Year One of SVCF’s Community Action Grants Program

SVCF grantee One East Palo Alto hosts a food distribution event.
SVCF grantee One East Palo Alto hosts a food distribution event.

In its inaugural year, SVCF’s Community Action Grants Program deployed millions of dollars to local nonprofits and invested in leaders of color and their organizations that are organizing and mobilizing communities to change the policies and programs that impact their lives. Our grantmaking staff have also benefitted from this program, learning from our shifts in strategy and development of new programs and continuing to adapt to the evolving needs of our community – all while keeping equity at the core of our work. Here, we share with you the accomplishments from the Community Action Grants Program’s first year, our learnings, and where we’re heading in 2022.

History of the Community Action Grants Program

The roots of the Community Action Grants Program stem from feedback that community leaders provided when SVCF began developing our new strategic plan in 2019. We also incorporated lessons learned from the early days of COVID-19, when SVCF distributed nearly 400 grants through the COVID-19 Nonprofit Emergency Response Fund to support organizations serving communities most affected by the pandemic. When we launched the President’s Community Advisory Council in 2020, the members also offered us input, guidance, and feedback on the implementation of SVCF’s strategic plan to strengthen community-driven solutions that ensure the resiliency of our community.

Drawing upon feedback from our community, lessons learned from our COVID-19 response and sage advice from our Community Advisory Council members, we examined every aspect of our grantmaking. We realized that a large portion of our grantmaking had been directed toward larger organizations with more resources, and that those organizations were less likely to be led by people of color.  Local nonprofit organizations also expressed that SVCF’s past grantmaking strategies had not provided enough avenues for the broad range of Silicon Valley organizations to access SVCF funding or our network of donors.

We realized the importance of broadening our funding areas to help support local organizations that are building movements across many different issue areas such as the arts, environment, local journalism and more.

In direct response to community leaders’ advocacy and the strategic planning process recommendations, we launched the Community Action Grants program in January 2021 with two main objectives:

1) To identify and fund smaller organizations, prioritizing those with BIPOC leaders, and

2) To support organizations leading local movements for change in a variety of different issue areas.

These objectives come from SVCF’s belief that long-term systemic change can only happen when nonprofit partners have the resources to organize and push for changes that close racial disparities. For example, a nonprofit that provides culturally appropriate health services to Latinx families also has a clear vision of the public policy changes necessary for Latinx communities to thrive. By investing more in organizing their communities, advocating for changes in their local government and working together with coalitions of other organizations across sectors, these organizations can build movements and help their communities exercise their power to make those changes.

First-Year Results 

In our first year of implementing SVCF’s Community Action Grants Program, we made significant progress working toward these objectives. We awarded 108 grants totaling nearly $2.7 million across seven different issue areas.

More importantly, we focused on how we distributed those funds. Seventy-eight percent of grants went to organizations led by people of color and 73 percent went to organizations with annual budgets under $1 million. Grants were awarded across seven different issue areas: Arts and Culture, Faith, Neighborhoods, Local Journalism, Civic Participation, Environment and Health. 

We’re pleased that almost 60 percent of grants were awarded for general operating support, giving organizations the flexibility to determine how best to use the funding. Furthermore, SVCF will not require reports from any of these grantees. 

Consistent with our pledge to engage community at every step, staff have worked closely with subject matter experts from our Community Advisory Council to develop clear funding priorities in each issue area and determine transparent criteria for awarding grants. This enables us to provide all applicants a clear rationale for funding decisions. To further the impact of our community-facing work, we also organized webinars to elevate these important cause areas to both our donors and the broader community.

What’s Next

We encourage local nonprofits to stay connected, to continue advocating for our communities’ most pressing needs, and to stay tuned into SVCF’s Community Action Grantmaking Program. View the complete 2022 RFP schedule here. We are also expanding our Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment program through different platforms such as events and trainings, and offering customized support to help organizations access the resources they need to thrive.

One of SVCF’s top priorities in 2022 is to connect more of our donors to our grantmaking strategies and promising local programs. SVCF staff have seen the tremendous impact local leaders and organizations are having across issue areas and we believe there is an opportunity to strengthen donor connections with those organizations. By bringing together donors and local nonprofits, the Community Action Grants program is helping rebuild Silicon Valley to be a more equitable region in which all residents can thrive. 

SVCF’s community-facing teams are always available to connect, and we encourage anyone interested to reach out if you have a specific question.