Reflections From Our Director On The Carmack Collective’s Inaugural Core Grantmaking Cycle

Jessie BluedornAugust 16, 2023

On January 15, 2023 The Carmack Collective launched our inaugural round of Core Grantmaking. This included an open application call for our $10,000 one year Exploratory Grants as well as our first round of three year Multi-Year Grants, ranging from $10,000-$75,000. Our first round of Multi-Year grants were all existing grantees from my (Jessie’s) historic independent funding that were grandfathered into The Carmack Collective as an important step in the transition from individual funder to a more accountable and participatory fund. We received over 500 submissions to our Exploratory Grant call, and we were ultimately able to make 15 Exploratory Grants along with 12 Multi-Year Grants, totaling $515,000. All of our Core Grants were collectively approved by our Advisory Board, made up of 5 movement leaders. You can see our full list of grantees here.

Application Process

As I outlined in an open letter published during our launch, we view minimal application and reporting requirements as a baseline practice for trust based philanthropy. This came to life in our Exploratory Grant application form (hosted on our website), which required applicants to only submit basic contact information, non-profit status, budget, IRS form 990, and provided an open-ended opportunity to share any additional materials. We were explicit on the application that we would review publicly available materials on the organization’s website and that we were very happy to accept materials (budgets, proposals, etc.) that had previously been prepared for other funders in order to alleviate the burden of developing unique grant materials for our review. We received positive feedback on the application format, but also have a number of learnings that we will use to improve future rounds. These include offering the application in multiple languages, evolving our backend review process to better respond to the volume of applications we received, and continuing to explore how we can share unfunded applications with peers across our networks.

Key Themes

As a new fund, we have taken an intentionally exploratory approach to our first year of grantmaking. One of the primary outcomes for us has been honing in on our strategic approach to this work. In this first year of grantmaking, we funded across four issue areas – climate justice, movement building, culture change, and philanthropic agitation. As we complete this first round of grantmaking and reflect on our approach, it is becoming clearer to us what our role is as a funder and we will shift our approach going forward. The Carmack Collective will evolve its strategy, in a nuanced way, to center global intersectional climate justice as our north star with a priority focus on three tactics – movement building, culture change, and philanthropic agitation. These shifts come as the result of learning and feedback we have received from our application and grantmaking processes, directly informed by those doing this work on the frontlines.The evolution from issue areas to a focus on tactics will allow for us to have a more targeted strategic impact. Within that framework, some additional themes have emerged.

Movement Building

With our first round of Core Grants, we prioritized organizations who are actively working to grow the climate justice movement. For all of our grantees, this involves some mix of basebuilding, direct action, leadership development, community care, and network weaving. A few more specific ways that our grantees are building movement are:

Culture Change

We view culture change to mean reshaping the hegemonic narrative structures that undergird our society, or at least to cause people to begin to question those narratives. This is critical because we realize that shifts in culture often precede shifts in policy and political reality. In this first cohort of grantees we have leaned most heavily into organizations developing popular education content and disseminating it in different ways. Two of those ways are:

Philanthropic Agitation

Like the previous two tactics, philanthropic agitation is a call to action for us at The Carmack Collective, as well as a focus of our funding. We see this tactic as an essential way for us to meaningfully work to connect frontline climate justice movements with funders and philanthropy. We also, of course, want to move resources to organizations growing this work. We have done that via this Core Grants cohort in two key ways:

Questions We’re Asking

In the spirit of transparency and philanthropic agitation, I would like to wrap up this reflection by naming some of the questions we continue to hold around our strategy. Within philanthropy and movements, like so many other fields, there is a tendency towards projecting constant certainty and perpetual success, when we all know that is not the reality of complicated, multi-generational work. We hope this can serve as a call for anyone reading this to consider if they are holding these same questions, additional questions, or maybe have some answers to share. We would love to hear from you and continue to build this movement together.

Next Steps

More Updates

2023 Annual Report

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since we officially launched The Carmack Collective! Download our 2023 Annual Report below for a closer look at our first year of grantmaking, as well as our plans for 2024 and beyond.

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Launch Letter from the Director

I’m writing this in December of 2022, just as The Carmack Collective is about to launch. To best explain the genesis of this project and what we hope to accomplish, I want to first tell you a bit about myself.

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