Diverse City Fund Grantmaking Guidelines

Grant Guidelines

Spring 2017

(download the Grantmaking Guidelines as a PDF


About the Diverse City Fund

The Diverse City Fund works to nurture community leaders and grassroots projects that are transforming Washington, DC into a more just, vibrant place to live. Through our grantmaking, we identify, support, and connect changemakers of color whose efforts are centered in DC. We support the development of community-level social change by funding projects that have less access to traditional funding sources.

Initiated in 2010 by volunteer community activists and donors, the Diverse City Fund supports grassroots projects and organizations led by and organized in communities of color. Since our first grant round in August 2011, we have granted $533,500 to 145 grassroots social justice initiatives. For many, our grants are the only institutional funding received in a given year.

We know that instigating social change takes passion, thoughtfulness, and extraordinary courage. The Diverse City Fund believes that the communities most affected by conditions should be at the center of the grantmaking process, and that small grants can have a dramatic impact over time. We want to go beyond the scope of most donor-led initiatives by breaking down the usual walls around giving. Now more than ever it is imperative that people of color who are building innovative programs to support community-building and resist displacement have a say in how philanthropic resources are utilized in the District of Columbia.

The Diverse City Fund is a sponsored program fund of the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region. All contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent permitted by law.


New Eligibility Requirements for Spring 2017

In this movement moment, the Diverse City Fund recognizes the need to support collective action and resistance. For the spring 2017 grant round, we will accept and prioritize grant applications from groups engaging in the following types of work:

  • Coalitions/Alliances*– multi-issue, multi-constituent alliances of social change groups led by and organized in communities of color in DC
  • Mobilization– groups mobilizing people for protest and resistance
  • Organizing and Advocacy – groups engaged in organizing and advocacy, particularly around funding for public programs and services
  • Healing, Inspiration, and Liberation– groups that bring people of color together for cultural and mental liberation, the individual level work that prepares people to resist.

*Coalitions/alliances may apply for up to $5,000 per member group that is POC-led and focused. For example, if there are four groups collectively organizing a social justice project, they may apply for up to $20,000.

Additionally, as support for movement-building by coalitions/alliances, we will temporarily waive our requirement that applicants sit out a round if they received a grant in the prior round. This means that if a group/project received a grant in fall 2016, they may apply again in spring 2017, but only as a member of a coalition/alliance.

Beyond these two temporary changes for the Spring 2017 grant round, existing eligibility requirements remain. To be eligible for a grant from the Diverse City Fund, an organization or project must:

  • Be an organized group of people or a coalition/alliance of groups of people (we do not fund individuals).
    • If your organization is a nonprofit with 501(c)3 status as determined by the IRS, or is fiscally sponsored by a 501(c)3 organization, you can apply.
    • If you do not currently have a fiscal sponsorship and are selected for a grant award, you will need to obtain a fiscal sponsor. As an all-volunteer organization with limited capacity, the Diverse City Fund strongly prefers that you arrange for a fiscal sponsor on your own. We cannot serve as your fiscal sponsor. More information will be provided if you are selected for a grant.
  • Be located in and carry out work in the District of Columbia.
  • Consist of residents of color as the primary participants and leadership.
  • Demonstrate little access to traditional funding sources.
    • Priority is given to groups that might not get funded or noticed by traditional funders, e.g. small groups, groups that are brand-new and getting off the ground, groups that are volunteer-led, politically radical or activist initiatives, etc.
  • Not have received a grant from the Diverse City Fund in the most recent previous round.
    • After receiving a grant, an individual grantee must wait one round before reapplying. For example, if awarded funds in the fall round, a grantee must wait until the following fall to submit another request for funding. This does not apply if applying as a member of a coalition/alliance in the Spring 2017 grant round.
  • Submit a complete application.


Funding Criteria

The Diverse City Fund awards grants to groups that seek to transform DC into a more just, vibrant place to live. Grant requests should:

  • Be in the amount of $5,000 or less. Coalitions/alliances may apply for up to $5,000 per member group.
  • Have a vision for creating social justice and structural change to dismantle oppressive systems.
  • Have a focus on community building, community organizing, or other community work to engage others in transformation.


Working Definition of Social Justice

Social justice is the process through which society attains a more equitable distribution of power and resources in the political, economic and social realms.¹ We envision a just DC in which communities of color explicitly benefit and flourish, systems are equitable and sustainable, and those most impacted by injustice are empowered to determine solutions and instigate continuous change.

To achieve this vision, people of color must be able to redefine their relationship to power, institutions, and each other. We believe in a systemic change approach which examines the intersecting causes of conditions, and seeks to identify and remove structural barriers to long-term opportunity and well-being. While we recognize that justice and accountability will look different to every community, the Diverse City Fund invests in social justice projects which:

  • Amplify the leadership and voice of those directly-affected by issues and needs.
  • Take action to create equitable outcomes and transfer of power and resources to directly-affected communities.
  • Tackle root problems by engaging directly-affected communities to find solutions, organize against oppression of all kinds, and create mechanisms for change.


Working Definition of People of Color-Led Efforts

The Diverse City Fund prioritizes funding for groups that reflect our city’s diversity and develop leadership from within communities of color. Grant applicants are expected to describe how people of color (POC) are at the core of their leadership. We define POC-led efforts as:

  1. Groups, coalitions, or organizations in which POC hold a majority of leadership positions, including board members, staff, and volunteers.
  2. A core strategic priority within a majority white organization that has POC in decision-making positions at the board and staff level.

When evaluating whether a project or organization is POC-led, it is important to ensure that the POC in leadership are not isolated or tokenized, but adequately supported, and that the work they are advancing is centralized within the larger strategic priorities of the organization.


Grantmaking Process

The Diverse City Fund challenges the traditional model of philanthropy in which wealthy donors typically make decisions about what to fund. While our Board of Instigators (BOI) administers the Fund, we have a separate Grantmaking Team (GT), composed of community activists of color rooted in DC, which evaluates applications and awards grants. Each round, the panel is composed of 8-10 new and returning volunteers with a broad range of experience in community projects, social change work, and philanthropy.


Grantmaking Timeline

We accept requests twice a year during the spring and fall grant rounds, which typically open in March and September. We hold at least one information session per grant round. Please refer to our website for up-to-date information.

Applications must be submitted by midnight on the application deadline. We seek to make funding decisions within two months of the application deadline. Groups that are awarded grants can anticipate receiving their grant checks within 3-4 weeks of providing the Diverse City Fund with documentation of fiscal sponsorship or 501(c)3 status.

Grantees that do not possess fiscal sponsorship at the time of award notification must obtain fiscal sponsorship and submit appropriate paperwork to the Diverse City Fund within 6 months of award notification. If not obtained within 6 months, award funds will be reused for the following grantmaking round in order to ensure timely disbursement and community benefit.


How to Apply

Applications and budget templates are made available online at www.diversecityfund.org. Our ultimate goal is to offer a variety of accessible formats to meet grant applicants’ needs. Currently our materials are only available in English.

We strongly prefer that applications be submitted via email to info@diversecityfund.org. If unable to email an application, please contact us at (202) 709-7038 so that we may make other arrangements for postal mail or hand delivery.


Additional Resources

Visit us online for further information about the Diverse City Fund. For additional examples of the kind of work we fund, and to learn about other grantmaking models for social justice philanthropy from which we draw inspiration, visit:

[1] As defined by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in Understanding Social Justice Philanthropy (2003).