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Give Back NH: The New England Grassroots Environment Fund

A group photo of the Grassroots Fund Grantmaking Committee meeting, 2022
New England Grassroots Environment Fund
A group photo of the Grassroots Fund Grantmaking Committee meeting, 2022

Starting a new environmental nonprofit, or deepening the impact of one already in place, can be a daunting task. Raising money, organizing committees, and moving past red tape calls for finesse and lots of experience.

The New England Grassroots Environment Fund of Newmarket, New Hampshire provides just that, not only here in the Granite State, but for communities across the region.

As part of our Give Back NH series, NHPR highlights small but mighty nonprofits doing good work in New Hampshire communities. Below is a transcript of a conversation with directors of the grassroots fund, Sarah Huang and Bart Westdijk, and Tess Beem, a program manager with the organization.


Transcript

Sarah Huang: We have a broad group of nonprofit organizations, folks that are engaged in environmental projects like community gardens [and] food pantries, folks working on conservation projects and environmental education.

Tess Beem: I like to think of all the groups that we're working with are on some spectrum within the just transition framework. So, you know, the interconnected systems of health, environment, economic, social, racial justice and any one group could be touching on a lot of different pieces in that a lot of the informal work that we do, applicants and grantees, is helping them navigate more of that administrative side of things.

Thinking about how can an ad hoc, informal volunteer group set up a bank account with their local branch without having necessarily a 501C3 tax status. And a lot of the growing pains of like, 'how do you get your legs under you' and 'how do you get moving?' Those are a lot of what we aim to do.

The New England Grassroots Environment Fun works closely with other organizations including the Food System Resilience Fund
New England Grassroots Environment Fund
The New England Grassroots Environment Fun works closely with other organizations including the Food System Resilience Fund.

Bart Westdijk: A good day for me with the Grassroots Fund is really get to be on the phone calls with folks who bring so much to their neighborhoods, to their communities.

We are about to go into what we call our staff review period. We get to talk to all these applicants that are coming up with amazing solutions to really big, broad issues, global issues, but are bringing that down to their own backyards, and are coming up with solutions that have them connect with their neighbors, have them build social capital, and really center the experiences of folks that are dealing with impacts of environmental injustices day in and day out.

And there's there's a lot of hope in that —which can sometimes be really hard to find with everything going on in the world. But these phone calls make me incredibly hopeful, and it's a good day when I get to do a few of those calls.

Sarah Haung: Grassroots Fund is currently hiring for a community organizing strategist position, and we'll also be looking for a Grow Program Manager in the coming months. If folks are interested in learning more about Grassroots Fund, they can check out our website, or also reach out to any of the staff members, which you can find on our team page.

Bart Westdijk: And it's also a chance to meet others in the region who are sitting with these kinds of questions of how do we shift power, how do we make decisions in a way that's aligned with equity and justice principles. So those are our main ways [of getting involved] — either funding directly or join us as a community grant writer.

Before becoming Program Director, Quirk served as NHPR's production manager. During that time she's voiced and crafted the 'sound of the station,' coordinated countless on-air fundraisers, produced segments for Give Back NH, Something Wild, New Hampshire Calling, and developed NHPR's own NHPR Music vertical with features such as Live from Studio D, and long-loved favorites like Holidays By Request.

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