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Modern grantmaking for the next generation


Grantmakers play a critical role in philanthropy; grant funding provides nonprofits with the resources and conditions they need to fulfill their missions. Yet, traditional grantmaking has its limitations:

  1. Nonprofits need flexible, time-sensitive support year-round.
  2. Small nonprofits often lack the infrastructure and staffing they need to successfully apply for and receive grant funding.
  3. Grants are often for specific programming, restricting how nonprofits can use their funding. Most nonprofits need capacity support to help them sustain and expand their programming for communities.
Enter modern grantmaking: more and more funders (whether a private foundation, government funder, or corporate donor) are exploring innovative ways that allow them to provide unrestricted support for nonprofits and their communities year-round. Foundations are turning to communities in listening tours and discussions to learn more about how they can best meet community needs. Modern grantmaking opens the floor for improved collaboration and communication between grantmakers and grantees.
When foundations work with Catchafire, they invest in modern grantmaking; our innovative technology and capacity support directly drives community impact. Nonprofits save time and money by leveraging the support of skilled volunteers from across the globe.
We hosted a conversation with the Washington Area Women's Foundation to discuss their approach to modern grantmaking, with a focus on women and girls of color in Washington D.C. Our guest, Chika Onwuvuche, spoke about the participatory grant program for youth and young women that is part of a two-year leadership program in collaboration with the DC Girls Coalition, Rights4Girls, and the Blue Print for Action that is making a difference for the next generation.
Watch the discussion here.

Modern grantmaking supports D.C. women and girls


Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Chika is committed to ensuring area residents are afforded equitable resources and services to live self-determined productive lives. She is a champion of youth-led initiatives that empower for systems-change and manages the foundation’s youth and safety grant portfolios with support for advocacy efforts of collaborative grantee partners.

During our discussion, Chika spoke about the Washington Area Women's Foundation's modern grantmaking approach to support women and girls of color. Their goal was to create a space where they could engage with and support youth. In addition to youth work, Chika also focuses on safety by providing resources and grants to nonprofits that support survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence and provide culturally specific help.

Over two years, the Foundation held a series of listening sessions with stakeholders and youth to learn about key issues, challenges, and needs in the community. In turn, they received recommendations on what young people wanted to see in D.C.

"We offered a space where young people who are often overlooked were able to engage in conversations around what they wanted to see in their community. Having these conversations over two years materialized into this great body of work." - Chika

The work resulted in the creation of the Blue Print for Action and the Young Women's Advisory Council, with recommendations on how different agencies should center young women and girls of color. This could emerge in a variety of ways: mentorship opportunities, culturally responsive mental health resources, and a safe space to come together.


"The first step is actually listening to them. They know what they need. Make the spaces that you are engaging with them accessible. We as adults create parameters and expectations on how young people should show up and have conversations with us. Give them the space to be able to do so, give them a space for them to show up authentically. They need a space to be authentic and allow them, partner with them, and lead on what those spaces could look like."



As part of their work, the Foundation created the Rock Star Fund, a microgrant program that provides $2,000 individual awards to youth of color aged 12-24 living in D.C. The opportunity provides youth with funding to advance a project, idea, or learning, and selections are made through participatory grantmaking by a designated council of peers.

The Foundation partners with the DC Girls Coalition, a youth-led group with young women who curate events and discuss key issues in the community. The Coalition is tasked with selecting the recipients of the Rock Star Fund and $2,000 microgrant for learning opportunities and community projects. "They are the changemakers!" Chika says. "We have a lot of power within foundations, and it's so amazing to see them take it in their hands."

For many, the DC Girls Coalition is their first experience in philanthropy, and they develop insights on what should and shouldn't be funded. Award recipients and their projects address a wide array of community needs, from advocating for youth eligibility for homeless shelters, arts and culture initiatives, to health care and recreation.

The community needs are diverse and are represented by the projects in the Rock Star Fund. Some projects that have received funding include:

  • A literary magazine, using the funding to catapult their work into the next level

  • Mentorship programs

  • Confidence building through equine care and riding experiences

  • A hair care line, with the goal of healthier beauty products in stores

As part of her role, Chika works with the awarded Rock Stars as they implement their projects, helping them address any barriers they are encountering, providing feedback, and supporting their entrepreneurial work. The cohorts also have a series of networking events, allowing for peer learning and creating a community of women and girls of color doing incredible work. By providing these resources, these microgrants are helping to close the gender gap in D.C. and giving more women and girls the chance to succeed in their chosen fields.

With the help of these modern grantmaking initiatives, D.C. women and girls can access resources and support networks that can help them reach their goals. These grants are helping to create a more equitable and inclusive society, all while supporting the entrepreneurship and vision of the next generation.

How Catchafire supports modern grantmaking


Catchafire works with grantmakers to provide responsive capacity building support to their communities. Our platform serves as an invaluable resource to grantees, with offerings that include access to:

  • A global network of volunteers who provide project support, research, and consultation calls in areas like finance, fundraising, marketing, and IT infrastructure.
  • Monthly events, with opportunities for peer learning, networking, and training
  • On-demand support from our professional advisors, who provide insights, guidance, and decision-making support on organizational challenges
  • Executive director and BIPOC leadership groups

As modern grantmaking becomes increasingly sophisticated, it’s becoming more important for grantmakers to have access to the right tools and resources to make informed decisions. We make reporting easy; Catchafire provides grantmakers with comprehensive reporting and data on their grantees, influencing their grantmaking strategy and goals. Our data helps grantmakers learn more about top nonprofit needs, communities served, and cause areas needing support in real-time. This helps grant-makers to not only measure the return on investment of their grant-making decisions, but also to see which projects are having the most positive impact on their grantees.

Through Catchafire, nonprofits can recruit and engage volunteers from a wide variety of industries and disciplines, and leverage their expertise to meet their mission. Our network includes thousands of volunteers who are eager to make an impact in their communities and who have the skills and experience to make a long-term difference.

These modern grantmaking resources are critical for nonprofits serving women and girls:

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Nonprofits like these that are part of the Catchafire program can stay ahead of the curve and use the knowledge and experience of professionals to benefit and impact their communities. With Catchafire, nonprofits have the opportunity to access the support and guidance they need to succeed, while grantmakers can confidently invest in the ongoing needs of their communities.

Bring Catchafire to your community

If you’re a grantmaker and would like to learn more about equipping nonprofits in your community with responsive, high-quality capacity building support, let’s connect. Email us here!

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