Voices of the People: Crowdsourcing Funding Ideas in Los Angeles

Quite a few foundations these days are thinking about how to give out grants with more input from local communities, and we've reported on several experiments in crowdsourcing funding ideas. One of the most ambitious such efforts is the Goldhirsh Foundation's popular MY LA2050 Grants Challenge, which recently gave $1 million in grants after input from tens of thousands of people.

It's interesting to look more closely at this effort if you're a funder thinking about mounting a similar effort—and even more so if you're a nonprofit in Los Angeles wondering how you might snag a grant. 

The projects were crowdsourced in an online grants challenge that invited organizations in Los Angeles to submit proposals. In addition to crowdsourcing project ideas for the city, the challenge also encouraged residents to vote on their favorites ideas. Ultimately, twelve winning organizations are now receiving grants between $25,000 to $100,000 to implement their projects next year.

So what are the causes that Angelenos seem to care about most right now, based upon the results of this grants challenge?

Sustainability and Clean Energy

Angelenos seem to like the idea of combining STEM education with environmental sustainability, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. One of the winning proposals was from AltaSea for a STEM network for middle school students that teaches sustainable methods. A grant went to the California Institute of Technology to explore promising clean energy and water technologies, and another grant went to the Surf Bus Foundation to connect at-risk kids with the ocean.

Skills-Based Learning and Vocational Training

Los Angeles residents realize that there are many different paths to living a successful life, and not all of them start with a traditional college education.  One of the new grants went to the Lost Angels Children’s Project, which provides at-risk and foster youth with vocational training in automobile restoration.

Representation in the Media

With deep roots in the entertainment industry, it should come as little surprise that Angelenos are interested in how certain populations are represented in the media. A new grant went to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which aims to improve gender balance in media with the larger goal of empowering women and girls.

Inclusive Entrepreneurship

It also seems that Angelenos are also interested in inclusive entrepreneurship as a tool for social mobility right now. Opportunity Fund, for example, received a grant to strengthen entrepreneurship in underserved communities. 

This is just a sampling of the grantees and causes voted on, and you can learn more about the winning ideas by category here.

Goldhirsh is the driving force behind LA2050 and it up put the $1 million in grant money. But it’s also collaborating with other funders like the Annenberg Foundation, the CAA Foundation, and the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation to get more funding for grantees. For example, RPDFF plans to grant $500,000 more to support ten $50,000 collaboration-focused projects. In general, Goldhirsh provides civic capital, seed capital, and expansion capital to Los Angeles groups, and you can sign up for the LA2050 newsletter to learn about upcoming opportunities and dates.

Related: A Big Southern California Funding Partnership Worth Talking About