Updated: Jun 9, 2019
by: Barbara Peterson April 28, 2019
Living in strong, democratic, sustainable communities is something we all want. And the New England Grassroots Environment Fund is helping people achieve exactly that. They provide the resources needed for people in New Hampshire to adopt and implement the sort of protections they deem necessary to live healthy lives. Their founders determined that the organization “must project a broad and compelling vision that will persuade large numbers of people that they are stakeholders in the formidable effort to build a sustainable future. This effort must begin at the local level. If environmental protection is imposed upon people, we will surely fail. But if it is accomplished with, for, and because of people, we may succeed.”
New England Grassroots Environment Fund was founded in 1996. During these past 23 years, they have been dedicated to co-creating healthy and sustainable communities throughout New England. With their New Hampshire office in Newmarket, and a satellite office in Burlington, VT, Executive Director Julia Dundorf guides the New Hampshire Grassroots Fund to helping individuals, groups, and organizations, who have often been marginalized, become empowered by working with them on a broad range of environmental and social justice issues. The Fund supports change makers who not only experience marginalization but face systemic and structural barriers to traditional funding.
It’s important to the Fund that all people, particularly those individuals, groups, and organizations that have traditionally been marginalized, to have a meaningful voice in shaping mainstream policies, practices, and attitudes. They seek to provide needed resources, knowledge, and skills to local, long-term projects of building and sustaining healthy, safe, fair, and environmentally sustainable communities. Anyone who is engaged in efforts to improve the quality of life for those around them by increasing awareness and understandings of, and involvement in community action for a healthier, equitable, and safe environment is eligible to apply for a grant from the Grassroots Fund.
Some of the types of projects the Fund supports are: public education about local policy issues and information about voting rights, efforts to teach people about the political process, organizations that work to have an impact on local regulations, gatherings that build strong community relationships and bonds, trainings that help develop civic leaders and activists, and workshops that build awareness of corporate behavior. What the Grassroots Fund will not support are any efforts to elect certain candidates, influence legislation or ballot measures, activism that breaks the law, any organization with a 501 c4 status, and any state, national, or regional organizations.
The Grassroots Fund aims to help individuals and groups with both their present and future needs. They seek to foster Community Resilience, which they define on their website as the “sustained ability of a community to effectively integrate with and utilize available resources to consistently meet the ecological and social needs of its community members.” And they define “community” in terms of sheds. Again, their website provides a clear explanation. “Resilience involves awareness of the ‘sheds’ that link us together, whether they are watersheds, food sheds, energy sheds, or even economic sheds. Shed awareness is key to understanding the true boundaries (or lack thereof) of the community that we are striving to make resilient.”
Providing ecological support means helping communities build and maintain a sustainable future by addressing issues related to climate change, the deterioration of environmental systems, and the erosion of ecosystems. Aiding social systems means promoting work that helps strengthen a sense of interdependence and connectedness among community members so they come together in times of need, such as during the damaging impact of severe storms and natural disasters, or if there are attacks on vulnerable populations. “Community resilience is not a dire scaling back nor a fearful preparatory measure, but rather a positive movement towards a brighter future where natural and social systems inherently support health, wellness, equity, and justice.”
This year, the Grassroots Fund's application deadlines were in March. While there are grant programs with rolling deadlines, Young Leader applications are typically due at the beginning of March, and Grow grant applications are due a couple weeks later. In addition to these programs, the Fund has developed a Grassroots Fund Lens in collaboration with others to provide aid to larger philanthropic and advocacy organizations whose focus is on promoting cultural and socio-political equity through participatory citizen engagement. For those interested in taking advantage of these amazing grant opportunities in 2020, applicants should keep in mind the March deadlines and check the Fund's website, given below, for more specific dates.
In 2018, $61,074 was awarded in Seed grants, $213,865.25 in Grow grants, and $61,000 in Young Adult Leaders grants. Additionally, the Fund granted $136,422 in fiscal sponsorship. That is a total of $472,361.25 awarded to 189 New England groups. It’s important to note that approximately 53% of grant recipients had no formal tax status, which highlights the Grassroots Fund’s willingness to support informal activist and advocacy groups.
An important and unique aspect of The Grassroots Fund is that it is collaboratively funded by both private and community foundations as well as individuals. Additionally, their Board and grantmaking committee seat grassroots activists as well as their grant-funding partners and nonprofit colleagues. This enables them to provide direct support to local individuals, organizations, and informal groups, even those too new to get funding elsewhere. It’s so important that newly formed groups get the support they need to be effective in making positive changes so these groups can grow in strength and effectiveness. The Grassroots Fund is different than most funding organizations in their willingness to work with newly formed associations.
While it is true that one of the major ways the Grassroots Fund helps to empower individuals and groups who are working to create positive social change is through financial grants, they offer more than dollars. They also provide valuable and helpful connections, trainings in becoming more effective advocates and activists, and inspiration through stories about people’s need for change and about past successes in making a positive difference in local communities.
The New England Grassroots Environment Fund is providing vital aid to the growing number of grassroots efforts. They help connect groups with the resources, knowledge, skills, allies, and inspiration needed for them to be effective change agents. The Fund aids activists and advocates in building lasting solutions to problems people face so that all individuals may live safely in healthy, sustainable, just, and caring communities.
Supporting the New England Grassroots Environment Fund
Anyone can become a donorand invest in grassroots action.
All can sign up to participatein democratic processes by becoming a grant reader or a planning committee member.
All are welcome to apply for a Grassroots Fund grants.
Everyone can join Grassroots Fund for an event.