Adapting grantmaking processes: Brooklyn Community Foundation

Written by: Lisa Ranghelli

Date: July 03, 2019

Editor’s note: The following is a Power Moves toolkit Power in Practice example.

As Inside Philanthropy reported in 2017, funders are developing more responsive grantmaking and other tools to support social movements. Shorter application forms and less cumbersome reporting requirements mean a larger “net grant” for these organizations.

Rapid response funds are becoming more common, including pooled funds across funders and/or individual donors. Some practices developed to respond to social movements should be adopted by funders year-round to best support all their grantees.

One foundation that has adapted its grantmaking processes is the Brooklyn Community Foundation, as part of its embrace of a racial justice lens and power-building goals.

The mission of Brooklyn Community Foundation, which made $5.5 million in grants in 2017, is to “spark lasting social change, mobilizing people, capital and expertise for a fair and just Brooklyn.”

“When I started here, I wanted to draw upon my experience as a grantmaker and institute best practices from the field. In the Invest in Youth portfolio, we created a grantmaking model that provides our Invest in Youth grantees with a year of general operating support as we learn about their work, and then move to a three-year commitment of general operating support to provide them with flexible dollars they can count on for multiple years,” said Kaberi Banerjee Murthy, vice president of programs, in an interview with NCRP.

“After the 2016 election, we created a $2 million Immigrant Rights Fund with a 4-year commitment to safeguard our immigrant communities. We were able launch our Immediate Response grants quickly, moving dollars out the door a week after Trump was elected and then again a week after the first executive orders.” 

Knowing it wanted to be flexible enough to support both proactive and reactive work, it also provide longer-term Sustained Response grants as well as one-week turnaround Action Fund grants specifically to support civil resistance activities.

“We wanted to move beyond normative ways of making decisions, doing things like valuing oral as well as written contributions, and ensuring our efforts maximize our net grants by reducing burdens on grantees, so we invited requests for conversations instead of requests for proposals.” 

Of the foundation’s 8 portfolios, half are constituent-led grantmaking programs, which allow them “to share power and decision-making with those most knowledgeable given their lived experience.”

Lisa Ranghelli is senior director of assessment and special projects at NCRP and primary author of Power Moves: Your essential philanthropy assessment guide for equity and justiceFollow @NCRP and @lisa_rang on Twitter, and join the conversation using #PowerMovesEquity!

This post is part of a series of case examples on building, sharing and wielding power for NCRP’s Power Moves toolkit