Creating a community of community grantmakers

28 years after the program’s founding, the Boston Neighborhood Fellows take on a new role: grantmaker

December 10, 2019

By Cairo Mendes, Program Associate, Grassroots

As part of the Foundation’s explicit moves towards community grantmaking, over the last couple of years The Fellows have pioneered a new grantmaking model through the Grassroots strategy. In 2018, the Fellows took collaborative leadership over Collaborate Boston, a $100,000 prize competition for community-based collaborations. Fellows decided on the theme of the competition, reviewed applications, and ultimately made the final recommendations for prizewinners. 

BNF group shot Meet the 2019-2021 Fellows

Fellows also get a more personal experience in grantmaking, recommending grants to organizations of their choice. Following in the steps of their predecessors, the 2019-21 BNF cohort is recommending $75,000 to 13 organizations (listed below).

Their decision-making strategy and motivations for giving were up to them. Nadav David, who recommended the community-led Jewish racial justice organization Kavod, stated, “As a member and leader in Kavod, I've had the unique opportunity to develop a strategy and vision for the racial and economic justice organizing we're taking on alongside inspiring local organizations like the Boston Ujima Project, Muslim Justice and City Life/Vida Urbana. 

Fellow Greg Hill too, shared a connection to the organization he recommended for funding: John P. Holland Community Council. “Growing up in Dorchester, the JPHC not only helped my family, but so many other low-income families that depended on the resources the JPHC had to offer.”

“In relinquishing decision making to the Boston Neighborhood Fellows for this slate of grants we are explicitly and visibly sharing TBF’s institutional power with a group of individuals representing communities that have too often been excluded from or marginalized by institutional and structural power.”  Said Jennifer Aronson, Associate Vice President for Programs, “this practice is an important part of our effort to understand and address the ways in which TBF’s grantmaking and related practices can begin to undo some of the inequity inherent in traditional philanthropic practice.”

Under the leadership of new Assistant Director for Community Grantmaking Vetto Casado, the Foundation will be expanding its commitment to community grantmaking. Already, programs like Live Arts Boston rely heavily on community leaders to review applications. Finding more ways to transform grants to the community into grants by the community, we hope, can ensure that we are not just respectful of the lived experience of community members, but recognize that their knowledge and understanding gives them a perspective and wisdom that no institution can match.

Meet the 2019 Neighborhood Fellows grant recipients:

  • Abilities Dance -  Abilities Dance seeks to disrupt antiquated ableist beliefs and disseminate the value of inclusion through dance. Abilities Dance offers professional development opportunities through dance classes, and doing education and training work through lectures and movement classes to raise awareness about ableism, and providing the community with access to art through its performances. 
    Recommended grant amount: $2,500 
  • Agora Cultural Architects -  An organization committed to uplifting and promoting Latinx arts and culture. Agora builds bridges through project development, content management, grant management and communications. 
    Recommended grant amount: $7,500 
  • Creative Impact for Change Creative Impact for Change believes in the transformative power of connecting and that art and creativity are tools to inspire, educate, and engage. Creative Impact for Change's purpose is to promote empathy and understanding through voice and story
    Recommended grant amount: $7,500 
  • Haley House - Haley House uses food with purpose and the power of community to break down barriers between people, empower individuals, and strengthen neighborhoods. Haley House is dedicated to helping those made vulnerable by the harshest effects of inequality move toward wholeness and economic independence.
    Recommended grant amount: $2,500 
  • John P Holland Community Council Inc. - The John P. Holland Community Council, Inc. (JPHC), a not for profit corporation, comprised of community residents and partners. The JPHC offers quality programs  and activities that are designed to engage school-age students, youth, teens, adults, and seniors through recreational and educational activities in a fun-filled community center setting.
    Recommended grant amount: $7,500 
  • Kavod - A community-led organization, led by young Jews, dedicated to transformative social justice organizing and strengthening the Jewish community by prioritizing the safety and security needs of Jews with marginalized identities. 
    Recommended grant amount: $7,500 
  • Keshet -  Keshet works for the full equality of all LGBTQ Jews in Jewish life. Keshet equips Jewish organizations with the skills and knowledge to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, create spaces in which all queer Jewish youth feel seen and valued, and advance LGBTQ rights nationwide.
    Recommended grant amount: $2,500 
  • Mass Vote -  MassVOTE is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that seeks to increase voter participation in Massachusetts. MassVote advocates for electoral justice for the sake of building a government truly representative of the people.
    Recommended grant amount: $7,500 
  • Muslim Justice League - Founded on the principles that discrimination towards any group endangers the rights of all and that Muslim advocacy is an essential force for promoting justice, MJL engages in community education and mobilization, facilitation of cross-movement solidarity, legal advocacy, and cultivation of an environment in which pride in Muslim identity flourishes.
    Recommended grant amount: $7,500 
  • Sisters Unchained - Sisters Unchained is a program dedicated to the collective leadership, healing, and creative expression of women and non-gender conforming people of color who are impacted by incarceration.
    Recommended grant amount: $2,500
  • Transgender Emergency Fund of MA Inc. Providing financial support to low-income Transgender individuals in Massachusetts since 2008. 
    Recommended grant amount $10,000 
  • Union Capital Boston - UCB is rooted in the 20th century practices of community organizing combined with the efficiencies of modern technology. UCB members earn social and financial rewards for their community involvement and volunteerism through our innovative mobile-app loyalty program and Civic Engagement Framework.
    Recommended grant amount: $7,500 
  • Young Abolitionists - Young Abolitionists (YA) is a youth-led grassroots collective from Boston that formed in 2012 dedicated to build a resistance against the prison industrial complex.
    Recommended grant amount: $2,500