What is a Grassroots Group?
Characteristics that grassroots groups share:
- Place based. They are quintessentially local—with specific connections to a block, neighborhood, local institution (school, library, church, community center, etc), park, or rural area and arise from people’s shared experience with and interest in a place—an urban neighborhood or a rural community.
- People focused. They are directly and immediately responsive to the needs and wishes of the people involved. A defining characteristic is that most of the work is done not only for the people involved but also by them, with little or no paid staff, often without much specialized expertise, and usually without big budgets or other large resource reservoirs. They provide the mechanism for individuals to discover and bring forth their individual gifts to their community.
- Informal structure. They vary in structure and formality, from more formal (with elected officers/or a board of directors, written bylaws, and members who pay dues) to very informal (without any officers or formal memberships—perhaps even without a name). They may or may not operate as a 501(c)(3) entity—but more typically do not have (and probably do not need) this designation.
- Membership. While membership may not be explicitly defined, they work with a clear sense of who “belongs” and with the understanding that the group is a vehicle for the collective action of the members. Membership can range from two to hundreds of members.
- Duration. They can be temporary, transient or ongoing; they stay together so long as those involved find the association useful and fulfilling. They can be focused on a single issue or task or can work on multiple issues or tasks.
Additional Perspectives on “Grassroots”
Janis Foster Richardson, Grassroots Grantmakers’ former Executive Director, has shared some perspectives about “grassroots” on her blog, Big Thinking on Small Grants.