Jan 26, 2023 · 3 min read

Community Fund: A Case Study on Participatory Grantmaking

Community Fund partners support the economic and social well-being of communities across San Mateo County.

October 2022. CZI staff pictured with members of the participatory grantmaking review panel and supporters in Woodside, San Mateo County. Photograph by Carla Dano-Arango.

Read the Case Study

Since its inception in 2017, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Community Fund has played a critical role in advancing CZI’s mission to create a better, more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone by supporting 170+ grassroots organizations with close to $26 million in grants.

Community Fund is an annual grant-making program that supports local organizations in San Mateo County that are increasing access to the building blocks of social and economic well-being, like housing, health care, education, job, career skills, and civic engagement. CZI’s goal is to ensure that this funding stream gives people the tools, resources, and power to shape their lives and communities.

In its initial funding cycles, the Community Fund team worked with a panel of 20–50 volunteer CZI staff across the organization who expressed interest in reviewing applications. In the spirit of uplifting community voice, the Community team sought a different, more impactful approach to its decision-making framework. CZI implemented participatory grantmaking practices, enlisting community members to help guide grantmaking decisions by joining the review panel. This collaborative funding approach engages directly impacted community members as part of the grant funding decision-making process in an effort to build trust and prioritize community voices.

Review panel participants were selected based on several factors, including their lived experience and commitment to building equity and justice-focused solutions in their communities. Availability was also a key factor — the training and review process took roughly 40 hours over the course of about two months. This pilot program propelled grants totaling $13 million to 139 organizations across San Mateo County.

In this case study, the Community team details its experience implementing participatory grantmaking practices and what they learned from engaging with community stakeholders in the process.

“Participatory Grantmaking is a vital tool that offers community partners with valuable lived experience a seat at the table,” says Curtis Yancy, Senior Manager of Community. “With this trust-based approach, the community leads us in creating effective, long-lasting, and valuable solutions toward a more equitable and just Bay Area. We look forward to continuing this practice in the years to come and hope that this case study inspires others who wish to make participatory grantmaking a pillar of their work.”

Our vision is that this case study inspires other philanthropic organizations to integrate this practice into their grantmaking cycles to further empower the communities that they serve.

Read the Case Study


About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education to addressing the needs of our communities. Through collaboration, providing resources, and building technology, our mission is to help build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.

About the Community Fund
Since its launch, the CZI Community Fund has made grants to 170+ local organizations investing $26M in our local communities. Learn more about the 2023 CZI Community Fund recipients at chanzuckerberg.com/community/fund.

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