Participatory Grantmaking

The application window for the 2019 Grants for Change program is closed. The 2020 program process is under review based on new restrictions from COVID-19 and implications on the participatory model of the program. We will share more news later this summer.

Maine Initiatives takes an expansive view of who is and who can be a community philanthropist. This view is rooted in our conviction that money is only one of the many resources and assets that our community possesses for advancing justice and equity. We use a broadly participatory grantmaking process in order to identify, mobilize, and leverage key non-financial resources by engaging and connecting the members of our community around our mission and in our work.

We also understand that racial justice and equity are not achieved through perfect grantmaking, but are relational: requiring people to come to a deeper understanding of themselves and themselves in relation to others in the community. We seek to foster this type of transformation through our participatory grantmaking process. We open our process up to the full community to create opportunities for individual reflection on and collective conversation about the following questions:

  • What does racial justice mean?
  • What does it look like?
  • What does it require?
  • Who is doing this work?
  • What is my role?

We also seek to create opportunities for people to learn about and be inspired by the work currently being done around our state to advance racial justice and equity. In so doing, we seek to engage people as active agents of greater racial justice in Maine and to mobilize and leverage new resources – financial, social, and human – for advancing racial equity in our communities.

Get Involved: Participate in Our Grantmaking Process

We invite our community to join us as active participants in our grantmaking process in one of two ways:

  • Become a Reader: 5 to 10 hours at home commitment (Summer 2019)
  • Join the Grantmaking Committee: 5 to 10 hours at home commitment (Summer 2019) and 2-day in person commitment (October 18-19, 2019) and a 1-day decision-making gathering (November 2019, date TBD)

Readers- Help Us Evaluate Proposals:

The initial phase of the grantmaking process is the proposal evaluation phase. We invite our stakeholders, grantees, donors, and members of the broader community to volunteer to serve as proposal readers. Each volunteer will receive training in our grantmaking program, our thematic focus of racial justice and equity, and the proposal evaluation process; and will be asked to read and evaluate approximately three proposals. These evaluations may be done at home or online, permitting participation by a wide-range of people.

  • Who can be a proposal reader? Anyone! No experience necessary. All proposal readers will receive training and guidance about the proposal evaluation process, the evaluation criteria, and the online system. 
  • What level of time commitment is required? Each proposal will require approximately one to two hours to read, assess, and score. Proposal readers will be asked to review approximately three proposals.
  • What if I am a board member, staff member, or otherwise affiliated with an applicant organization? That’s okay! We are deeply committed to engaging the broadest range of voices in our decision-making process and this means we actively seek to includes individuals directly engaged in racial justice and equity work. We have designed our process to permit us to identify and mitigate potential conflicts of interest in this process and will make every effort to structure each individual’s participation in such a way that avoids any real or perceived conflicts of interest.
  • How will reader evaluations be used? Reader evaluations (both comments and ratings) will individually and collectively inform subsequent activity by staff and decision making by the Grantmaking Advisory Committee members.

Grantmaking Advisory Committee Members- Help Choose our Grantee Cohort:

The second phase of the grantmaking process will be led by a community-based Grantmaking Advisory Committee that brings together perspectives representing the full range of our stakeholders: grantees, board members and advisors, donors, and other voices from the broader community in Maine. Members of this Committee will be selected through an open nomination process from the pool of Proposal Readers, facilitated by the Maine Initiatives staff and Board.

Participation in the Grantmaking Advisory Committee is a unique opportunity to engage in intensive exploration of the themes of racial justice and racial equity and to shape the next Grants for Change grantee cohort. Members of the grantmaking committee will commit to an intensive participatory process of learning and engagement related to our theme, and decision-making about our next Grants for Change. In addition to making funding recommendations to Maine Initiatives’ Board, committee members will be invited to participate in a process of networking, training, capacity-building and collective learning around issues of racial justice and racial equity in Maine.

How will the Grantmaking Advisory Committee operate? All Grantmaking Advisory Committee members must first participate in this process as Proposal Readers. After the reading period the full Grantmaking Advisory Committee will convene for a workshop retreat in the fall of 2019 that combines opportunities for shared learning about issues of racial justice and racial equity as well as a participatory deliberative and decision-making process about our grants.

The workshop will be structured around four distinct objectives:

  • Community building and networking:  We put a priority on the power that a networked community can have in addressing the challenging issues of racial justice and racial equity. In response, we will emphasize community building throughout the Grantmaking retreat. We hope that Advisory Committee Members leave the  program having formed strong bonds with fellow participants, strengthening our state’s progressive community and our ability to respond in coordinated, collaborative, and creative ways to justice and equity challenges.
  • Training and capacity-building around issues of racial justice and racial equity: We recognize that racial justice and racial equity are complex social, economic, and historical concepts. For this reason, we are building into the grantmaking process an explicit commitment to training and capacity-building related to these themes.
  • Co-creation of knowledge and collective learning about racial justice and racial equity in Maine: We also recognize that there exists in our community incredible knowledge, experience, relationships, and expertise about racial justice and racial equity that can be brought to bear for our collective benefit. For this reason, we will also incorporate explicit opportunities for the Grantmaking Advisory Committee to identify and connect around their personal experience and wisdom.  
  • Discussion, deliberation, and decision-making about our Racial Justice and Racial Equity grants: Fundamental to the grantmaking process is a broadly democratic practice that engages a range of voices and perspectives in our decision-making. To this end, we will engage the committee in a collective and collaborative process of reviewing, evaluating and deciding which organization should receive the Grants for Change funds.

At the conclusion of the Grantmaking Advisory Committee retreat, the committee will make formal funding recommendations to Maine Initiatives’ Board of Directors regarding the proposals. The Board of Directors, as the fiduciary authority, will make the final funding decisions based on the committee recommendations.

Additional Questions about the Grantmaking Advisory Committee

  • Who is eligible to serve on the Grantmaking Advisory Committee? All committee members will be drawn from the pool of individuals who participate as proposal readers in the first round. The members will be selected by Maine Initiatives staff and Board. It is mandatory for Grantmaking Advisory Committee members to attend the Grantmaking Retreat on October 18 and 19, 2019 at the Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor.  Unfortunately, those with date conflicts will be unable to join the committee.
  • How many people will serve on the committee? The committee will comprise between 40-45 individuals, with approximately equal representation from the following groups: grantees, board members, donors and advisors, and community members.
  • What sort of diversity will the committee reflect? We will make every effort to ensure that the committee reflects both the geographic and demographic diversity of the state as well as other forms of diversity, including cross-class and cross-cultural diversity.
  • How will the Grantmaking Advisory Committee be selected? Maine Initiatives will request volunteers and nominations to serve on this committee. Board and staff will collaborate to make the final determination about committee membership.
  • What costs are associated with serving on the Grantmaking Advisory Committee? Participation in this program is free. The costs associated with individual participation in the Grantmaking Advisory Committee workshop, including mileage/travel costs, overnight accommodation, event space, food, and materials will be covered by Maine Initiatives. Any participant or community member interested in offsetting budgetary costs are encouraged to contact Phil Walsh ( or 207-607-4070) to make a much appreciated donation.

Participatory Grantmaking Timeline 

June 17: Proposal Reader Request for Applications Open

July 26: Proposal Reader Applications Due

August 2: Proposal Readers and Grantmaking Advisory Committee acceptance notifications

Early August: Readers: Training Webinars (will also be available as a recording)

August 19: Readers: Proposal Evaluations Begin

September 19: Readers: Proposal Evaluations Due

October 18-19 (and evening of October 17): Grantmaking Advisory Committee Retreat at the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, Winter Harbor, ME

November (date TBD): Grantmaking Advisory Committee Decision-Making gathering in Portland, ME (location TBD)


Sign up to stay in touch with Maine Initiatives