Here's how we're adapting to support communities & take care of our people:
Programmatic response for community-based, volunteer-driven COVID19 responses
Phase I: The Grassroots Fund’s first phase response to the impact of COVID19 on communities across the Northeast was a rapid response fund for all-volunteer efforts responding to community needs. We modified our guidelines to allow for more direct service and urgent response, reduced review time to 24-48 hours and increased our grant pool by $175,000. In six weeks’ time, we heard from over 250 groups and were able to grant over 175 requests spread across the region.
As institutional philanthropy and federal support are opening up (some) resources, we are now moving to our second phase of support. This means we are moving back to a review period of 4 to 6 weeks for Seed applications and putting back in place grant program guidelines and expectations based on our guiding practices. The Seed program remains available for groups responding to community needs at the intersection of environmental, social and economic impacts.
Phase II: Many mutual aid efforts have newly launched over the last few weeks. While groups continue to respond to urgent needs in their neighborhoods and town, it is becoming clear that this hyperlocal, resilient level of support has to be sustained for the mid- to long-term as the impacts of COVID19 are likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
Many volunteer-driven mutual aid efforts are now working to build platforms and group infrastructure to continue the incredible work happening all around us.
Working alongside community organizers, the Grassroots Fund is launching and preparing 2 programs this Summer to continue to support community-driven responses to COVID19 and local resilience:
- Mutual Aid Communities of Practice: a 5-part virtual series where mutual aid organizers convene to share questions, challenges and innovations with each other. The Series covers topics like lowering barriers to participation, shifting power in decision-making, accessing resources across the community, and centering Just Transition principles as we start (re)imagining a post-COVID19 community. Community of Practice calls are limited to 30 people to allow for active sharing and co-creating.
- Mutual Aid Infrastructure grants: coming out of the first rounds of Community of Practice conversations, Grassroots Fund staff will design a Summer funding opportunity to help mutual aid efforts formalize their work. Funding priorities will be determined in collaboration with local organizers. We expect more information to be available by the middle of June. Make sure to sign up for the newsletter below to get updates over the Summer.
Flexibility for current grantees
We're providing technical support and flexibility in reevaluating existing grant timelines, work plans and necessary changes in focus. Please ask if you need an extension and know we are very open, transparent and flexible in assessing best use of funds right now.
Our office has transitioned to being fully remote and staff are working regular hours, ready to provide support to existing grantees or applicants. Calls are being transfered and we're checking emails regularly, albeit with some delays as we manage much higher application volume.
Creativity in managing our participatory grantmaking process
We've received over 100 applications in our Spring Grow grant program and over 200 people have signed up as readers! We'll be able to stay on our timeline and center values around equity in grantmaking using virtual review processes and (likely) a virtual grantmaking committee retreat in May.
We know our core mission of co-creating sustainable, health, just, environmentally sustainable communities is perhaps more relevant than ever in this moment. Now is the time to respond. These grassroots groups are meeting urgent needs in the short term, and these same groups are reimagining systems and creating more resilient and just communities in the longer term. We are stretching our budget to meet needs and support emerging networks, and doing what we can to bring philanthropic partners on board as well.
Here is how you can help:
- Become a Grassroots Fund sustaining donor to keep this work going
- If you are already co-leading mutual aid work, please apply for funding. And don't hesitate to reach out, we can assist with the applicaiton submission or advise projcet development.
- Share the COVID19 Program Response availibility widely
Now we're all settling into our hyper-local worlds for a while, let's (re-)commit to building resilience in community, especially for those most vulnerable to the many impacts of this pandemic. Thank you for doing your part!
A fiscal sponsor refers to a non-profit organization offering their legal and tax-exempt status to groups engaged in activities related to the organization's mission. It can improve access to funding sources for ad-hoc groups, as donors may require a tax-exemption before being willing and able to donate funds.
Why do we offer this?
The majority (55%) of our applicants in the last 4 years are ‘ad hoc’. Not having a tax-exempt status, these groups are limited in their ability to raise additional funds beyond the Grassroots Fund’s support. By offering a fiscal sponsor option, based on an established grantor-grantee relationship through our existing program, we expand the resources that are available to local groups. This fits in directly with our core value of lowering barriers to funding and helps groups go beyond our grant program and establish a more sustainable donor base.
Who is eligible?
Our fiscal sponsor program prioritizes groups that do not have any paid staff and that have a total organizational budget under $25,000. Once groups are raising more than that amount, it starts making sense to explore incorporation (annual fiscal sponsor fees start matching the cost for incorporation). The Fund generally does not offer continued fiscal sponsorship beyond a three year term.
A group needs to have received a Seed, Grow or Young Leaders grant in the previous 3 years. The specific activities for which the grantee seeks a fiscal sponsor are consistent with and supportive of the mission and grant guidelines of the Grassroots Fund
How do I start the process?
First, take a moment to review our fiscal sponsor policy. Please know that the Grassroots Fund has limited capacity to act as fiscal sponsor. To start the process, we therefor ask that you fill out a short online application by clicking the button below. Once submitted, we will follow up to discuss the request. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Is my group eligible to have the Grassroots Fund as fiscal sponsor?
Your group could be eligible to use the Grassroots Fund as a fiscal sponsor if:
- Your group received a Grassroots Fund Seed, Grow or Harvest grant in the last three years.
- The group has no – over very limited – paid staff capacity and the group’s annual operating budget is around $25,000 or the group is engaged in a one-off project and does not plan to remain engaged for the long-term (for example, the group is engaged in a legal argument or is fundraising for a specific capital improvement).
- The specific activities for which the grantee seeks a fiscal sponsor are consistent with and supportive of the mission and grant guidelines of the Grassroots Fund
If you meet these criteria, please review the Grassroots Fund's fiscal sponsor policy. The use of a Fiscal Sponsor Agreement is required before the Grassroots Fund can act as your groups fiscal sponsor. You can start the process by filling out this short online application. Please note that the Grassroots Fund has limited capacity to manage fiscal sponsorships and submitting an application is no guarantee for fiscal sponsorship.
How does a fiscal sponsorship work?
The Grassroots Fund assumes responsibility for the fiscal management of grant funds and donations, and will maintain sufficient documentation for the financial and compliance audit of grant awards. The Grassroots Fund is responsible for recording all grant receipts and disbursements.
The Grassroots Fund will log all gifts into our general grant pool and will have full control over the funds received from the donors. We aim to fulfill each donor’s request to direct funds towards a fiscally sponsored group, but if a group is operating outside of the mission of the Grassroots Fund, we retain the right to hold the funds.
Are fiscal sponsored programs part of the Grassroots Fund?
No. Fiscal sponsored groups are groups that advance the mission of the Grassroots Fund, but are not programs of the Grassroots Fund. As such, the Grassroots Fund is not a fiscally sponsored group’s governing body, and is not responsible for any fiscally sponsored group’s tax filing, payroll information, banking, etc
Is there a fee to have the Grassroots Fund act as fiscal sponsor?
Yes. The Grassroots Fund charges a 5% administration fee on all donations, taken from the month’s total before distributing the check.
How can donors make donations?
Donations can be made by check and sent to: New England Grassroots Environment Fund, ATTN: Chetana Parmar, P.O Box 611, Newmarket, NH 03857. Donors can also make online donations through our Online Donation Form and indicate that they would like to the donation made out to a fiscal sponsored group
To whom should a donor write a check?
All donations on behalf of fiscal sponsored groups must be made to: New England Grassroots Environment Fund, with the name of the fiscal sponsored group in the memo line.
How often are funds disbursed?
Funds are distributed once a month (typically the first or second week of the month)
Do all donations need to be made to the Grassroots Fund?
No. If a donor doesn’t require tax exemption to make the donation, then the donation can be made directly to your group. The Grassroots Fund’s role is for donors and foundations that require that tax exemption in order to make their gift.
Can a group receive tax-exempt non-financial donations through the Grassroots Fund?
No, the Grassroots Fund only manages financial (i.e monetary) donations on behalf of our fiscally sponsored groups