Diverse City Fund Grantmaking Guidelines

Grantmaking Guidelines

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 made 337 grants totaling $1,041,650 to 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.

Funding Priorities

In this movement moment, the Diverse City Fund recognizes the need to support collective action and resistance. In spring 2017, we established more explicit grantmaking priorities and since have increased our twice-a-year grantmaking from $50,000 to $150,000. We now 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.

*For the purposes of our grantmaking, a coalition may be an existing organization with at least three (3) member organizations or an alliance of at least three (3) independent groups working together. Coalitions are eligible for grants of up to $15,000.

Eligibility Requirements (effective August 2019)

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 (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 sponsors and are selected for a grant award, you will need to obtain one before funds can be distributed. We cannot serve as your fiscal sponsor, but can provide more information 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 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 same year.
    • An individual grantee must wait one round before reapplying. Those groups that received funding in spring 2019, will not be eligible until spring 2020.
  • Submit a complete application.

*Coalition/alliance proposals will not be disqualified if some (but not most) of the partner organizations are not led by people of color. However, the people leading the work of the coalition/alliance must be people of color.

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, or no more than $15,000 for an eligible coalition/alliance.
  • 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 groups, coalitions, or organizations in which POC hold a majority of leadership positions, including board members, staff, and volunteers.

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 administration of the Fund is overseen by the Board of Instigators (BOI), grantmaking decisions are made by community activists of color rooted in DC with a broad range of experience in community projects, social change work, and philanthropy. This Grantmaking Team (GT) evaluates applications and awards grants during each grant rounds. Each round, the GT is composed of 15-20 new and returning volunteers, including 2-3 members of color from the BOI.

Apply now!

Additional Resources

Check out our past grantees to better understand the work that we fund. To learn about other community-led grantmaking models for social justice from which we draw inspiration, visit:

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