Grant Making By Conversation?

By Avani Patel


In the few months I’ve been at Peery, I’ve been meeting with community leaders throughout East Palo Alto. Particularly, I have learned a lot from the hard-working principals of Ravenswood City School District (RCSD). Given my own experience as a site administrator in Ravenswood, coupled with my recent conversations, I know that each of them wishes they could clone themselves – there’s just not enough of them to go around. They are needed everywhere, all the time.  Principals rely on their own heroes – masterful, committed teachers that give, and give, and give. Dave and I were recently brainstorming ways to support principals and their heroes in the day-to-day work they give so much to. Schools sites already have established Site Leadership Teams (SLTs), where principals and teacher leaders come together to problem-solve and act upon the schools’ goals and needs. We want to support an existing structure. We hope to empower the team to act by giving them access to funds that already align with the work in which they are tasked. Knowing how precious their time is, and how resources are either limited or restricted, we wanted to create a process that was simple with a quick turnaround. How can we support every leadership team without asking for too much of their time?  How can the grant making process be as painless as possible, and support the people that are doing such great work at the schools? After talking through several ideas with Dave, we decided to tackle this question: Can we create a process of grant making through conversation? Within a week, I crafted an RFP and sent it out to all Ravenswood principals. The process essentially entails a 15-minute conversation with the SLT, no PowerPoint, no handouts. We’re not sure how it will be received, but are looking for feedback. Does the process seem easier than it actually is? Is the process rigorous enough?