Local Solutions to America’s Divisions
New Pluralists is dedicated to catalyzing a culture of belonging in the U.S. That’s the promise of pluralism. Its principles enable us to build a society where we’re able to live among, work with, and care about people who are different from us, including by race and ethnicity, faith, geography, generation, and political beliefs. It enables people to come together and discover breakthrough solutions to the challenges we face, and it is crucial to strengthening our democracy and creating communities where everyone can thrive.
Policy change alone cannot bridge our divides or repair our institutions. It must be accompanied by changes in our culture — changes in hearts, minds, and practices that inform how we see and treat each other, make decisions together, and build communities where each of us feels we have dignity and opportunity. This is long-term work that nonetheless requires a spirit of urgency. Through this RFP, we’ll provide funding that enables communities to respond to local flashpoints — events that risk eroding trust and respect for one another’s humanity.
We hope to support work that “meets the moment” and invites us to deepen our commitment to living in a diverse and welcoming society where everyone feels they can belong and contribute.
The opportunity: We’re living in a time of heightened conflict. Facing radical social, economic, and political change, it’s easy for people in America to embrace stories and habits of enmity — to pick sides and hold in contempt those who disagree.
New Pluralists seeks to invest $10,000,000 in organizations and networks of, by, and for local communities, which are acting together to address divisive forces in a way that reflects the cultures, values, and desires of people who live there. These include initiatives that are: (a) supporting the leadership of people who are building trust across divides (including geographic, religious, racial/ethnic, political, economic, generational, etc.), and (b) supporting communities’ efforts to create and act together across differences.
Grants will support efforts and practitioners rooted within local communities who are positioned to take creative risks towards transforming divisive dynamics and building belonging. We’re particularly interested in proposals focused within locations experiencing increasing divisiveness. We define local communities as places where people live, work, play, and pray, at a scale in which residents can know each other and realistically impact each other. This could be a neighborhood, a town, or even a whole county in a rural area.
Specifically, we hope to strengthen work that:
- Builds the leadership of people who have trust and credibility in local communities, who can act as a steadying force among neighbors who are at risk of turning against each other or rejecting people different from them. These may include faith leaders, business owners, civil servants, veterans, organizers, or others who are building, maintaining, or repairing a sense of dignity and belonging in their local communities, across lines of difference.
- Creates opportunities for members of a community to gather, tell stories in their own words, and act across differences — where those residents build trust and work together to make their communities stronger. This includes work led by community-led cultural groups, networks, and grassroots organizations who are supporting residents to share their experiences and create new stories together, find unexpected common ground, and take action together instead of succumbing to divisions.
Grant Amounts & Criteria
New Pluralists will give grants ranging from $100,000 – $500,000 to organizations and networks that have deeply trusting, established relationships within their local communities. We are open to a variety of organizations – such as local community-based organizations, networks and membership organizations with locally-run chapters, community funders, and grassroots networks with the ability to resource community-based work.
We are particularly interested in:
- Supporting Local Leaders: Initiatives that support the leadership and resilience of people who are building trust across divisions in communities and who play an important role in keeping those communities connected, whole, and peaceful. In many cases, these leaders are under significant strain and are at risk of burning out.
- For example, this could look like network development, spaces for reflection and connection, and other forms of investment in people’s leadership
- Reclaiming Stories: Initiatives designed by various community-rooted organizations and cultural centers, which are bringing together diverse representatives in communities to tell their stories rooted in shared traditions, make meaning together of the changes they’re experiencing, and challenge local events or circumstances that are feeding a sense of fear or distrust of their neighbors.
- For example, this could include arts and culture approaches, where a diverse community is coming together to share stories and make meaning of their shared past, present, and future.
- Taking Action Across Differences: Initiatives where many diverse stakeholders in a community are responding to divisive forces in a way that reflects the values and desires of people who live there.
- For example, this could include collective action approaches or other models where diverse facets of a community come together to speak and act for themselves.
In your application, describe the region or place(s) you’re in (or where you’re proposing to focus), what ties you have to that region or place, what changes you’re observing, and how you’d use this opportunity to build momentum for your work and for a pluralistic, inclusive society. Grants may last up to 24 months, and the opportunity is open to any group who meets basic eligibility requirements.
- Tell a story about the moment we’re in. You can clearly describe what feels different or challenging about this moment, how you’re responding to it, and what potential you see for something greater.
- Address particular polarities, tensions, or divisions in your communities or region. This might include how you’re working and weaving a greater sense of community across geographic, political, faith, racial and ethnic, generational, or class lines.
- Demonstrate how you’re designing with — not for — community members. You illustrate how you’re not creating the solution in a vacuum, that you’re responding to real and felt demand for this solution. You can describe a process where the people whose lives are most affected by this division, fear, or scarcity are part of shaping, implementing, and driving the work. For national or regional organizations who aren’t rooted in place, you demonstrate a track record of deep co-creative relationships with the local groups who are part of this grant.
- Build on existing strengths. While you are curious to keep stretching and growing your work, you are proposing a project that is aligned with your organizations’ core mission and purpose. If this is new work for you, you have some demonstrated track record for the work proposed.
- Show commitment for the long haul. You have deep ties to the place(s) where you work, and you will be able to sustain or build on these results over time.
Out of Scope
- Projects exclusively focused on institutional “fixes” or interventions, such as voting protections, without transforming relationships and culture.
- Partisan projects focused on the 2022 midterm elections.
- Proposals to build or scale a digital tool or platform.
- Activities like capital or endowment campaigns; conference sponsorships; discretionary or emergency requests; litigation or legal expenses; or marketing or branding for products or services.
- Initiatives led by organizations who do not have demonstrable existing, trusting relationships with the communities they are part of.
Applicants should meet the following criteria:
- You’re an organization or network with 501(c)(3) status or with a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, or your organization is willing to agree to a grant under Expenditure Responsibility provisions, which necessitates the collection and review of additional due diligence materials;
- You have strong, trusted relationships with others working in those local communities, and a track record of supporting community-driven work;
- You demonstrate a longstanding commitment to building a free, diverse, and inclusive society in the United States;
- You are collaborative in your approach; and
- Your organization adheres to principles of pluralism and nonviolence.
Reviewers will assess applicants based on:
- General alignment with the purpose and goals of this RFP, as well as with the guiding principles of New Pluralists.
- About, for, and by many kinds of people. Reviewers will look for initiatives that speak to or reflect the diversity of the places they’re in, widen the circle of who belongs, and/or transform divisive dynamics.
- Strong analysis of the local context. Reviewers will want to understand what dynamics you’re witnessing in place, what’s driving those tensions or possibilities right now, and what indicates to you that there’s appetite for your initiative.
- Credibility with identified local partners. Reviewers will seek to understand your organization’s connections to that region or place, your relationships with local partners, and how you build trust and collaborate.
- Compelling goals and a thoughtful strategy for achieving them. Reviewers will want to understand your intended outcomes, strategies for creating impact, and how you’ll learn and course correct along the way. They will also want to know how local partners and community members have been engaged (or will be engaged) in designing this approach.
- Financial sustainability. At this time, New Pluralists cannot commit to funding your project beyond the grant period. Reviewers will confirm that your organization should not rely on this grant as the sole source of funding and, if the project extends beyond the grant period, you should have pathways for securing additional financial support to sustain your work.
- Commitment to build on this work: Reviewers will look for projects that have lasting impact beyond the grant period – whether directly or through the integration of lessons learned through the project.
How to apply
Please complete this application by one of the following deadlines:
- July 15, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. PDT
- August 31, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. PDT
We will share decisions for the first round of funding in October and the second round in December. We ask organizations to only submit one application.
How it works:
- The application will ask you to complete some basic organizational information, write a 5 to 8 page proposal narrative, and provide a simple budget for this project.
- Once you submit your application, you won’t be able to make any changes. So please make sure it’s final before you click “Submit.”
- We will host two information sessions (on June 7 and June 22) to answer any questions you might have about the application process or this RFP, after which we will make a recording available online for other applicants. Sign up here.
- Some finalists may be contacted for an additional conversation to understand your application and organization better. This will help New Pluralists ensure that we’re understanding your work in your own words, as well as to limit the amount of time we’re asking you to spend writing your application.
What else you should know:
- In general, our policy is that renewals of awards are by invitation only and should not be counted on for a project’s success. In applications, we will ask you about your appetite and ability to sustain or build on the work, even if we can’t support it beyond one grant. We rarely support organizations where we’re the sole funding source for that organization’s work.
- Through this initiative, we also plan to support complementary research, strategic communications, and relationship-building activities to help to draw insights and learning across these projects. In addition to providing value to the greater pluralism field by sharing stories and lessons learned, this also can create greater value to organizations who receive a grant. We recommend building in some staff time to participate in these kinds of activities (we promise we’ll keep it light).
- At the conclusion of the grant, we will ask you to complete a very short report (just a few questions, prompting you to reflect on what you’ve learned) and share any media and materials with us, so we can help highlight your work.
About New Pluralists. New Pluralists is a cross-ideological funder collaborative focused on supporting the growing field of practitioners, storytellers, researchers, and innovators working to foster a culture of pluralism in America. The collaborative works in deep partnership with a diverse community of field leaders, grantees, and other partners who are tackling these challenges from different fields and perspectives. In order to realize the vision of a politically vibrant, multi-racial, multi-faith democracy, we’re working together to invest at least $100 million in the next decade to renew the promise of America by ushering in a new pluralism. To learn more, meet our Field Builders, check out our funders, and share with us how you want to get involved.