AJL recognizes that we are neither the experts nor the authority on the issues we work on. We respect and trust our colleagues, partners and the communities we serve and recognize them as the experts on their own experiences. We believe that by bringing together diverse representatives of all stakeholders affected by our grantmaking to make funding decisions, the collective expertise and experiences of the group will lead to more effective and equitable grantmaking decisions and increased impact. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at AJL's participatory grantmaking process.


Before recruiting for the grantmaking committee, AJL uses this Committee Profile Grid to identify the professional and personal expertise and demographics that need to be present on the grantmaking committee. While the process is subjective, we define our representation targets based on the personal and professional expertise needed to approach supporting families and youth from multiple angles, as well as Colorado's demographics, the specific demographics of Metro Denver and the San Luis Valley and the demographics of the communities served by our grant partners.   

At a high level, we strive to have a mix of families and youth, community organizers, professionals working within nonprofits in education and human services, one AJL Board member and staff member. We also strive for diverse representation across race, age, gender, sexual orientation, geographic location and sector (private, public and nonprofit). Each committee member is compensated for their time (about 10 hours) and expertise by choosing between $1000 or by selecting a nonprofit organization to receive $1000 donation from AJL. 

Once the Committee Profile Grid is complete, we begin reaching out to our networks. We provide the Grantmaking Committee Description and Expectations to people as they consider joining the committee. As grantmaking committee members confirm, we invite them to take this survey so that we can track progress toward our representation targets, and be aware of which voices may be missing and adjust our outreach as needed. 

We recognize that it's nearly impossible to make sure every voice is present, so being aware of which voices might be missing helps us as we move into the decision-making process.

Once the grantmaking committee is confirmed, the first grantmaking meeting takes place in Q2, either virtually or in-person (or a hybrid). The goals and agenda of this meeting include: 

  1. Committee member introductions and relationship-building
  2. Define group norms and agreements
  3. Review expectations, responsibilities, and process
  4. Addressing conflicts of interest: Members can nominate but are recused from voting on organizations they have a personal connection to (ie: are employed by or serve on the Board of)
  5. Review funding criteria
  6. Next steps 

After meeting 1 and before meeting 2, grantmaking committee members are asked to identify and nominate 2 – 4 nonprofit organizations that meet AJL’s funding criteria. They email the names of the organizations, links to their websites, and contact information for the point-person at the organization to AJL’s Community Investments Manager who does high-level due diligence to make sure they meet AJL’s funding criteria.

The goals and agenda for this meeting include: 

  1. Committee member welcome and check-in
  2. Review group norms and agreements
  3. Each committee member shares information about the organizations they are nominating and why they are nominating them
  4. Next steps

After meeting 2 and before meeting 3,  AJL’s Community Investments Manager reaches out to the nominated organizations to request an application. Here’s a link to AJL’s application, but we also accept grant applications that already exist that nonprofit organizations may have submitted to other foundations as not to duplicate work.

AJL’s Community Investments Manager reviews the applications and organizations to confirm they meet AJL’s funding criteria and then provides the applications to the grantmaking committee to review. After reviewing, grantmaking committee members each submit their votes for the top 20 nonprofit organizations that they think should receive a grant. AJL’s Community Investments Manager tallies the votes and notifies the Board of the grantmaking committee’s decisions. The Board reviews and gives final approval, and the Community Investments Manager reaches out to the selected 20 nonprofit organizations to let them know they have been selected to receive a $20,000 general operating support grant. They are then invited to attend the final meeting.

The Community Investments Manager also provides grant award letters, grant agreements and blank evaluations to the selected nonprofit grant partners. Once those are signed and received, the check is issued. 

Meeting 3 is the final meeting and brings together AJL’s Board of Directors, staff, grantmaking committee members and grant partners to meet and learn from each other. This meeting will also be open to other foundations and funders. The goals and agenda for this meeting include:

  1. Welcome and introductions
  2. Review group norms and agreements
  3. Grant partners share information about their mission and work, and are invited to answer the question: “What needs to change to better support families and youth?”
  4. Next steps

Following the final meeting, a local artist summarizes the essence of the experience through an artistic reflection: 

The Exchange
Writer, Performer and Engineer: TeRay Esquibel
Producer: Orion Creates
Artwork: Avery Esquibel-Valle, age 13
Inspired by the 2023 cohort of AJL Foundation Grant Partners and Grantmaking Committee

It is always about the Collective

a live scribe poetic reflection by Molina Speaks
as informed by the 2022-23 Cohort of AJL Grantees
Image credit: Fannypack 
Music by DJ Icewater 

WE (A Litany)

a live scribe poetic reflection by Adrian H Molina 
as informed by the 2021-22 Cohort of AJL Grantees
Image credit: Terah (9th grade)

Recipe for Philanthropy: A Message from AJL's 2020 Grant Partners

An Open Holiday Recipe for Philanthropy
a live scribe poetic reflection by Adrian H Molina
as informed by the 2020 Class of AJL Grantees
Video credit: Dope Mom Life