For our second challenge of the 2023-2024 program year, we partnered with Wayne Metro Community Action Agency (WM), a nonprofit organization serving approximately 75,000 low-and moderate-income residents throughout Wayne County with a mission to empower people and communities to be strong, healthy, and thriving in pursuit of eliminating poverty. Two teams of Fellows focused on participatory grantmaking and the Detroit Resident First Fund (DRFF) initiative,  working alongside the Wayne Metro staff and community stakeholders, including Detroit Resident First Fund grantees – learn more about the project from the Fellows! 

At the beginning of the project, we learned about participatory grantmaking. If you’re like us, you have no idea what this means, so we will provide you with a definition: Participatory grantmaking flips philanthropy on its head. Rather than having funders make decisions that directly affect the community, it gives power to the grantees— and in our case, the residents. 

The Detroit Residents First Fund’s (DRFF) mission is to support those working to improve Detroit’s neighborhoods for those with the least access to power and social capital. As the DRFF teams, we were tasked with two design questions. The first was, “How might we incorporate more participatory elements into the DRFF grant proposal review process?” The second question asks, “How might we effectively market DRFF to enhance general visibility and fundraising efforts?” 

We conducted stakeholder interviews that led us to these key quotes and revelations. Donna Givens-Davidson, CEO/President of Eastside Community Network and Executive Committee Member of DRFF, shared that, “If you are not prepared to change with the times, you will find that your program model will become obsolete.” There was a strong desire to uplift Detroit residents’ voice and power in the DRFF application process. “What I love about DRFF is that they identify and provide support so their aspirations and dreams for the community can be lifted up.”

“Be more intentional with the people that are hard to find.” Our team was able to listen to the people behind the scenes to help create the missing links of the DRFF grants.

The Participatory Grantmaking team’s outcomes consisted of a phased approach to the application process that includes the residents in the entire decision making process. This approach allows Detroit residents to control who they believe is deserving of the grant awards. The Participatory Grantmaking team also created an in-depth Training Handbook to prepare residents for the rigor of the application process. Along with these deliverables, the DRFF Marketing team created a digital storytelling guide, which lays out how to create and curate short form and long form social media posts. The Marketing team also created a detailed Website Analysis. This website analysis focuses on curating different language and content for engagement and accessibility. The Impact Map highlighted current and past grantees direct areas of impact in the city of Detroit. Lastly, the marketing team created a Grantmaking resource guide that allows you to focus on grant research and grant writing.  

DRFF Team 1 posing after a successful day of ‘ideating’.

Blog Written by Fellow Teams including: Sumer Hazime, Mary Zoran, Jordan Ford, Jolie Habashy, Dennis White, Andreia Inges, and Erika Law, Cheng Zhang, Kellen Harding, Tasha Johnson, and Justina Jeffers