Justice & Leadership in Colorado


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Please review this program informatation then click the link at the bottom of the page to apply online.


September 2012

We have just completed an update to our online application system.  The information we request in all applications has changed.  Please take a moment to review the changes before you start your application by clicking below.

Letter of Inquiry

Regulary Proposal

Discretionary Proposal


General Service Foundation strives to be a paperless office to eliminate waste and streamline processes. Please submit all proposals online using the link at the bottom of this page; paper proposals will not be accepted.




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Program Contact:

Renee Fazzari

GSF Mission & Values
The General Service Foundation dedicates all of our resources to bringing about a more just and sustainable world. We aim to achieve our goals by nurturing and learning from strategic partnerships, embracing risk and possibility, and aligning every aspect of our organization with our deeply held values which include a commitment to leadership, integrity, diversity, experimentation, accountability, justice, and excellence.

GSF Change Theory
GSF believes that national change is often inspired by state leadership and policies. In the best cases, state policies that promote justice, equity, and sustainability are inspired by community members organized and empowered to democratically influence the state's political landscape. We think the best organizations to lead this civil society effort are grassroots organizations with a base of citizens they can organize and mobilize to petition on behalf of shared values and needs. This work is challenging, long-term and necessarily local in scale. Therefore, we believe that base-building organizing groups best translate their energy and stakeholder power into the political realm by participating in a state-level nonpartisan infrastructure that coordinates and amplifies their voice.

Program Goal
Launched in 2006, the goal of the Foundation's grantmaking program in Colorado is to a) build the capacity of key base-building organizations committed to justice and equity in the state, and b) facilitate collaboration among our grantees and also between our grantees and other sectors (including media, research, leadership, policy, and issue advocacy groups) to create a powerful, permanent infrastructure capable of affecting state-wide policy change over the long term.

What is a base-building organization?
GSF defines a base-building organization as a multi-issue group that engages and empowers underrepresented communities in nonpartisan democratic, electoral, and legislative processes to build community power. Traditional membership-based and membership-led community organizing can qualify, as can institutional organizing or coalition models, but the organization needs to be primarily serving underrepresented constituencies, which GSF defines as low-income earners and the poor; women; people of color; immigrants and refugees; disenfranchised youth; and LGBTQs.

Organizations that fit GSF guidelines work on multiple issues prioritized both by what is most important to the communities they organize and by what issues will build the greatest political power for their community. This focus differentiates base-building organizations from issue-based organizations which draft support for causes prioritized by the organization's leadership. For the most part, GSF does not support issue-based organizations. Our grantees aim to create a ripple effect that enrolls wider and wider circles of citizens into the organization or movement, resulting in a bigger and broader base. We believe this engagement can create the strong, vibrant democracy required to inspire just and equitable state policy.

What do we mean by permanent infrastructure?
Organizing at the neighborhood level alone will not bring about the wide-scale policy change required to improve the lives of underrepresented constituencies. But we believe that when several base-building organizations work in collaboration together and create connections with other groups, together they have the capacity to achieve state-level change. Thus GSF is a strong supporter of infrastructure organizations like state civic engagement tables or other coalition structures that connect base-building groups to each other and to other sectors to reduce overlap and knit together individual efforts into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Types of Groups Supported
COLORADO BASE-BUILDING: If you are a base-building group with the capacity to affect policy in Colorado by working in partnership with others in the state, we invite you to apply for this program. Current base-building grantees receive between $25,000 and $35,000 each year with potential additional funds for technical support. Due to current financial and budgetary restraints, we are accepting very few new grantees and new grants are usually within the $10,000-25,000 range. New grantees must closely collaborate with current grantees (please see grants list).

OTHER COLORADO GROUPS: When extra funding is available, GSF awards a very limited number of grants to issue advocacy, policy, media, research, leadership development, or other connective infrastructure groups that are explicitly connected to and bolstering the work of the base-building groups we support. These grants usually range from $10,000-25,000 and applications are by invitation only.

NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS: GSF places top priority on Colorado organizations that are rooted in the state. We only rarely support national organizations to work in Colorado and they must show a strong and ongoing commitment to work in partnership with in-state groups, including prioritizing locally-led campaigns rather than working off a national agenda.

If you would like more information about your fit with the program, please email Renee Fazzari (renee@generalservice.org) before submitting a letter of inquiry.

Criteria for Choosing Groups
In assessing potential grantees, the Foundation will place a priority on those organizations and projects that both fit our definition of a base-building group and meet the following criteria:

1) Engaging Constituencies:

  • The organization works to address needs identified by the underrepresented communities that are directly impacted (please see GSF definition of underrepresented communities above).
  • The organization focuses directly on developing, strengthening, and empowering local community leaders or, if it is a coalition, the coalition facilitates this activity through its partners.
  • The organization works throughout the year in a constant "cycle of accountability" working to engage community members in campaigns that will create real, systemic change and build permanent power for their community.

All proposals should answer: What is your organization's membership or community engagement philosophy? How do you define membership and activist engagement within your organization? Please list number of members, including any classifications you place on the overall membership.

2) Diverse & Sustainable Leadership:

  • The organization is dedicated to enhancing the skills, knowledge and responsibilities of its staff and members.
  • The Executive Director is not the sole driver of the organization, but instead has support and leadership from the Board of Directors and/or strong secondary leadership. A Board of Directors policy to annually evaluate the Executive Director is a plus.
  • The organization and/or its programs are led by individuals who reflect the diversity of its constituency and membership.

All proposals should answer: What is the diversity breakdown of your board and senior management? What is the relationship between your Board and Executive Director in terms of organizational leadership?

3) Collaborative Partnership

  • The organization has a proven track record of collaboration with other Colorado organizations, including current GSF grantees.
  • There is a commitment to sharing best practices with and learning from organizations outside the region and nationally.
  • The organization is a dedicated member of the state table or other key coalitions.

All proposals should answer: What is your organization's unique niche in the overall Colorado advocacy and civic engagement landscape? How do you evaluate that role?

Letter of Inquiry Submission Process
Please submit a 2-5 page letter that provides basic organizational information and addresses your fit to the above criteria, including answers to the required questions above, via our online application program. To submit, click on "Click Here to Apply Online" at the bottom of this page. You will need your Federal Tax ID and any pertinent organizational contact information.

Paper proposals will not be accepted.



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