Working with Communities to Inform Funding Decisions

The Challenge

Create opportunities of engagement for nonprofit partners, youth and families to share their knowledge and perspectives to help inform Tony Grampsas Youth Services (TGYS) upcoming funding cycle.


The Result

A foundation of knowledge that TGYS could use to inform how they can make their funding more accessible and reach a wider range of organizations, while creating the space for grantees and community members to fully share their perspectives and experiences.


A Step Towards Grantee and Community Inclusion

When communities, organizations and funders work closely together, we know that we can create more effective solutions and greater impact. But despite best intentions to build these relationships, many funders don’t feel like they are engaging their grantees in the right ways.


Knowing this challenge, Tony Grampsas Youth Services (TGYS) wanted to do things differently. As TGYS approached their next funding cycle, they wanted to ensure that they were creating space for dialogue between their grantees, and the families and youth they serve so their funding process was done in a way that  best meets community needs.

To get a holistic view of the challenges being faced by the nonprofit partners, youth and families, TGYS set out to hear from the communities themselves to understand how they might be able to better distribute their funds to support these communities, and overall make their “Request for Application” (RFA) process more inclusive.

TGYS partnered with our team to capture these insights and perspectives through a series of activities including surveys, focus groups, and design sprints. By engaging our team as a third-party partner, TGYS provided a space where nonprofit partners, youth and families were able to express their experiences candidly, providing a platform them to speak with full transparency.


To build this engagement and learning we went through the following key steps:

  1. Elevate voices and perspectives of families and youth to understand their context and areas of focus that would be most beneficial for them
  2. Ideate solutions with nonprofit partners, youth and families, making space for them to be more involved in how to better meet their needs
  3. Share the data story by combining the insights learned from the previous steps and provide recommendations to the board + TGYS team on next actionable step to carry forward


Benefits Beyond Data


Through these conversations and listening activities, TGYS was able to establish a strong foundation of knowledge that they could use to inform the next funding application process. They identified opportunities, and strategies to reach a wider range of organizations that could access TGYS funding in the next funding cycle.

In addition to the knowledge and key insights that were gained, they were able to create a space where individuals impacted by the funding process felt heard. A crucial step to building stronger relationships with grantees and communities, and one that must be repeated again and again.

Take time to listen, and do it more than once. Building trust doesn’t happen overnight. When we shift our focus on building trust, then we can allow space our grantees and communities to be a part of the solutions that ultimately contribute to the shared impact we seek to achieve.