1. Intervention Results

The responses we received were rich, insightful, and directive. We heard, in detail, about the work our grantee partners are most proud of: the ways in which they pivot to meet their communities’ changing needs; the mutual aid networks they have cultivated; and the infrastructure they have built to sustain their efforts. We learned about the things they’re celebrating: the legislative and policy changes birthed from their power building efforts; the cataloging and uplifting of solutions proposed by folks most impacted by policing, incarceration, and anti-Blackness; and the mere existence of their organizations, even amidst extreme antagonism.

Moving through this reimagined process also allowed us to more deeply appreciate the work of organizing in very real and human terms. Through stories shared, we were able to more clearly grasp the true essentiality of our grantee partners’ work, the complex challenges they face, and the ways in which we must shift to better serve their visions.

Survey Theme Infographic

Below, we are humbled to uplift select nuggets of wisdom from our grantee partners. These stories demonstrate the immense value of the Movement-Defined Learning and Evaluation Tool, and also offer actionable guidance for the philanthropic sector at large.

In Their Words: Our Grantee Partners On…

… the toll and trauma of leading this work:

What has felt challenging in our work has been maintaining personal and inter-team wellness. Our team, at every level, is made up of people who come from and belong to the very same communities that we serve. Therefore, we share in the same victories but also the same struggles that our neighbors face. Sometimes it can be difficult to take care of ourselves within the team due to financial burdens, racially-motivated police intimidation, and the focus on and love that we have for others. And so, it has felt challenging to experience exhaustion, racism, and forms of poverty while being called to uplift others and model holistic wellness.”

Mass Liberation AZ

What has felt most challenging has been the constant fires we have to organize around in addition to our core work. Water crisis, infringement on constitutional rights with the capital police expansion, garbage contracts, winter storms. Mississippi is under siege and we are holding both reactive and proactive strategies at all times, which leads to burnout.

Something that has felt challenging in my work is work boundaries and balance. As someone who works in comms, and in Texas where there is seemingly an emergency every other week, be it in the form of legislators moving to strip away our human rights, interpersonal or environmental harm toward our unhoused neighbors, or an urgent call to action due to police killing, it can feel hard at times to find balance. As someone with CPTSD, anxiety, and depression, this work can feel immensely triggering and demanding on my mental and physical health to create and advocate when it feels like the world is burning.

… the resistance they face

What feels challenging is that there’s a lot to deal with in our community. There are so many different intersectional experiences and issues. There’s so much I want to do to support our community, but it takes a lot of capacity, people power, and a lot of time to make the change we want to see. I admire the way the FI focuses on the community and continues to build up our people, despite this work being hard.

It’s challenging as well, that the power-brokers and City Leadership, are so resistant to positive, 21st Century progressive police reform. Changes that would build trust, create equity and transparency, and thereby improve public safety in the community. They dodge us, stall us, and “kick the can down the road” often, but we still persist. It takes a long time to get some of the little changes, but we ARE seeing progress.

The most challenging component of our work and lesson learned is how strong the influence of the Fraternal Order of Police has in our County. Understanding this makes the goal of building grassroots critical. Our residents need the information and education on how to use their voices to affect change. There is a lot of apathy and hopelessness, but we look at what our relatively small coalition and team has been able to accomplish and see that with more eyes on the legislation and voices that speak out we can do much more.

… emotional and financial under-investment in their work:

Every about 9 months we are faced with a deficit and have to take focused and ‘heroic’ steps to raise money to ‘carry us through.

We are moving in so many spheres, programs, and entities that it is difficult to operate when all of our funding is programming specific. Sometimes we have to choose to not move in a critical direction (based on the current needs of the communities we serve) because we don’t have funding flexible enough to allow us to meet the present call/needs.

Funders aren’t always invested in the issues in the same way we are, their focus is sometimes only on the numbers … our team is small but mighty (staff of 4, doing the work of larger orgs)

… essential and emerging areas in need of philanthropic resourcing:

It is our understanding that very little capital grants are available and with more and more organizations looking at land acquisition as power building initiatives it would be responsive to include capital grants moving forward.

When we bring our people together to work on our issues, it’s becoming more apparent the level of financial support they need to get there. Our people need travel support, lodging support, meal support, and the ability to take time away from their jobs and home responsibilities to engage in our work.

Maybe also a focus on rapid response aid for folks facing mental health crises. There are little to no options in that area.

… the value of capacity building support:

Training opportunities and seminars related to 501c3 financial activity, including fundraising, are always incredibly helpful tools for organizations like ours, who are founded with a heavy emphasis on organizing and who have to learn much of our internal operations as we grow.

Borealis and other foundations with resources can support our organization and our community by continuing to offer development-related trainings and workshops. We have a new Development team and it would be helpful for them to take part in those trainings & workshops so that our organization can continue to learn and evolve, while also adapting our strategies to work towards sustainable systemic change.

It was really helpful to have someone review our individual budget and learn how to write the budget for the following year. Doing that for each grantee would be wonderful with quarterly reviews. Also having someone who does official audits we have access to would be great.

… essential lessons learned:

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned from my work this year is how much time and patience is required to see and make change happen. This has been the most humbling part of organizing and being in the community while the world seems to be crumbling apart. Experiencing this has really tested my ability to avoid falling into a deep sense of cynicism and continuously pushed me to understand hope as praxis.

Some of the lessons that I have learned in my work this year is the importance of radical Administration and Operations. What happens when ‘we win?’ What does that look like? How do we implement all of the changes once the old agencies and systems are overthrown? It’s about understanding that in most cases Reform is not enough. We must find our own way to take community control. Make our own decisions. Implement our own programs. Solve our own problems. Mobilize and organize our own communities. It’s really a two-part process and we tend to get distracted by numbers (mobilization) and forget that getting people to agree on an idea and new way of doing things (organizing) is really how we win power. Then we have to take it a step further so that we maintain power. We have to have a plan to implement our changes in a trauma-informed, survivor & queer-centered, efficient and effective way. That takes radical administration and operations planning.

As organizers, it’s hard to draw the line between caring for the community and caring for oneself. But I recognize that to create good trouble for years to come, it is essential to take time to nurture the person doing the work. While I wish we could dismantle the system in one day, I understand we are up against a system that took 100s of years to build. So being long-winded, committed, and at my best means taking it step by step and resting when needed is more beneficial than burning out.

… dedication, commitment, and hope:

Our organization has a goal of raising $40M over the next 2.5 years for our capital campaign for our land and retreat center in rural Georgia. No one on our staff is an experienced capital campaigner – however we are deeply experienced campaigners and resource mobilizers. We know we have the skill set and organizing ability to meet our goal and set up the next generations or grassroots Black organizers for success.

Although community organizing has once again left mainstream consciousness, and people are exhausted and burnt out, [we are] here for the long haul. We have firmly laid down roots in the city this year and are reigniting our commitment to the difficult and tireless work of challenging systems of oppression.


Throughout this year, I’ve gained valuable insights from our work that have reinforced the importance of persevering in the face of intricate tasks. It is all too easy to become discouraged when we encounter challenges or find ourselves lacking the necessary resources. However, it is precisely in these moments that we must maintain our resolve and continue to pursue ambitious goals, expectations, and outcomes.

We’re also excited to share images and videos from grantee partners who chose to hold community listening sessions and develop videos:

African American Roundtable

Grantee Partner: African American Roundtable

The African American Roundtable’s community listening session yielded this visual depiction of the Movement-Defined Learning Tool in action. 

Grantee Partner: Fund for Empowerment
Grantee Partner: Fund for Empowerment

Grantee Partner: Fund for Empowerment

Fund for Empowerment captured photos and audio of its impactful work in conversation with community members, which it plans to transform into a video project next.

Grantee Partner: Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition

Through the Movement-Defined Learning Tool, Hudson Catskill Housing Coalition developed a series of short videos demonstrating the power of their programming, as well as hurdles their organization is currently facing.

Grantee Partner: Mass Liberation Arizona

Utilizing the Movement-Defined Learning Tool, Mass Liberation Arizona put together a video representing several community voices to answer the question: who are we?

Grantee Partner: SnapCo

SnapCo documented its Link’d Up event, designed to connect community members and hear from members about the organization’s life-changing impact.

Ultimately, the stories shared through the Movement-Defined Learning and Evaluation Tool expanded our understanding of grantee impact, sharpened our political analysis, and provided movement-aligned directives to shape our decision making moving forward. Here are some of the actions we’ve taken as a result: 

  • In response to feedback from grantee partners around needing funding for mental health, the CTPF launched its Healing Justice and Community Care Fund last July. 
  • This summer, the BLMF is launching a clinic, “Fund Development Capacity Building for Mission and Program Delivery,” to support folks in developing skills like right sizing, development planning, prospect research, and development hiring. This is in response to direct feedback from grantee partners about needing more support around how to fundraise and connect with new donor audiences. 
  • To collect more in-depth feedback on the types of capacity building that would be most helpful for our cohort, the CTPF administered a survey to collect grantee feedback, and sent a “report back” to outline the additions and adjustments we made based on their feedback. 
  • The participatory process utilized in The Movement-Defined Learning Project has inspired the BLMF to hold several grantee partner focus groups this Fall to support us in further refining our Request for Proposals and participatory grantmaking processes in 2025. 

In 2024, the CTPF and BLMF will launch their redesigned Movement-Defined Learning process based on the feedback that we received from our partners. The tool will be once again shared with our partners through an optional communal survey, and participants will again receive $100 gift cards and access to Borealis’ Narrative Power Building resources and individualized coaching from Resonance. Grantee partners will also have the option to instead share their perspectives on the tool questions in facilitated peer learning sessions. These sessions were added after receiving feedback that our partners wanted more spaces where they could undergo this learning journey together. 

If you are interested in joining us on this learning journey, please contact us at mvmtlearning@borealisphilanthropy.org.