Belonging Colorado


Helping to build a Colorado where everyone belongs.


Belonging Colorado is a timely effort to bring together Coloradans across lines of difference. Our goal is to foster greater belonging across our state so all can thrive. We seek to invest in good ideas for building connections among people of different races, religions, ethnic groups, socioeconomic statuses, ages, and more. Our state is not immune to the trends of social division and disconnection affecting our nation as a whole. At a time of intense social, economic, and environmental challenges, Coloradans must work effectively across differences to support our state’s long-term health, resilience, and well-being.

Through this letter of interest(LOI) process, Belonging Colorado is seeking community-based organizations, local governments, and other community-focused entities to participate in the inaugural cohort of Belonging Colorado partners. This cohort will represent a diverse set of organizations that seek to design and implement new—or expand existinginnovative programs that bring people together across lines of difference to address shared challenges, connect on shared interests, and/or deepen community relationships and heal divides.

Representatives from participating organizations will engage in the inaugural Belonging Cohort—an eight-week online training experience to learn about the science of bridging differences. Upon successful completion, participants will refine program ideas designed to bridge divides within their context/community and will be invited to apply for a two-year grant to implement their program. Funded projects will receive ongoing technical assistance during implementation to maximize program effectiveness. 

Applicants should meet the following criteria:

ELIGIBILITY

  • Your work must connect with the missions or purpose of the fund.
  • Your organization must be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, governmental entity, or have a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor.
  • Your organizations must do work in Colorado.
  • You must have strong, trusted relationships with others working in your community and a track record of supporting community-driven work.
  • You must commit to modeling the work by working collaboratively with individuals and organizations that are different from you.

SELECTION CRITERIA

In addition to meeting the eligibility requirements above, applicants will be selected based on their: 

  • Commitment to building connections across difference
  • Proposed program’s alignment, feasibility, creativity, and potential for impact
  • Experience engaging with groups and individuals with differing views, backgrounds, and lived experiences
  • Willingness to receive feedback and iterate on their idea
  • Commitment to participating fully in the Community of Practice, including consistent attendance and active engagement during trainings, as well as clear intention to submit a proposal to implement your program throughout 2025 and 2026

TIMELINE

June 11, 2024

Belonging Colorado kick-off event 

June 11, 2024

Letter of Interest (LOI) open

June 25, 2024 

LOI briefing webinar (recording available here!)

July 31, 2024 

LOI deadline 

early Sept. 2024 

Approved LOI notification

Sept.- Nov. 2024

Cohort Planning Grant duration

Sept. 9 – Nov. 6, 2024

Community of Practice training

Mid Nov. 2024 

Cohort Implementation Grant application deadline

Mid Dec. 2024 

Cohort Implementation Grant notification

Jan. 2025 – Jan. 2027

Cohort Implementation Grant duration


Additional information

Letter of interest (LOI) submission:

Colorado organizations are encouraged to submit an LOI through The Denver Foundation‘s grant portal, TDF Grant Manager, by July 31, 2024, expressing both their desire and concrete plans to bridge differences and strengthen belonging within their community and local context. It will take all kinds of organizations and programs to create greater feelings of connectedness and belonging across our state. With that in mind, Belonging Colorado seeks a diverse cohort of organizations, including groups working in different geographies, deploying different approaches, and bridging different divides. The LOI asks applicants to share more about their community, including the needs they see, the challenges they face, the connections they hope to foster, and the programming they believe will bring groups together effectively across lines of difference. The Belonging Colorado team at The Denver Foundation will review the LOIs. Some organizations may be contacted for additional conversations to understand their application and organization better. 

Belonging cohort:

Through this LOI process, as many as 15 organizations will be selected to join the Belonging Cohort. Participation in the cohort will include: 

  • $15,000 initial grant to the organization to cover expenses and time to engage in training through 2024.
  • 8 weeks of virtual training (hour-long sessions) focusing on bridge-building skills and strategies, the fundamentals of evaluating these programs, and community engagement that runs from Sept. 9 through Nov. 6, 2024.
  • 1 in-person training and networking event in 2024 as a cohort alongside leading social cohesion and bridging experts.
  • One-on-one consultation with leading national experts and a technical assistance team to support program design and implementation.
  • The cohort experience will culminate with each organization preparing a proposal to implement their proposed program for a period of two years (2025 and 2026). Funded programs will continue to receive training, peer learning, and networking opportunities throughout the implementation grant period.
  • Have your experience and program highlighted and shared as part of Belonging Colorado’s first grant cohort.

Project implementation:

Successful proposals will be funded and will begin implementation in January 2025. Organizations will receive ongoing technical assistance and support throughout the two-year pilot. This will include monthly meetings, twice-a-month one-on-one meetings with technical assistance providers, and program evaluation support. Proposals will be expected to reflect what participating organizations have learned in their training and should indicate an openness to further modifications based on expertise and technical assistance offered during the implementation grant period.

Belonging Colorado anticipates funding all proposals submitted by the cohort, assuming they meet basic submission guidelines and program requirements. Depending on the scale of the program, implementation grants are anticipated to range from $50,000-$250,000 per year for two years. 

At the end of the two and a half years, the Belonging Cohort will have seeded innovative approaches to building connections across lines of difference. Belonging Colorado hopes to highlight these “bright spots” as examples of how organizations and communities can tackle divisions and be agents for belonging, laying the groundwork for even greater belonging activity in our state. 


Application Submission and Selection:

Letter of interest:

Interested organizations should submit an LOI for Belonging Colorado through The Denver Foundation’s grant portal, TDF Grant Manager, by 11:59 P.M. MT on July 31, 2024. Applicants will address the following prompts through short response fields (not to exceed 2,500 characters per question):  

  1. Describe the specific needs of your community that inspire you to foster greater connection across particular lines of difference.
  2. Tell us about a shared priority, goal, interest, or activity that unites people in your community. How do you envision using that shared priority or activity to build connection across lines of difference or social divisions?
  3. How would you recruit community members to participate in your program? Share more about the constituencies you would prioritize, your outreach strategies, existing partners you would work with, your anticipated recruitment challenges, and how you would address them.
  4. What other experiences does your organization have, no matter how small, in bringing people together across lines of difference?
  5. What would you hope to learn from the Belonging Cohort training program? Are there any barriers you anticipate to your participation in it?
  6. If your ideas were implemented with sufficient resources and training support, what changes in your community would you like to see at the end of two years? 

The portal will also request basic information about the organization, including EIN, annual budget, and a fully executed fiscal sponsorship agreement (if applicable). Additionally, the organization’s 501(c)(3) determination must be verifiable on the IRS website.  

Aligned proposed programming:

Although the intent of the eight-week cohort training series is to help participants refine their ideas about how to bridge differences and divides in their community, the LOI should describe proposed bridging efforts and how applicants envision bridging programs being useful and meaningful within their local community and context. The chart below highlights elements of aligned projects for bridging and fostering belonging. These are based on a growing body of research on the attributes of effective bridge-building work. 

Attributes of Aligned Projects Attributes of Un-Aligned Projects
Community-based projects that bring different groups together to work jointly and collaboratively to address local community needs and common goals.

Community-based projects where people from different groups work separately in their own communities toward similar goals, but without engagement across group lines. 

New or existing programming focused on building deep connections and active collaboration across lines of difference, with repeated opportunities for interaction over time and across multiple engagements. 

Programming or events that occur only once, without sufficient opportunities for people to build deep connections across lines of difference over time and across multiple engagements. 

Community planning projects that intentionally include diverse stakeholders who may have different perspectives or different experiences related to an issue. 

Community planning projects without meaningful intention to engage diverse stakeholders who may have different perspectives or lived experiences related to an issue. 

Creative ideas for programming that leverage the unique context, interests, and needs of the local community to build connections across lines of difference. 

“Cookie cutter” approaches to programming that are not designed or intended to innovate or adapt. 

Programs with innovative ways to recruit community members across lines of difference, and especially those most likely to be insulated from the perspectives and life experiences of others. 

Programs that primarily appeal to engaging “the choir” of community members are already inclined to engage with others who likely have perspectives and experiences than their own. 

Projects with measurable outcomes sponsored by organizations that are interested in evaluating and reporting on impact, and who indicate a desire to learn with the support of Belonging Colorado consultants. 

Projects sponsored by organizations that are not explicitly interested in evaluating and reporting on impact or who do not wish to incorporate learning, methods for measuring impact, or improvements to program design and implementation. 


The most meaningful programs will reflect your unique context and will leverage what makes your community unique. Below are some examples of efforts across the nation to spark your imagination:
 

  • Quilted Conscience: Based in Nebraska, this quilting project brings together  English as a second language (ESL) students with long-time quilters—connecting people who likely would not otherwise meet. Positive bonds are formed between diverse communities, and quilts are displayed in public settings. 
  • Y-USA’s Youth Unity Project: This program brings together youth from different backgrounds to learn about the immigration system, foster cross-cultural connection and understanding, and work together on civic projects. 
  • Blue Devils High School Soccer Team: A high school soccer team united Lewiston, Maine—a largely white, Catholic, mill town experiencing increased racial tension after the community received newly arrived refugees from Somalia.  
  • Colossian Forum: Colossian Forum is a Christian-led organization that provides guided opportunities to have conversations around culturally divisive “hot button” issues. This organization uses two-way interaction to bridge religious divides. 
  • Bad River Food Sovereignty Program: An Indigenous-led food sovereignty program partnered with non-Indigenous sustainable farmers to expand existing community gardens, teach sustainable farming practices, grow food for the local Head Start, and build partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous farmers.  

 

Why we need Belonging Colorado: 

Many of our state’s challenges stem from—or are exacerbated by—a “crisis of connection,” where people feel lonely or isolated—even divided, left out, or left behind. Belonging Colorado believes that we are strongest when all Coloradans feel included, respected, and appreciated in their community—that is, when they truly belong. This sense of belonging can enable us to work together more effectively to solve problems that would be difficult to tackle otherwise. Our schools and governments function better, our neighborhoods are safer, and we can enjoy greater personal and community well-being when we work together. 

Belonging Colorado is designed to foster greater feelings of connectedness in communities across our state, especially across differences. We want to support local efforts that transcend divisions and isolation and connect people with distinct backgrounds and worldviews in innovative ways for repeated, ongoing interactions over an extended period of time. These could include initiatives that: 

  • Bring people together across group lines to collaborate on projects that address local community needs and build on common goals; 
  • Create opportunities for people to engage around shared interests and activities, such as in parks, at cultural venues, through sports leagues, or within other community spaces; 
  • Help to elevate the voice and presence of a group or constituency that commonly faces social and/or economic challenges; 
  • Address conflicts or divides in communities to promote dialogue and connection between groups that are largely disconnected from one another. 

We imagine this valuable work unfolding within and across diverse settings, from elementary schools to college campuses, from small towns to bustling city centers, and from veterans’ associations to arts and culture organizations. We believe that by bridging what divides us and increasing Coloradans’ sense of belonging, we can accelerate positive change in our communities so that all can thrive. 

For more information and additional resources, please visit denverfoundation.org/belonging-colorado.

 


About Belonging Colorado

Banner Logo SunsetDespite Colorado’s history as a state of opportunity and connection with nature, it is not immune to the fraying of our nation’s social fabric, resulting in increasing divisions across lines of identity. Insularity leaves us vulnerable, and solving urgent challenges requires working across differences to bring people together in new ways, build resilience, and expand understanding of “who belongs.” Belonging Colorado aims to lead a catalytic body of work that will bring people together in new ways, build resilience in the state, and expand Coloradans’ understanding of “who belongs.” This will include piloting and scaling innovative approaches.