Last year, our team set out to pilot a small digital grants program for groups working in the Los Angeles area. The goal of the program was to help groups ramp up digital organizing at a time when the COVID-19 crisis had constrained traditional tactics like canvassing, rallies, lobby days, and more. We hoped this funding would be a useful complement to the hands-on, pro-bono communications support we’re able to offer partners.
Over the last six plus months, it’s been an honor to deepen and grow partnerships with incredible organizations working on water policy, education, organizing, and community projects. As this first grant period comes to a close, we want to celebrate the seven grantees and share a few things we learned through the pilot.
First, some highlights:
- In addition to investing in staff and communications systems, we worked with Azul on video production and media coverage for their #FueraPoseidon campaign.
- The Council for Watershed Health launched redesign.la, developing story maps highlighting successful green infrastructure projects and partnerships.
- To better achieve their program and organizational goals, Friends of the Colorado Lagoon and Pacoima Beautiful are both giving their supporter databases, websites, and email platforms a boost.
- Friends of the LA River developed a bilingual landing page to help community members comment on the LA River Master Plan update and, with their coalition, held a community event to help folks engage in the process.
- River in Action and the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter were both focused on educating and engaging young people. RIA got the hardware and software to boost the educational camps and “Meet the Scientist” program they took virtual in response to the pandemic.
- The water committee of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter developed a new website, which includes a kid’s water corner with resources for partners and teachers, and will soon feature online games.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, which really hit home how much scrappy nonprofits are able to accomplish, even as they adapt to the challenges of the pandemic. Community organizations shouldn’t have to bootstrap every dollar. We heard that organizations sometimes feel implicit or explicit pressure to produce, produce, produce, and don’t always get the support they need to invest in themselves, internal infrastructure, or communications.
I’d also be remiss if, in a blog about digital communications, I didn’t yell about Facebook for a moment. Multiple organizations reported Facebook rejecting paid promotions that included “controversial” topics like educating children about water issues or engaging communities in government planning proposals. When so much misinformation is spread through social media, it’s truly a failure of big tech and a challenge nonprofits and advocacy groups have to navigate. To help, we put together this guide to help–– Tipsheet: How to avoid Facebook advertising jail.
While this grant pilot started out as a one-time project, my takeaway is that there is real value in communications grants coming from colleagues who understand the landscape, the constraints, and the opportunity. We’re more invested than ever in building communications capacity and supporting water justice organizations across the West. We’re hoping to build on this program in the future and, in the meantime, are here to provide free hands-on support.