-of-town family during large parts of the year.

With each year, we’ve tried to become more flexible in how members can participate. Members now have several options for joining just 1 or 2 phases. And with Zoom, members can join remotely or listen to the recording to catch up on missed meetings.

This has been especially valuable for the Conversations with nonprofits. Trying to capture the amazing learnings from these meetings to share with the membership has always been a challenge. But with the ability to record these conversations, our members can hear from the organizations directly and gain a richer understanding of their work that’s not lost in translation. These recordings also allow us to invite more members from earlier phases to join the Conversation phase, even if they can’t participate in the Conversations themselves.

We know that Zoom isn’t a replacement for meeting in person and the joy of seeing each other face to face, but it has allowed us to provide more options for our members. We’ve received feedback from members that they wouldn’t have been able to participate any other way. As we move forward, we hope to find a balance of Zoom and in-person meetings and events that’ll allow all our members to participate.

Final Thoughts

I want to share a personal reflectionon how this has impacted me. Shortly after I stepped into the Chair role last summer, my husband and I found out I was pregnant with our first child. At first, I wasn’t sure what that would mean for this year and my participation, but thanks to Zoom, I was able to participate with my big belly in my pajama pants from the comfort of my home. And when I needed time for myself and my family, this team covered me with love and support. They stepped in to share my load so that I could step away to spend time with our newborn daughter for as long as I needed. I was able to listen to the Conversation recordings while she napped in my arms. And when I felt ready, I was able to come back to join the last discussion and celebrate our wonderful grantees at the Grant Award Celebration.

If you’re interested in Collective Grants, we want to help support you, so please let us know how we can make it possible for you! There are many ways to be involved in the process, so if you haven’t participated in a while, we encourage you to join us next year!

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Collective Grants and the positive impact we can create together. Stay tuned for more updates and inspiring stories from our 2023 grant recipients, and we hope you’ll join us at the Convening on September 21 to kick off the 2024 grant cycle!

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