Grantmaking Guidance

Who We Are

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 collective 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.

The DC Fund only funds organizations/projects in which Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, women, LGBTQ communities, returning citizens, immigrants, people with disabilities, and excluded workers are at the core of their leadership. We define these efforts as groups, coalitions, or organizations in which these intersecting communities hold a majority of leadership positions, including board members, staff, and volunteers.

What We Fund & What We Don’t Fund

What We Fund

  • Social justice work — meaning there is an analysis of power and strategy towards transformational change. Please see How We Understand Social Justice section below. 
  • BIPOC led work — where core leadership and primary decision makers are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and whose other identities may be women, LGBTQ communities, returning citizens, immigrants, people with disabilities, and excluded workers.
  • Work that centers DC residents — programs that primarily impact DC residents of color or former DC residents of color who have been displaced/gentrified out of the city.
  • Work not funded in the last full cycle —organizations/projects and coalitions that have received a grant from the Diverse City Fund within the last 12 months are not eligible i.e. an individual grantee must wait a full general grantmaking round before reapplying. (This does not include COVID rapid response rounds.) For example, groups that received funding in Fall 2019 will not be eligible for funding until Fall 2020.

We understand that there are many ways to define these criteria. While we no longer ask about areas for eligibility, our revised application asks more details to help our Grantmaking Teams make their funding decisions. 

What We Don’t Fund

  • Direct services that do not have a social justice purpose or strategy.
  •  Regional organizations/projects that do not primarily impact current residents or recently displaced residents of the District of Columbia. Our goal is to fund organizations/projects that are centered on these communities.  
  • Organizations/projects that discriminate against marginalized communities who also identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color, including: women, LGBTQIA+, returning citizens, immigrants, people with disabilities, and excluded workers. 

We are excited for you to apply if you meet our eligibility and work we fund! Please read our Examples section for more information.

How We Understand Social Justice

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.

Priorities include:

  • Mobilization – work that mobilizes people for protest and resistance.
  • Organizing and Advocacy – work that engages in organizing and advocacy, particularly around funding for public programs and services.
  • Healing, Inspiration, and Liberation – work that brings communities together for cultural and mental liberation, the individual level work that prepares people to resist.

How We Understand DC-Based Work

What We Consider DC Based Work

  • Work that is organized or operated within the District of Columbia —  our applications ask about which ward in which the work happens to understand, in part, who is impacted by your work. 
  • Work that impacts DC residents — we recognize that work that happens in the city might not always touch people/communities who live in the city. We fund work that directly impacts DC residents, especially DC residents of color, that has less access to funding.  
  • Work that impacts former DC residents and their communities — we recognize that displacement and gentrification are forcing many Black, Indigenous and People of Color outside of the city. 

This means that people with deep roots to the city may no longer be able to afford to live in DC and now live elsewhere, and/or their communities are migrating elsewhere too. 

For the purposes of our applications, we identify displaced people and their communities as “former residents.” 

What We Don’t Consider DC Based Work

  • Regional organizations/projects that do not primarily impact current residents or recently displaced residents of the District of Columbia —  our goal is to fund organizations/projects that are centered on these populations.  
  • Organizations/projects/coalitions whose primary connection to DC is that the leaders live here — while we are excited to fund the work of Black, Indigenous and Leaders of Color who live in the city, it can’t be a substitute for your work’s impact on DC residents (current and former).  

How We Understand Coalitions

We have a separate application for coalitions because we understand, and encourage, organizations/groups that are coming together because they have determined a strong need to do so, they want to amplify their organizing power, and they believe that organizing together makes things possible that wouldn’t be otherwise achievable. 

Please be aware that a coalition does not receive any more funding per member organization than a single organization applying alone. There is a separate application so that better questions can be asked that reflect the reason why the coalition exists.

What A Coalition Is 

  • An alliance of at least three (3) existing groups or organizations coming together for a project. 
  • An organization established as a coalition with at least three (3) member organizations. 
  • Any formation listed above in which Black, Indigenous and People of Color lead the work and make the decisions. 

What Is Not A Coalition

  • A group coming together for a project with two organizations.
  • A new group or existing group or individuals coming together that doesn’t have Black, Indigenous and People of Color as leaders with decision-making power over the work. 

Examples

People of Color led projects

  • We will most likely fund:
    • A student organizing group in which all decisions about the direction of the group’s work are made by a leadership council of Black and Latinx youth that partners with a white-led education nonprofit solely as a fiscal agent.
  • We probably won’t fund: 
    • A white-led economic policy nonprofit with a majority white-board in which a community outreach project is under the jobs of staff of color, however, staff of color are managed by a white supervisor who has decision making power about who to reach out to, how to maintain the relationships, and who controls the timeline. 

Impact DC residents or former residents

  • We will most likely fund:
    • A cancel rent campaign whose organization member base is between Ward 7 and PG County, where some members have relocated to, so the campaign spans from the city to the county where current and former residents live.
  • We probably won’t fund: 
    • A Virginia statewide organization, with a chapter in Northern Virginia, who is organizing an affordable housing campaign in which a only few members are DC residents. 

Social justice work 

  • We will most likely fund:
    • A newly formed coalition organizing resources to meet basic needs for excluded workers and their families, in mutual aid, as part of a long-term community building strategy. 
    • A healing collective curated by BIPOC-identified people that creates healing circles for organizers of color throughout the city. 
  • We probably won’t fund: 
    • A food pantry project, organized a neighborhood church, to feed their food insecure members and other community members impacted by COVID-19. 

Grantmaking Process

The Diverse City Fund challenges the traditional model of philanthropy in which wealthy donors typically make decisions about what to fund. 

While DC Fund is operated by a Board of Instigators (BOI) and a two-person staff, grantmaking decisions are made by community organizers/activists/cultural workers of color called the Grantmaking Team (GT). 

The GT evaluates applications and awards grants during each grant rounds and rapid response rounds. The GT represents a range of organizing experience and work, and the BOI and staff are working to create an even broader range, and for the GT to represent more organizers rooted in long-time communities of color, especially east of the river.  

As of now there are two main grantmaking rounds: fall and spring. In 2020, DC Fund established rapid response rounds to meet city organizing needs related to the pandemics: coravirus, police abolition and economic crisises.

Each round, the GT is composed of 15-20 new and returning paid volunteers, including 2-3 members of color, who are organizers, from the BOI. If you want to learn more about becoming a GT member, or learn more about the process, please contact us at info@diversecityfund.org.

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).