Working as a grant application reviewer on the Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund (SDRF) Advisory Panel and learning about the long-term impacts of Hurricane Ian has opened my eyes to exactly how long recovery can take for communities. This was a unique opportunity for me to take part in the grantmaking process and understand the inner workings of a community foundation fund. As of March 2024, more than half of the $5 million donated to the SDRF has been disbursed to organizations to aid in their efforts toward recovery in these two grantmaking cycles, but we know that recovery is still a work in progress. The purpose of the SDRF is to support and benefit Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties for disaster recovery to improve individual, family, and community resiliency by helping people rebuild their lives beyond the initial rebuilding of structures damaged in the storm. You can learn more about the SDRF, organizations that have received funds, and the next grant application period at Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund.

While grant cycles continue to occur and funds are disbursed to organizations still recovering from Hurricane Ian, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation have come together to approach the SDRF and recovery in a fresh new way. Starting in September 2023, a process was started to engage a community in participatory grantmaking related to long-term recovery. Participatory grantmaking is a practice that involves ceding grant-making power to community members and constituencies rather than keeping the decision-making power in the hands of the funder. It places these communities at the center of decision-making by giving them the authority to determine who and what receives funding based on their lived experience and expertise. Funders engage in participatory grantmaking to shift power dynamics, making philanthropy more transparent, community-driven, and inclusive.

The Suncoast Disaster Recovery Fund was created in partnership with The Patterson Foundation, which seeded the fund with $500,000 and offered matching gifts up to $750,000. Using $100,000 in funds provided by the SDRF, two organizations in DeSoto County were approached to spearhead a participatory grantmaking project in the community led by and for community members. This ongoing effort is currently in its grantmaking stage, and grant recipients will be announced by the organizations soon. We are delighted to have placed the power of decision-making in the hands of the community affected and look forward to sharing more about this work in the future.

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