Young Leaders Grants (currently closed)

Young Leaders grant program closed for 2024

The Grassroots Fund has decided to close the Young Leaders grant program to reassess how it fits into our overall grant programming and how we support specific groups within the community. Grow grants are available for eligible applicants (deadline is September 15). 

The Young Leaders grant program is geared towards groups led by young adults. The Grassroots Fund defines young adults as between the ages of 15 and 25 years old. When evaluating youth leadership within applications, we are looking for projects in which young people are in a relationship to the project that goes beyond them being recipients of service. We look to see how their ideas and input are at the forefront of the project. In some contexts, that means young leaders are in key leadership roles, in other contexts there are clear protocols and practices in place to ensure the perspectives of young leaders are central to how priorities are set and strategies determined. Please read below for more information about how we define youth leadership. 

Young Leaders grants prioritize support for community groups who represent a broad range of voices in their community and who are not being reached by other funders. The Grassroots Fund interprets the word 'environment' broadly and provides funding for a wide range of activities. 

Deadlines: Third Tuesday in March & September (note the program is currently closed). Funding decisions are generally made by the end of May and early December, and funding is received after grant agreement paperwork is signed. 

Grant size: up to $6,000

Direct questions to: Sarah Huang at if you cannot find the answers to your questions on this page.


Eligibility guidelines

The Young Leader grant program is focused on community-based, local initiatives. For the Grassroots Fund that means that:

We only fund:

  • groups doing local, grassroots work in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont
  • Note that groups do NOT need to have formal tax status or a fiscal sponsor.  A group only needs a bank account in the group's name (see FAQs below to learn how to set that up). 

We prioritize:

  • groups that are volunteer-driven or have no more than 2 full-time paid staff (80 hrs/week)
  • groups that have an approximate annual operating budget under $175,000 (see 2022 update below)

We don't fund:

  • Individuals
  • National or international work
  • Lobbying or partisan political activity
  • Acquisition of land and/or buildings
  • Studies with no follow-up action
  • Publication of books or reports
  • Micro-, mini-, re-granting programs
  • Retroactive (pre-dating application submission) expenses

    Update for 2022:

    The Grassroots Fund utilizes participatory grantmaking to move resources to New England grassroots groups working at the intersections of Environmental Justice.  Much like the work of grassroots groups in their communities, the eligibility guidelines are always evolving to meet the needs of those seeking funding. For 2022, the Grassroots Fund is working to clarify and update some of the guidelines based on feedback received from the community.

    In order to best serve the grassroots groups doing the important work in their communities, the Grassroots Fund wanted to clarify that some of the guidelines are flexible while others remain strictly followed. For instance, acknowledging that cost of living varies widely across communities, our guideline that groups must have a budget under $100,000 for Seed and Grow and under $175,000 for Young Leaders serves as an approximation of a grassroots groups’ operating budget while the guideline that only groups in New England states are eligible for funding remains strictly followed. 

    In addition, to best support applicants, grantees, Community Grant Readers, Grantmaking Committee members, and staff, the Grassroots Fund is updating our funding approval process so that applicant groups are eligible to apply to only one (1) grant program per grant round. The impact of this change is that groups are no longer able to apply to both Grow and Young Leader grant programs in the same grant round. Groups may still receive funding from different grant programs (for the same or a different project) per calendar year, as long as each individual grant is received in a different grant round. In addition, groups can continue to receive a maximum of two grants from the same grant program per calendar year, as long as each individual grant is for a different project and received in a different grant round. 

    How we define youth leadership

    We strive to leave our definition of “youth leadership” open and flexible to the contexts in which grassroots groups work. When looking at non-youth-led organizations, we are looking for applications that can clearly state how young leaders are able to lead and make decisions. Challenging adultism - the cultural practices that tell us that ideas from adults are inherently better or more practical - requires allowing the ideas of youth to be expressed and explored without overbearing advisement.

    We are very grateful to the folks at Movement Matters, from whom we borrow the "Youth Voice" Framework (below). You can find their full report on Building Youth Voice here.

    Applications closer to the "Youth Organizing" and "Youth (Civic) Engagement" side of this chart are likely to do better in our review process. This is because of our mission as an organization to energize and nurture long-term civic engagement. However, we recognize that the other side of this chart is more relevant for certain community contexts, and we encourage you to describe in your application why that is the case. If you have any questions about this framework, please reach out. 

    Review process

    Young Leaders grant applications are submitted to the Grassroots Fund’s online system in September. They are then assigned to our volunteer Grant Readers, who represent different issue, identity, geographic, and other perspectives from across the region. We allow anyone to sign up to be a grant reader, and especially encourage our applicants and grantees to participate in the process. We work to ensure that each grant has a wide range of voices weighing in on its review, thus each grant is reviewed by at least 10 readers

    Grant Readers provide comments on the applicants they are assigned and provide scores for six different categories - based on the Grassroots Fund's guiding practices - on a scoring rubric. Reader scores are aggregated to create an average score for each applicant. Grassroots Fund staff then conduct phone interviews with each applicant group and request more information based on the Grant Readers questions or concerns. Staff scores the applicants with a scoring rubric with the same six categories as the readers and provides comments on each category. An overall staff recommendation (e.g. “Recommend Fund,” “Recommend Not Fund,” “Discuss”) is also provided based on reader scores and comments. Staff categorizes applications as “Recommend Fund” or “Recommend Not Fund” if overall Reader score and staff score align. Staff categorizes applications as “Discuss” if there is: a discrepancy between overall Reader and staff score, a wide range of Reader scores for the application, or a specific question or concern about how the application fits with our guidelines. 

    From the pool of Readers, approximately fifteen (15) people are selected to serve on a Grantmaking Committee (GMC). Readers that are interested in this role indicate it on their grant application. Staff then reviews those interested and selects a committee that is balanced and representative based on factors including geographic location, age, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity. The GMC selections are also reviewed by the GMC Planning Committee, which is made up of individuals that have participated in the GMC in the past. Those that have been selected to serve on the GMC meet in person for a 1 ½ day retreat, and are asked to approve the “Recommend Fund” and “Recommend Not Fund” applications. Staff facilitates these discussions along with a Planning Committee member but does not vote on the final funding decisions. The GMC makes the final funding recommendations, which staff bring to the Grassroots Fund Board of Directors for final approval of the total dollar amount. 

    In 2019, we had 240 Grant Readers reviewing over 170 grant applications, many past or present grantees themselves. Grant Readers come to this process with a wide range of organizing experiences and lived experiences, and add breadth and depth of knowledge to decisions about resource allocation. We ask readers to self-identify across a number of demographic characteristics so that we can be clear about how we are - or are not - shifting decision-making toward a more diverse and representative base.

    All applicants are notified of the final decision via email. When you are approved for funding, you will be asked to sign a grant agreement letter ahead of receiving the funding.  

    Grant reporting

    After receiving a grant, a report is due either when all funds are expended or one year from the date of the grant agreement letter. You can access the (google form based) grant report form, by clicking the button below. If you have any questions or need a copy of your grant agreement letter, please reach out to Chetana Parmar.  

    Go to Report Form (Google form link will open) 

    How to submit an application

    The Grassroots Fund application is online. You can start your group's application by clicking the button below. Each application has three sections: contact information, group information & project information. All required fields have to be complete before you are able to submit your group's application. The application form does not auto-save and we recommend you regularly hit the Save button to make sure your work is not lost (technology isn't always our friend). 

    Applications completed by young adults involved with the project are strongly encouraged, and we welcome your feedback on how to make our applications more accessible. 

    You can return to an open application by clicking the Show Action Center button in the top-right (make sure you are logged in). Additional members of your group are able to register with the website and can join your group to get access to an application. 

    Once you submit an application, you will receive an automated confirmation that we have received the application. Don't hesitate to contact us with any questions along the way. 

    Young Leaders grant program is currently closed 

    (to return to an existing application, click the Show Action Center button top-right and find saved applications under the Your Applications header)

    Frequently asked questions

    Does a group have to have a 501(c)3, incorporated status or a fiscal sponsor to receive funding? (spoiler alert: NO!)

    No, the Grassroots Fund does not require that a group has a formal tax exempt status. We fund both informal (unincorporated) groups - we call them “ad hoc” - and formal (incorporated or 501c3 status) groups. The only requirement is that a group must have a checking account in the group’s name or have a fiscal sponsor. This is to ensure that the grant isn't considered personal income for the recipient. Note that a group is allowed to submit an application before having a checking account or a fiscal agent in place.

    How can an unincorporated community volunteer group open a bank account in the group's name?

    In order to open a bank account to deposit funds, the bank may request an Employee Identification Number (EIN) be assigned for identification purposes.  A Community Volunteer Group can request an EIN number online by following these steps:

    • Go to this IRS Website
    • Click on Apply Online Now (near the bottom of the page)
    • Click on Begin Application (near the bottom of the page)
    • When you get to the list of the type of group, check the View Additional Types box at the bottom of the list, then hit Continue
    • Choose Community or Volunteer Group, then Continue
    • Click on the Continue button
    • Fill out all of the applicable information for the group

    What kind of projects does the Grassroots Fund support?

    The Grassroots Fund's Guiding Practices highlight some of the process elements we aim to prioritize in our funding. The Guiding Practices focus on centering just transition, shifting power, equity in participation, accessing resources and connecting across the community. We understand no single project will be able to excel in all areas, but we seek to engage in conversations about who makes decisions, how priorities are set and who is able to participate. Those are questions we ask ourselves about our own programs & projects as well. 
    The Fund interprets the word ‘environment’ broadly and will provide funding for a wide range of activities. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you want to discuss a project idea or if you are looking for feedback on an application 
    Grassroots Fund grants cannot be used for retroactive expenses, lobbying purposes, micro-/re-grant programs, or large capital acquisitions. Grassroots Fund grants are not available for individuals or for-profits.

    What is the difference between a Seed, a Grow and a Young Leaders grant?

    If you are working to launch a newly evolving project (generally active less than 2 years), go with Seed. If you are an established group with some experience with the project and are looking for support to deepen or broaden the work, then Grow is more appropriate. The Young Leaders grant program is designed to support efforts that give meaningful leadership roles to people under the age of 25. Don't hesitate to contact us for help deciding betweent the grant programs.

      What should a group do about the grant report if a grant hasn't been spent after one year?

      The group should fill out an interim report one year after the original deadline. Complete the regular Grant Report form, note that it is an interim report, and include whatever budget information is appropriate. Then, once the grant is fully expended, submit the final Grant Report. This report should include a complete budget breakdown on the use of the grant funds.

      What should a group do if it doesn't need the full grant to complete the work (or disbands before the funds are spent)? 

      The group should fill out a final Grant Report and return the remaining money to the Grassroots Fund by check. We will use the funds to support other grassroots groups across the region!

      How many times can a group receive funding from the Grassroots Fund?

      That depends. There is no set limit. Factors that go into a funding decision include: whether or not the group is changing and growing, or if it is applying for the same project; whether or not the Grassroots Fund is the only source of funding or if there is a (growing) number of sources; and the specific use/need for funding. If you are unsure whether or not your group should apply again, please don't hesitate to contact us.

      Why are there demographic questions in the application process?

      In Grassroots Fund’s commitment to environmental justice, we are focusing our efforts in making sure that grant funds are reaching community organizers and organizations whose voices and identities are most often underfunded. This most strongly shows up as we think about what it means to Shift Power. Grantees who have scored high in this particular guiding practice emphasize needing to understand who is in their community and who is in their organization’s leadership. They do so by seeking to understand their leadership’s lived experiences. As our application is built to provide reflection points for groups to think about how they are organizing, we have added additional questions to think about who is present in your group. We also will use this information to better understand who is receiving funding and how we can better focus our efforts to ensure our funding dollars are leading towards greater environmental justice.

      We similarly ask these questions in our volunteer sign ups to better ensure that the lived experiences of folks who are traditionally left out of decision making spaces are centered in our participatory review process, including our community reader program and grantmaking committee.