Join The Giving Project



The Giving Project

The Giving Project funds social change, builds community, and develops leaders. We bring multiracial, cross-class groups of people together to participate in Headwaters community-centered grantmaking process. Participants raise and give out money to organizations that support significant, long-term solutions for justice, liberation, and equity across the state. In the past five years, over 100 Giving Project participants raised over $660,000 to support grassroots community organizing. 

How does the Giving Project work?
The Giving Project is a six-month commitment: 

  • A cross-class, multiracial group of up to 25 individuals commits to the entire process.
  • Each participant makes a personally meaningful financial gift.
  • Through staff-led workshops and trainings, the cohort develops a shared understanding of race, class, and power.
  • Staff provides lots of hands-on support as each participant raises money from friends, family, and community.
  • Participants also learn about and are supported through the Headwaters grantmaking process. The cohort reads and scores proposals, takes part in site visits, makes collective decisions, and grants out money. 

Components of the Giving Project:

  • Community building: includes personal storytelling and collective goal-setting
  • In-depth workshops: deep dive into racial justice and class analysis in the United States
  • Caucusing: caucus by race and class during meetings
  • Fundraising training and support: build skills in relational fundraising and receive ongoing staff and alumni support to raise money for movements in Minnesota
  • Grantmaking: read and score grant proposals and lead site visits to grassroots organizations
  • Collective decision-making: grant money to organizations led by and for BIPOC communities through a democratic, community-led grantmaking process
  • Celebrate and evaluate: celebrate cohort’s success and evaluate the Giving Project process for continued growth

Who should apply?
The Giving Project is a transformative experience. No prior experience with philanthropy, grantmaking, or fundraising is necessary. Apply if you:

  • want to confront issues of injustice by moving money to some of the most inspiring, effective, social change work in the region.
  • are passionate about building community across lines of race and class.
  • want to learn how to fundraise, make grants, and expand your network.
  • are open to and ready for personal transformation.

Black People, Indigenous people, and and people of color; LGBTQ-identified people; and low- or no-wealth individuals are especially encouraged to apply.

Giving Project Participants at a Grantee Panel eventWe'll ask you to:

  • honestly engage in the process.
  • commit to the entire Giving Project. Attend all meetings, read grants, and fundraise.
  • make a personal financial contribution: there are no minimum or maximum amounts.

Giving Project alum are welcome and encouraged to apply! Program Director Allison Johnson Heist: or 612-400-6264 is available to answer your questions.

Giving Project Grants
In 2020, Giving Project participants are raising funds to provide one-year general operating grants to support organizations led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color. Learn more.

Headwaters’ Giving Project is part of a national learning community of foundations working together in donor organizing, leadership development and social justice philanthropy. Over the last five years, Giving Projects across the country have moved $4 million from over 6,000 donors. To learn more about the national model, visit

Program Dates

Meeting dates are set and final. All meetings take place at Headwaters' offices except for the grantee panel and final celebration.

When you apply for the Giving Project, you are committing to each of these dates. You must identify any potential conflicts. If you have a conflict with these dates, please consider applying for the next Giving Project cohort which will begin in January 2021.

2020 Dates Event Time
Saturday, January 11th Introduction Meeting 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m 
Saturday, February 1st Racial Justice and Class Analysis 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 2nd  Racial Justice and Class Analysis 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 22nd Fundraising Training 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 4th Grantee Panel 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 14th Grantmaking and Fundraising Training 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 25th Screening Meeting 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
May Site Visits Weekends
Saturday, June 13th Final Funding Meeting 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, July 8th Celebration! 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.


How to Join

The next Giving Project cohort will be selected in December 2020. Check back here for details on the application period which will be in the fall of 2020.

Step 1: We want to meet you! We recommend you attend an information sessGiving Project Cohort 5 Participants at Final Celebrationion. You’ll hear Giving Project alumni and Headwaters staff talk more about the model. We’ll answer your questions before you apply. 

Step 2: Fill out the online interest form. We will accept and review submissions as they are received. 

Step 3: We will contact potential participants within two to three weeks for a one-to-one conversation with a Giving Project alumni or Headwaters staff member. Conversations take place in the fall.  

Step 4: We will notify you in December about whether you have been selected for the Giving Project or have been placed on a waiting list for a future cohort.

To learn more, or if you can’t make an information session, please contact Program Director Allison Johnson Heist: 612-400-6264 or 


Giving Project Cohort 1 Participants at the Celebration and Evaluation Event"The Giving Project provided me an opportunity to learn about community, to support community and to build community through a social justice framework."

          - Maria, Cohort Two Participant

“The Giving Project is the best thing I've ever done in terms of helping me be a better advocate and activist. I got so much more out of this process than out of any number of trainings, conferences, classes, or retreats I've attended, because I was learning by doing the hands-on work of fundraising and grantmaking, and the stakes were real.”

          - Angela, Cohort Two Participant

“The most revolutionary thing that I learned/gained from the Giving Project was the ability to demand constituency representation in organizations serving vulnerable or historically disenfranchised populations. As an emerging public health professional, I have become much more vocal and critical of the recruiting work that is done in academic and professional settings.”

          - J’Mag, Cohort Two Participant

“This process is a lot of work.  It will take a great deal of your time and energy.  It will be challenging both in your personal thinking/feelings and in the work you must do talking with your community, fundraising, making tough decisions, building a cohort.  But ultimately it will be educational, uplifting, and extremely rewarding.”

          - Jesse, Cohort Two Participant

"What makes this model really special, to me, is that it disrupts the traditional philanthropic model...

Donor > Foundation > Organization > CommunityFinal Celebration 2019

...replacing it with one in which the Community plays every role which, in turn, increases both engagement and accountability. Over the course of six months, we learned from each other in workshops on race and class, grassroots fundraising, site visits, and, finally, grant making."

          -Jon, Cohort One Participant

"Something about this project allowed me to do fundraising in a way I'd never been successful at before, and to have the people that I asked actually be excited to donate and participate. I think the combination of my belief in the project, the excellent trainings, and the community that we built made that possible for me. "

          - Ruby, Cohort One Participant

"The phrase that was said to me that stuck with me was the idea that you are asking someone to join the movement, you are asking them to be a part of the change. Would you not want to be asked? That really helped. "

- Christina, Cohort Two Participant

"I didn't think at my age I could feel the passion for social justice the way I did 20 or 30 years ago, but it came right back, maybe stronger than ever, because the other Giving Project members and our Headwaters staff were so inspiring."

          - Pat, Cohort One Participant

Giving Project participants attending the grantee panel"Exploring your relationship with race and class is hard personal work. It is rare to be allowed into such a safe, intentional, and affirming place to do that work and gather with others on the same journey, all with the goal of having a positive impact on real, relevant issues facing our community. The Giving Project has changed how I connect to the place that I live, and my role in it. I look forward to telling my Giving Project story to as many people who will listen, and supporting Headwaters and the critical work they are doing."

          - Alyssa, Cohort One Participant

"The level of respect and thoughtfulness -- borne out of months of intentional community-building -- really showed up in the room in amazing ways."

          - Grace, Cohort Two Participant

"The Giving Project has been a transformative experience for me. It has infused a clearer meaning and purpose to how practice both philanthropy and fundraising."

          - Chamath, Cohort One Participant

“It has gone way deeper than just looking at how race and class affect our society and the organizations/individuals that are a minority. I look at my life critically and how my past experiences have shaped where I am at today and how [the Giving Project experience] will continue to shape me and push me forward.” - Rola, Cohort Two Participant


Each Giving Project participant submits an online interest form. From there, you will have an in-person conversation with a member of the Giving Project leadership team or a Headwaters’ staff member. We are looking for people who can commit to all meetings in the process, have the time and capacity to fully invest in the cohort experience, are passionate about organizing donors to fund social movements, and who meet our overall goals for cohort diversity.

Headwaters centers Black People, Indigenous People, and people of color in the Giving Project. We also prioritize LGBTQ-identified folks and participants from diverse age and class backgrounds. 

Yes! People involved with grantee organizations can use the Giving Project as a way to inform and influence their own work. We will use our conflict-of-interest policy to ensure that anyone closely involved with an applicant organization does not participate in the discussion or scoring of that organization’s application.

Attendance at all meetings is critical for developing a collective analysis and building a supportive cohort atmosphere. We prioritize participants who can make the full commitment to attend all meetings, trainings, and other sessions.

Frankly, most people do. Most of us feel uncomfortable asking for money, and there are a lot of reasons why. Every Giving Project cohort explores possible reasons during the staff-led fundraising training. You will learn how to ask for money and to feel good about it, knowing you are engaging in powerful action for social change. It’s not just about fundraising; Giving Project participants become donor organizers – using their own donations and influence to bring in donations from their networks. 



We train participants in relational grassroots fundraising. This means having face-to-face conversations with people in your network about their values and making a direct ask. We do not use online, crowd-sourcing platforms. The purpose of the Giving Project experience is to build skills around relational fundraising, which is the most challenging—and yet still the most effective—type of fundraising.

You do not need to live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to participate. However, it’s worth considering that our program meetings are in Minneapolis and site visits take place throughout Minnesota. Headwaters cannot provide travel stipends or cover lodging expenses. If you are in need of overnight accommodations, we can connect you with Headwaters supporters to host you.

Yes. Headwaters is committed to providing childcare if needed for the 8 meetings as part of the program. If you require childcare, please tell us during the application process.

  • Tell others about the Giving Project!  We need your help to get the word out.
  • Be willing to be fundraised. We need a list of supporters willing to have one-to-one conversations with our Giving Project participants who would be “easy asks.”
  • Donate.  In order to make Giving Projects work, we need financial support from people who love the idea and the work but can’t be involved themselves. You can choose to donate to the Giving Project or to the Headwaters’ general fund.