Insights, News

GreenLight Kansas City Releases “A Case for Community Consultants as a Grantmaking Strategy”

May 9, 2024

Kansas City


We are excited to share, A Case for Community Consultants as a Grantmaking Strategy” with our partners. This case study highlights Kansas City’s pilot program to deepen community engagement strategies already established within GreenLight Fund by intentionally involving individuals proximate to our focus areas.

Across two investment cycles, GreenLight Fund Kansas City (GLFKC) collaborated with Community Consultants – individuals with lived/living experience to the most prevalent concerns in under-resourced communities, to shift the power away from traditional gatekeepers. Community Consultants are contracted experts who have autonomy over their time and are reimbursed for their perspectives, setting the foundation for participation equity within our approach. The process for this work is guided by a toolkit created by GLFKC, which outlines responsibilities and roles for both Community Consultants and GLFKC staff.

This case study captures the learnings and insights derived from this initiative, which centers community voice, honors individual perspectives, and builds mutually beneficial relationships. Through deeper engagement with the Community Consultants, we focus on the needs of the community and identify solutions together based on this feedback, an approach that inherently leads to greater success in our investment cycles.

Culminating after years of work in the community and months of thoughtful reflection, this case study accurately presents how we conduct our work with fidelity. It is significant to our organization because it builds on community engagement models that prioritize the specific needs of each community in our network. Our aim is to provide clarity to our processes while offering suggestions for others who operate in similar spaces.  

Executive Summary

GreenLight Fund Kansas City (GLFKC) is one of 13 sites in the GreenLight Fund national network. As a national nonprofit with a local focus, GreenLight partners with communities to identify critical unmet needs and select proven nonprofit programs to address those needs, opening opportunities for economic mobility. GLFKC provides multi-year unrestricted funding and active partnerships to support selected programs to launch, grow impact, and become sustainably rooted in Kansas City communities with high rates of poverty.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the encouragement of GLFKC’s Selection Advisory Council (SAC), GLFKC initiated conversations with Kansas City residents to understand how families were coping and what support was most needed. The insights were so valuable that the GLFKC team was inspired to pilot the “community consultants” program to deepen community input during their 2020-2021 selection cycle. Community Consultants are natural leaders with lived experience from the communities where GLFKC aims to have the most significant impact. 

During GLFKC’s 2020-2021 selection cycle, Community Consultants participated in focus groups to identify needs, interviewed finalist nonprofits, attended virtual site visits, and provided recommendations to GLFKC and the SAC. The community consultant model evolved over subsequent grant cycles, with consultants taking on greater leadership roles such as facilitating meetings with finalists. The adaptation of the program demonstrates GLFKC’s commitment to moving from principle to practice in championing an equity-centered, community-driven approach to confronting systemic barriers to economic mobility.

By weaving this meaningful community engagement throughout the five-step GreenLight Method process, GLFKC pioneered strategies to honor local priorities, foster collaborative solutions, and transform how philanthropic decisions get made. Other GreenLight Fund sites have adopted similar models and built upon GLFKC’s success.

For the Community Consultants, the program provided valuable professional development, leadership opportunities, and a platform to elevate the perspectives of those with lived experiences. Their unique insights identified gaps and priorities that may have been missed. The pilot led to valuable wins and lessons learned, and helped all stakeholders better prioritize community needs.

Looking ahead, there are opportunities to further evolve the program by expanding Community Consultants’ leadership roles, diversifying represented perspectives, and exploring ways to scale the benefits of authentic community engagement for the GreenLight Fund’s mission.

This case study was prepared by Rooted Strategy