Rise Together Grants

Photo Credit: Community
Health Trust of Pajaro Valley

In 2021, Rise Together spent a year gathering virtually twice a month to strengthen relationships and build a shared vision and goals for working towards racial equity in Santa Cruz County. We then collaboratively designed a grant making process—led by and for Rise Together members—to advance those goals.

Shared Decision Making

Unlike typical funding proposals, members could request funding in any language or form—a talk, slides, narrative, or video. This enabled smaller, largely volunteer-led organizations to apply. 

In 2021, we voted to fund every grant proposal to the requested amount issuing 14 grants totaling $423,000.

Grants funded new pilot projects, equity work that organizations were previously unable to receive funding to develop, grassroots initiatives, and capacity building for volunteer-led organizations to finally hire paid staff. 


Building an Ecosystem of Trust

These grants are about more than money. We are building a trusted ecosystem of leaders supporting each other’s vision and working together to ensure each project’s success. Our process is rooted in authentic relationships and strengthened by the respect and love we share for each other, our community, and the work we know must be done together for racial equity. 

Rise Together funded 14 grants totaling $423,000 in 2021:

CA Film & Cultural Center

$13,000 to support instructors and materials for Young Adult Film School and Set School for youth of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Watsonville Film Festival

$20,000 to launch Cine Se Puede Lab to bring resources, connections, and support to Latinx filmmakers at any stage of their project to realize their full potential. 

Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA)

$75,000 to hire a community organizer for Santa Cruz County to lead the COVID-19 recovery through training, mentoring, increasing leadership, and community


NAACP Santa Cruz County Branch

$47,000 to create a comprehensive suite of educational services for Black-identifying youth in Santa Cruz County including an incentivized mentoring program that offers leadership opportunities, academic and culturally appropriate programming to help students maximize their potential as rising professionals.     


$50,000 to hire the first paid leadership position supporting programming, fundraising, and Senderos’ longer term sustainability.


$21,000 for NESTcorps to continue creating youth-driven changes in their community by researching issues, developing strategies, and taking action that supports their community while also preparing them for future careers.

Community Action Board Santa Cruz County

 $15,000 to develop an equitable human resources structure and hiring practices that center the values of communities of color and increase opportunities for leaders of color to grow.

United Way Santa Cruz County

$25,000 for United 4 Youth to organize a system of school and community partners to address gaps in opportunities and provide support for K-12 youth of color through mentorship, academic support, career readiness, health and wellness, and community engagement.

Mahala House Foundation

$15,000 to launch the "Moms in the Middle" pilot program providing direct grants and resources to single mother caregivers that identify as Black and/or Indigenous in Santa Cruz County and are experiencing financial hardship to reduce their income volatility, improve health, and support financial planning.

Aztecas Youth Soccer

$40,000 to secure a safe physical space for Aztecas youth to go for safety, belonging, connection, and support.

Watsonville Campesino Appreciation Caravan

$15,000 to share appreciation for farmworkers by providing food, water, gift cards, and information about community resources.

Santa Cruz County Black Health Matters Initiative, Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center

$40,000 for the Black Health Matters Initiative to build the staffing and programmatic infrastructure to support Black mental health through the arts and culture, community building, youth development and leadership.

Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance

$40,000 to support trauma-informed healing for youth through art therapy and a communal art project at PVPSA.

Estrellas de Esperanza

$7,000 for the youth Mexican folkloric dance group to expand the repertoire Bailes de Tabasco through dance lessons and performances.

If you feel moved to join in supporting these projects, please donate directly to the organizations leading this work. If you'd like to learn more about the grants' process, please read our blog. 

We just began our 2022 cohort and will continue to grow this trust-based, participatory grantmaking process. If you are excited to see the Rise Together group and grantmaking process grow, please donate to the Rise Together Fund.