When the Merck Family Fund made a grant to support Bread & Roses’ recent Environmental Justice Giving Project, it was the first time the foundation experimented with a community-driven grantmaking process. For Oona Coy, then a Merck Trustee, it was the culmination of three years of research to locate the right partnership that excited her family and aligned with the foundation’s priorities.
“I believe there should be a lot more decision makers around how money moves and where it moves,” Coy says. “People on the ground know what’s happening on the ground and can see where money is needed, where it will be most useful, and where it will go furthest.”
“For years I was trying to figure out how to introduce participatory grantmaking to the foundation,” she says. In 2018, Coy and a program officer began meeting with Philadelphia-based grantees of the foundation’s Urban Agriculture program to explore ways to directly involve them in decision making. Several grantees had participated in a Bread & Roses Giving Project and they encouraged Coy to explore that process. “They spoke really highly of their experiences going through it. Following the lead of our grantees felt really important to me.”
It took some convincing. “My family cares deeply about the planet so one point I really pushed them on is: I don’t think we’re going to solve climate change without looking at racial justice and economic justice and environmental justice.”
“This is about how we share power, not just resources but power. Partnering with Bread & Roses was a way to do that.”