A group of Seeding Justice staff and board smile for a group photo.

For 45 years, we have known that those most impacted by injustice—those closest to the pain of oppression—are the best equipped to come up with solutions to the problems that affect them.

Since our founding in 1976, Seeding Justice has had an activist-led grantmaking committee; it is not only foundational to who we are and how we operate, but also crucial in our quest to move wealth and shift power to our communities.

Today, people call what we do Participatory Grantmaking (or PGM); it’s been defined as “(The practice of) ceding decision-making power about funding— including the strategy and criteria behind those decisions—to the very communities that funders aim to serve.”

PGM is not a new concept, especially among grassroots funders, despite what larger funders would have you believe as they shamelessly co-opt it.

While they rave about its benefits, few actually adopt PGM because putting it into practice requires more than assembling a committee and asking its members to review applications.

True participatory grantmaking means investing time, energy, and money into relationship building. It means a long-term commitment to develop deep, authentic relationships with communities, applicants, partners, and grantees. It means taking the time to actually meet with grantees instead of spending it crafting opaque, burdensome, and data-heavy grant applications; trusting groups to know best how to use their grants without demanding that they spend valuable hours putting together (useless) documentation; and welcoming (encouraging!) honest feedback and being willing to act on that feedback to make things easier, not harder for them. Finally, it means we need to be open to failing, as that is the only way we learn and grow.

“Traditional” funders have failed in getting the job done: we are no closer to solving the profound social, racial, economic, and environmental injustices that plague our communities than we were 100 years ago. Philanthropic wealth continues to rise, but most of the money sits in tax havens while our communities suffer. The process of participatory grantmaking takes longer, requires more effort, and its impact may be harder to quantify, but I think it’s time to do things differently, try something new.

This is not to say that PGM has it all figured out or that those who practice it know how to do things perfectly, but the practice has been and continues to be effective because it requires doing it with those we fund and to whom we hope to always be accountable. Despite its flaws, participatory grantmaking is rooted in all the things status-quo philanthropy has rejected: trust, collaboration, democracy, and liberation.

We undoubtedly have our work cut out for us in resourcing our movements and sustaining our grantees in their work. I hope you’ll join us in congratulating and supporting Seeding Justice’s newest grantees, the living proof of what can be achieved when our communities (not program officers or trustees) lead the way.

Grantees by the numbers

95 – total number of applicants
20 – number of organizations funded
$290,100 – total amount distributed this Cycle
$59,100 – amount of granted money that came from DMFs
75 – percentage of BIPOC-led organizations funded
55 – percentage of LGBTQ-led organizations funded
65 – percentage of organizations funded that work outside of Portland Metro
45 – percentage of organizations that are receiving a grant from Seeding Justice for the first time

Organization

Purpose

Amount

African American Alliance for Homeownership For a pilot project with The Commons Law Center to equip African American homeowners with estate planning knowledge and organize community members around wealth building and displacement prevention.  $10,000
Beyond These Walls For multi-strategy work towards prison abolition and liberation for all. BTW is the only organization in Oregon working with and being led by LGBTQ incarcerated people.  $10,000
Black Community of Portland For organizing around economic empowerment, resilience and “recirculation” within Black communities in Portland. BCP is working with Black youth, small businesses, and the community at large on issues of food security, civic engagement, and business development. $15,000
Black Oregon Land Trust For their work on remediating centuries of injustice toward Black farmers. BOLT provides technical assistance and fellowships to Black farmers in Oregon and helps them secure land. $15,000
Brown Girl Rise For BIPOC youth-led organizing; BGR is educating, and engaging young folks, providing safe spaces for togetherness and creativity, and changing narratives about joy and celebration.   $15,000
Unite Oregon For project support of their Rogue Valley Chapter’s Forward Youth leadership development program, which uplifts the voices of and shifts power toward BIPOC and immigrant youth in the Rogue Valley.  $15,000
CORE  For CORE’s work with houseless youth in Lane County, building trust, safety and community and organizing for better policies. $15,000
Haymarket Pole Collective (a.k.a. Stripper Strike) For sex-worker led organizing, mutual aid, and labor rights. $15,000
Healing Justice Collective of Central Oregon To provide mental health support and safe spaces for BIPOC organizers in Central Oregon. $15,000
Ka Aha Lahui O Olekona Hawaiian Civic Club For civic engagement of the Oregon-based Native Hawai’ian and cultural preservation work. $10,000
Micronesian Islander Community For civic engagement of the Oregon-based Micronesian Islander community and cultural preservation work. $15,000
Oregon Futures Lab Education Fund For engagement, training and ongoing support of BIPOC civic and political leaders. $15,000
Next Up For leadership development and civic engagement of young people, and organizing around youth-affecting policies.  $15,000
PAALF For their Abolitionist Community Education Campaign, including: digital outreach and education; Abolitionist Learnings Podcast on Spotify; and participatory civic engagement $10,000
Participatory Budgeting Oregon For a youth civic engagement project in partnership with Play. Grow. Learn., a Black-led youth mentoring organization working in East Multnomah County.  $14,850
Somali American Council of Oregon For civic engagement of the Oregon-based Somali community and cultural preservation work. $15,000
TransPonder To provide support, resources, and education for the trans/gender diverse community and its allies statewide.  $15,000
Unidos Bridging Community For organizing and civic engagement of immigrant and Latinx communities in Yamhill County.  $15,000
Viva Inclusive Migrant Network To fight ICE’s targeting of immigrant communities by training Human Rights Promoters to organize statewide communities in defense of detained individuals.  $10,000
Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland (NPWH) For capital improvements to the Interpretive Center’s lodge, which will enable the lodge to provide care and lodging for far-flung Native American communities and facilitate their attendance to cultural events and gatherings. $10,000