First-ever Bread & Roses Giving Project awards $189,000 in grants to grassroots organizers

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This spring, 20 people committed to six months of intensive learning, giving, fundraising, and grantmaking as part of Bread & Roses Community Fund’s first-ever Giving Project, a new model for building leadership and moving money for real change.

“I think it was a very bold thing for Bread & Roses to do, and it paid off,” says Farrah Parkes, one of the 20 members of the 2016 Giving Project. “It’s exciting to be part of an organization that is willing to look at new and innovative ways to approach this work.”

The Giving Project brings together a cross-class, cross-race, intergenerational group of people who share a vision for social justice and want to apply their time, talent, and resources to support movements for social change.

“It was amazing to have all different classes and cultures in the same room for one same purpose,” says Rev. Michelle Simmons, another Giving Project member.

The 2016 Giving Project members range in age from 23 to 80. They are educators, activists, health workers, artists, nonprofit leaders, gardeners, grandparents, and more. One member has lived in the Philadelphia area for 56 years, while another member moved here in late 2015.

Bread & Roses staff provided coaching and training to guide participants to make a personally meaningful gift, raise money from their friends and family, and select community groups to receive grants.

“What was most exciting about the Giving Project was idea of connecting the personal and the political,” says Parkes. “We looked at what brought us to the table. Everybody had an experience of some sort to bring, and for that to be incorporated as part of the activism was really cool.”

The Giving Project’s original fundraising goal was $100,000, but as the grant applications poured in, the group’s sense of urgency grew. They far surpassed that $100,000 goal, ultimately making grants totaling $189,000.

“Hearing about how much money we raised was really emotional,” says Giving Project member Elicia Gonzales. “To know that we in that room had the power to sustain racial and economic justice issues forever without the input of a foundation was deeply powerful.”

The Giving Project used a transparent, democratic decision-making process to make 15 grants of $10,000 each in the Racial & Economic Justice Fund and six grants of $6,000 each in the Future Fund.

“I was deeply moved to be part of the Giving Project,” Gonzales says. “The level of ownership was so high. It belonged to us.”

Applications to participate in the 2017 Giving Project will be available in the fall. According to Rev. Simmons, “You should get involved if you’ve got social justice on the mind.”