Grants | Pepperdine University | School of Public Policy


Annual Public Engagement Grant Program

If your organization has a public engagement project that could use financial support, our Annual Public Engagement Grant Program may be just what you need. This year marks our 8th consecutive year of offering funded consulting services to California's cities, counties, special districts and civic organizations on a variety of issues.

From difficult budget decisions to tough land use problems, municipal and civic institutions are recognizing that legitimately engaging their citizens - from discovering their informed opinions, to inviting their participation in actual solutions - should be a pragmatic priority. Still, the tight budgets that most require these public discussions can also preclude them when municipalities decide that engaging residents is just "too expensive." Made possible through funding from the James Irvine Foundation's California Democracy Fund, the Davenport Institute Public Engagement Grants seek to help municipalities overcome that hurdle

Starting in 2008 (then conducted through Common Sense California), our grants have been used in communities from Humboldt County to San Diego and from San Francisco to Riverside.  This year, we anticipate awarding 2-4 grants.  The minimum individual grant amount will be $5,000 and the maximum individual grant amount will be $20,000.  Prior to beginning their public engagement campaign, grantees will receive training and consultation from the Davenport Institute to build understanding and support for the civic engagement effort amongst both administrative staff and elected officials. 

Please join us in congratulating each of our 2015 grantees (listed in alphabetical order):

  • City of La Palma: This Orange County City faces a significant structural deficit and is looking to engage residents in discussions about some challenging budget options that may impact the "character and traditions of the city." La Palma has planned an extensive process to involve residents in these important discussions.
  • County of Marin: Heading up to northern California, the Institute is pleased to work with a county that is facing a severe housing crisis as it seeks to engage new voices from diverse segments of the community to develop action plans and solutions to overcome barriers to fair housing.
  • Participatory Budgeting Project: For the second time, a Davenport Institute Grant will be used to support a Participatory Budgeting program. We worked with PBP in Vallejo in 2012 and are excited to work with the City of Long Beach heading into 2016. PB allows residents to determine what they would like a city to do with a particular fund set aside for the purpose.
  • City of Riverside: This is not the first time the Institute has worked with the City of Riverside which is undertaking a number of Interesting projects to institutionalize engagement within their City. This grant will seek to engage residents in decisions affecting vacant and underutilized properties (including City-owned land) through development of a "Northside Specific Plan."

Frequently Asked Questions

Who May Apply?

The grant is open to municipalities and civic organizations in the State of California interested in involving the public on an issue of significance to their community or district. Past projects have related to budget, land use and public safety, among others.

Eligible Applicants:
  • Mayors, City Council, City Managers, Assistant City Managers
  • County Supervisors/Senior Staff
  • Special/School District Board Members/ Senior Staff
  • Executive Directors of regional governance associations (COGs)
  • Executive Directors of non-profit organizations

What Will the Grant Provide?

Prior to beginning their public engagement campaign, grantees will also receive training and consultation from the Davenport Institute to build understanding and support for the civic engagement effort amongst administrative and elected officials.

The Davenport Institute will fund a professional consultant(s) to work with your municipality/organization on facilitated public forums. Davenport senior staff and consultants will work with grantees to design the sessions and will facilitate deliberations amongst residents, stakeholders and government representatives. Consultants will be chosen through collaboration between the grantee and the Davenport Institute.

What is the Selection Process?

Interested organizations must submit an online application. Applicants will be contacted within two weeks of their submission to confirm receipt. Submissions will be reviewed by members of the Davenport Institute Advisory Council. Top applicants will participate in an interview (by phone or site visit) and final decisions will be announced early-October. After decisions are finalized, the Davenport Institute will schedule a training and consultation with grantees. This will also provide an opportunity for the grantees & Davenport institute to confer in order to identify a consultant to be funded by the grant.

What are the Selection Criteria?

The Davenport Institute understands that governing and civic institutions define "civic engagement" in a myriad of ways – from informing to involving their publics. The following factors will be considered in the awarding of all Citizen Engagement Grants:

  • While you may be very concerned about the particular issue, can you conduct this process without biasing the outcome?
  • Along with support and advice from your funded consultant and the Davenport Institute are you also willing to commit staff resources towards the engagement project? How?
  • While the Davenport Institute is not looking for guarantees that the results of a project will be fully and completely implemented, what is the commitment of key administrators and elected's to use the work of their citizens in the decision-making process?
  • The Davenport Institute would expect to receive a brief performance review of the engagement process after its completion summarizing lessons learned and successes.
Readiness (of issue and recipient):
  • Have you reached a stage in the decision-making process where your organization is ready to begin involving citizens in the next several months?
  • Briefly describe any civic engagement events (online or in-person) you have previously done.

What are Examples of Past Projects?

Here's a small sampling of the many efforts we have supported:

  • Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District (water policy)
  • City of Brea (budget)
  • Ventura County Civic Association (regional planning)
  • Santa Barbara Noozhawk (online participatory budgets)
  • City of Palmdale (youth services)
  • City of Redwood City (environmental policy)
  • City of Martinez (online participatory planning)
  • Ripon Unified School District (education policy)
  • Threshold 2009/non-profit (county housing policy)
  • Many others...

You can find out more by exploring our past grant project pages.

How do I Apply?

You can apply easily through our online application form.

If you have any further questions about your grant application, please email Davenport Institute assistant director Ashley Trim or call 310-506-4494