Field Guide for Philanthropy & Civic Action

Ideas and resources to seed innovation, make community-advised decisions, host participatory events, communicate effectively, and catalyze local change.



A message from The Sprout Fund. Provides context about our work in Pittsburgh from 2001 to 2018. Acknowledges supporters and team that made this Field Guide possible.

How to Use This Guide

An explainer to help get the most out of this guide. Describes how the content is organized and different paths through the materials. Useful as a starting point for people who have just found this Field Guide.

Catalytic Funding

What Is Catalytic Funding?

An overview of Sprout’s approach to Catalytic Funding. Provides context on core principles described throughout the guide. Useful for people who would like an introduction to micro-grants before exploring the individual sections of the Field Guide.

Planning & Preparing

    Program Design

    An overview of areas to consider when designing a new funding program. Provides methods and recommendations for who to involve in the design process. Encourages thinking about everything together as a comprehensive program before distilling down to the nuances of each individual step in the process. Useful for people with a clear understanding of the program goals and needs of the target audience who want to infuse this knowledge into the program design.


    An overview for seeking funding for funding programs. Provides helpful steps to take to gauge interest in a funding program from funders and pursue different funders for different components of the program. Useful for intermediaries that need to raise the funds in order to then re-grant them.

Cultivating Applicants

    Application Design

    A guide to determining what materials should be used to make funding decisions. Provides sample prompts and templates for a variety of application materials that can be combined in different ways to best meet the needs of the funding program. Useful for people that would like to provide reviewers with a streamlined review that best showcases the ideas of applicants.

    Program Launch & Announcement

    An overview of ways to announce a new (or new round) of a funding program. Provides recommendations and methods for sharing the new funding opportunity with the community. Useful for funders that do not have a dedicated marketing team or those that would like to consider alternate approaches to launching a new funding program.

    Applicant Outreach & Info Sessions

    A guide for sharing information about the funding program with groups of prospective applicants. Provides step-by-step instructions for hosting an information session and recommendations for how to best utilize staff time when doing outreach. Useful for funders that have not incorporated applicant outreach in the past or those that are trying to reach a new/expanded audience.

    Prospect Management & Draft Review

    A guide for working one-on-one with prospective applicants. Provides best practices for helping applicants strengthen their proposal by communicating the goals of the program and knowledge of common feedback from reviewers. Useful for funders with the capacity to provide individual feedback, especially funders with very nuanced funding programs, to ensure that proposals will be competitive in the review process.

Making Decisions

    Decisionmaker Recruitment

    An overview for seating a decisionmaking committee in order to make community-based decisions on applications. Provides suggestions for the types of people to consider along with roles and responsibilities of the committee. Useful for funders who have never utilized a community-based decisionmaking process.

    Application Intake

    A guide for doing an organized intake of the applications submitted. Provides an overview of eligibility and screening considerations along with creating cover sheets for each application. Useful for funders who need to ensure that projects meet certain criteria before being sent for review.

    Committee Review

    A guide for administering the review process using a scorecard and review packet. Provides the tools to develop these materials and send them to reviewers with clear instructions. Useful for funders that do not already have review tools in place or through their grants management system.

    Follow-Up & Due Diligence

    A guide for collecting additional information about proposals. Provides helpful language for requesting updates from applicants, checking references, and summarizing any new information in advance of a decisionmaking meeting. Useful for programs with minimal application materials, seeking additional information from applicants only as they move forward in the decisionmaking process.

    Meeting Facilitation

    A guide for building consensus around a set of funding recommendations through a decisionmaking meeting. Provides pros and cons for different types of meetings along with tips for being a successful meeting facilitator. Useful for funders looking to incorporate a decisionmaking meeting into their process for making funding recommendations.

    Denied Applicant Feedback

    An overview for providing feedback to applicants that have not been recommended for funding. Provides recommendations for providing constructive feedback in order to help applicants either reapply with a stronger application or seek funding elsewhere. Useful for funders with ongoing funding programs or those looking to cultivate relationships with their applicants, regardless of funding decisions.

Managing Funded Projects

    Grant Initiation & Project Planning

    An overview of recommended steps to take after a proposal has been recommended for funding. Provides best practices for building an open relationship with grantees, encouraging regular updates and being understanding of changes to implementation plans. Useful for funders looking to have a more hands-on relationship with grantees.

    Reporting on Successes & Challenges

    A guide to having grantees meet reporting requirements without undue burden. Provides an overview of different types of reports along with next steps following the receipt of a report. Useful for funders considering alternative ways of reporting or hoping to better adapt their reports to individual programs.

    Multimedia Documentation

    An overview of how funders can further support funded projects through documentation. Provides insights into the benefits to grantee and to the program as a whole, which benefits from professional documentation materials for storytelling and marketing purposes. Useful for funders looking to supplement their investments through alternative forms of grantee support.

    Bringing Grantees Together

    An overview of cohort-based approaches to grantee support. Provides various ways to engage grantees as a like-minded group of peers that can learn from and support one another. Useful for funders with classes of grantees that may be experiencing similar challenges or working to address aligning issues.

Sustaining & Sunsetting

    Feedback & Improvement

    An overview of ways to evaluate a funding program. Provides suggestions for collecting and compiling feedback along with reporting finding back out to the community. Useful for funders with ongoing programs that they hope to make more transparent or responsive to community needs.

    Wrap-Up & Wind-Down

    An overview of best practices for ending a funding program. Provides recommended steps to take to provide prospective applicants with ample notification of the wind-down and ways to change program materials to reflect the legacy of the program as opposed to how to apply for funding. Useful for funders considering to sunset a program or make significant changes while still preserving the story of the existing program.

Community Building

What Is Community Building?

An overview of Sprout’s approach to Community Building. Describes design principles for creating and enhancing connections among people. Useful for fellow community builders who lead similar work and use open practices to catalyze civic action around the world.


A guide to creating community building campaigns, which are focused, action-oriented activities that mobilize people to achieve shared goals. Useful to help people organize their thinking about their potential campaigns using a series of key considerations and a suite of planning tools.


An explainer detailing 10 types of experiences often used in community building campaigns. Useful for community builders seeking to develop a series of engaging, action-oriented events that purposefully bring people together to make progress toward an overarching goal. Includes artifacts from Sprout’s work developing similar events over its two-decade history.


An overview of human-centered design techniques often used to Generate, Prioritize, and Reflect on new ideas. Useful as a library of tools that experience designers can draw from as they develop engaging experiences in support of community building campaigns.

Voices from the Field

A showcase of 10 community builders working in a variety of contexts. Features stories of people leading collaborative projects related to education, global engagement, entrepreneurship, and more. Useful to draw inspiration from how people apply similar practices around the world.

Lessons Learned

A collection of hard-won wisdom from 17 years of deep work together with innovative people and amazing communities in Pittsburgh and beyond. Useful as a summation of all that we’ve learned.


Templates & Downloads

An aggregate list of all templates and downloads shared throughout the Field Guide. Useful to save a complete set of Sprout tools and examples.

An aggregate list of all relevant websites and related external links shared throughout the Field Guide. Useful as a complete set of relevant bookmarks.

Software Recommendations

A list of our favorite free and almost-free web tools used to support Sprout’s work over the years. Useful for people who are similarly won over by elegant web-based solutions to practical challenges.


Credits & Acknowledgements

About the Authors

History of The Sprout Fund