Would you like your small pot of money to plant many seeds? Want to inspire lots of people by letting them know you believe in them? Need a quick, timely funding approach to meet an urgent need?
Micro Granting is an important form of giving. It is low risk, reaches lots of people, and sends grantees a message that you, and others like you, believe in them.
What is Micro Granting?
With this approach you give small (“micro”) grants to organizations or individuals. If you are in the United States, small might be $500 to $2,500. If you are in Mali, where the cost of living is lower, small might be $50 to $100.
Why is Micro Granting important?
Micro Granting is a simple tool with several upsides. This approach can:
Move money to people quickly and easily. Sometimes you need a fast, no hassle approach that will meet people’s immediate or small-scale needs.
Plant lots of seeds to see what flourishes. Micro Grants, when given out to many people getting initiatives off the ground, can help you identify and develop fields of potentiality by seeing which projects thrive.
Reduce risk. When you give a large grant to an initiative that isn’t ready, you can inadvertently create havoc. A Micro Grant, on the other hand, rarely harms people’s lives. And because you reduce your risk by diversifying your investment, you can give Micro Grants with few restrictions confidently.
Lend credibility and boost confidence. Sometimes funding isn’t about money at all. When you provide someone funding, you are endorsing their work. Your small check may motivate someone to take their next step. And it may give your grantee credibility in critical communities. Once you’ve taken the risk, often others follow.
What are the limitations and challenges of Micro Granting?
The Micro Granting approach also has limitations. This approach can:
Be an administrative burden. Sometimes a $50 grant can be as time consuming to process as a $100,000 grant. The best Micro Granting respects everyone’s time (including your grantees!) by reducing administration requirements.
Fail to have the impact the funder desires. Sometimes, when micro grants are provided in a vacuum, they do not produce desired results. Be sure your Micro Granting strategy is part of a larger, more comprehensive strategy for change.
What kinds of activities should I use Micro Granting for?
The possibilities for using this approach are endless. Generally, look for activities that can create a desired impact with small and nimble infusions of money. Here are some ideas to spark your thinking:
Rapid responses. You can use Micro Granting as a rapid response mechanism to seize windows of opportunity. Your nimble money can help movement builders and campaigners, who often have unexpected needs for meetings, travel and equipment. Your small grant may be just the cash infusion an artist needs to make the masterpiece that puts them on the national stage. Your $500 gift may pay for the bus that gets 50 emergency responders to a disaster area to save lives. To ensure timeliness, be sure that you are set up so that the grants bypass administrative hurdles.
Income-generation. Micro Grants are also a great vehicle for seeding small-scale income-generating projects. This is common in the Global South, for example giving a small grant for a family or village to buy an oil press and seeds, thus starting a small business making and selling seed oils. If you are funding income-generating projects, consider building a partnership with an organization that is working to address root causes of poverty in the same communities. For example, a foundation working to help communities secure land rights or to build a political movement to end civil war might partner with you to see how income generating projects could fit into a larger strategy for big change.
Experimentation and emerging ideas. You could also use Micro Grants to fund individual entrepreneurs or projects in a start-up phase with few strings attached. The small amounts of money lessen any down side of taking risks associated with supporting experimental work.
Simple acts of goodness. Separated from the pressure to deliver on a lofty goal, with Micro Grants, you can also play with supporting small projects or simple acts of goodness that add value to a community, or even a handful of people.
How can I start Micro Granting?
There are lots of vehicles you can use to launch your Micro Granting work. And because Micro Grants simply refer to grants that are small, you can easily pair them with other Indie Philanthropy funding methods, such as Funding Individuals, Funding Start-Ups, Flow Funding, and Partnerships.
For Foundation Representatives
As a foundation, there are multiple ways to take advantage of this approach. Here are two options to consider:
- You might consider launching a Micro Granting initiative. If you do, be strategic, and use the money to target initiatives where small, nimble money will make a meaningful impact. Consider collaborating with with other funders engaged in larger-scale giving in the areas you are targeting to strategize for maximum impact.
- If you don’t have the administrative capacity for making numerous small grants, give a larger grant to another entity to distribute on your behalf. (See Partnerships and Flow Funding). Global Greengrants Fund is just one example of a funder offering Micro Grants internationally.
As an individual, Micro Grants are a low risk way to distribute your funds. Here are two options to get you started:
- Support an existing funding vehicle. There are lots of organizations that specialize in Micro Grants that would love your support and/or involvement! If you want to get deeply involved, look for ones that host chapters you can join, or donor networking events. Two networks with local chapters are Awesome Foundation and Bread for the Journey.
- Support crowdfunding campaigns. Crowdfunding pools small donations from a large number of people. By joining with others giving small amounts of money, your impact is leveraged and your risk reduced. There are a growing number of online crowdfunding platforms, including Indiegogo and Kickstarter.
- Do-it-yourself. If you want to make small grants on your own, consider keeping it simple and experimental. Get clear about your focus and purpose and the size of grants you wish to make. Then create a fun process that meets your goals. Take a look at Funding Individuals for examples on how to structure your funding vehicle.
- Let others do it for you. Consider setting up a Flow Fund, where you empower another – who may have expertise and relationships that would allow them to identify timely opportunities — to decide where to give the grants.
Read stories of other funders who have mastered this method
- Local Voices for Environmental and Social Change
by: Global Greengrants Fund
- Funding Creative Activism with the Action Switchboard
by: Action Switchboard
- Sharing the Wealth, Saving the Amazon
by: Amazon Watch
- FEAST is FUN FUNDING
by: FEAST Toronto
- The People’s Philanthropy
by: Bread for the Journey