Updating our grantmaking process to reflect our values 

Changes will make our grants more community-driven and equitable

Group of girls studying the redwoods
League education grants help students discover the redwood forest. Photo courtesy of Every Child Outdoors

Every year Save the Redwoods League distributes more than $100,000 in grants that connect Californians from all walks of life to coast redwood and giant sequoia forests. As we work to provide equitable access to parks, we reflected on our grant program to see how we can improve on building a program that is community-driven, builds deeper connections with organizations, and reduces barriers so the whole grant process is more equitable. We work toward this vision by learning from other great grant-making organizations such as the Women’s Foundation of California and the General Service Foundation. Now is the time for these changes as the outdoor equity movement gains momentum and the League is focused on fully integrating the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion into our programs and organizational culture.  

Community-driven experiences 

We expanded our traditional definition of a redwood field trip from one that was focused on ecology and natural history to one that is community-driven and reflects the needs and goals of each organization. This might include team building experiences, a focus on health and wellness, or connecting or re-connecting to the land in culturally relevant ways. By expanding our criteria for what a redwood field trip looks like, we allow our participants to develop a deeper, more meaningful connection to the redwoods.  

Reduced barriers 

Writing a grant application or final grant report can be daunting; making sure to address all the headings and formats, keeping to a page limit, and compiling a detailed budget. For smaller organizations without the time or experience in this process, the application itself can be a barrier. We wanted to make the grant process as simple as possible so anyone and everyone feels confident to apply. We eliminated any unnecessary questions from the application including providing a detailed budget. We also simplified our reporting process, encouraging grantees to submit stories, photos, and exciting news throughout the year, so organizations can spend less time in front of a computer and more time doing the great work they do.  

We have already received positive feedback about these changes from our grantees. “I like the changes you made on the application and reporting process. From a nonprofit perspective, it is easy and low-lift.” – 2022 Submitted applicant 

Expedited funding 

We know that for many small nonprofit organizations and community groups, grant funds help keep programs running smoothly so we wanted to get money into the hands of these organizations as quickly as possible. To do this we eliminated a lengthy grant agreement, moved to a one-page award letter and to direct deposit instead of checks. This expedites the whole process to guarantee the money is available to our grantees when needed.  

Building a bigger community 

Although our grant process is competitive, we have built relationships with repeat grant recipients over the years and are able to speak firsthand about the great work they do connecting youth to the redwoods. We are actively working on expanding and deepening our community of grantees by being intentional about who we send the grant announcement to. We’re making sure during the proposal review process that we select organizations both new and old and those that work throughout the coast redwood and giant sequoia ranges. We will also work throughout the year to visit these organizations to see the work they are doing firsthand and highlight that work through storytelling to a broader community. 

As we continue through this journey of reflection, change, and discovery, we will continue to work to improve our grant process so everyone can experience the magnificent redwood forests.  

Avatar for Deborah Zierten

About the author

Deborah joined the League's staff in 2013 as the Education & Interpretation Manager. She brings with her extensive experience teaching science, developing curriculum and connecting kids to the natural world.

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