Through participatory grantmaking, the Foundation engages community members with lived expertise in our issue areas to both learn from their perspectives and empower them to lend their voices (and votes!) to decisions that affect the places they call home. The lessons we learn from their perspectives also influence our grantmaking strategy.

Two key bodies of work make up our current approach to participatory grantmaking: the Community Experts Team (with its corresponding Community Experts Fund), and the Community Grant Consultants.

Community Experts Team

The Community Experts Team consists of young adults with lived expertise in our fields of interest who are referred to the Foundation by grant partner organizations. For the past three years, the Community Experts Team has collaborated virtually over a six-month period to design a grant opportunity from beginning to end. This includes deciding what issues to focus on, how to structure the funding, and, ultimately, which applications to fund.

Team members (ranging in age from 16 to 30) have included students, peer counselors, self-advocates, participants in youth leadership programs, and both staff and clients of Tower Foundation grant partners. Each team member receives a $1,500 stipend for participating.

In 2024, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees allocated $225,000 to award through the Community Experts Fund. Community Experts Team members are responsible for working together to develop a Request for Proposal, solicit applications, review submissions, and make final award decisions. The Community Experts Fund Request for Proposals will describe funding priorities that reflect team members’ perspectives on community needs.

Community Grant Consultants

In 2023, the Foundation invited a small group of community members (Community Grant Consultants, or CGCs) with lived expertise to join our Programs & Services grant review process. Community Grants Consultants review grant proposals and participate in deliberations and clarification calls right alongside the Foundation’s Program Officers, essentially working as extensions of the Foundation’s staff. Community Grant Consultants receive a $1,500 stipend for their participation. This model has helped to bring the lessons learned from the Community Experts Team into our day-to-day grantmaking at the Foundation.


For more information about Participatory Grantmaking at the Tower Foundation, contact Nick Randell or Megan MacDavey. Past blog posts about our participatory grantmaking work can be found here:

Are you a grantmaker interested in learning more about participatory grantmaking? Here are a few of our favorite resources to get you started: