“By constantly providing us with the evidence around the experiences and the impact of organizations led by women of color, Groundswell enables me to be in a much better position to speak with authority and speak from an evidence base. It buoys me in terms of trying to be an ally when I go about my business every day. It’s like a shot in the arm.”

— Joanna Lauen, Irving Harris Foundation (Catalyst funder)

Comprehensive evaluation of grassroots power-building is a hallmark of Groundswell Fund. Since 2008, Groundswell has — in partnership with Korwin Consulting — conducted the largest annual, nationwide assessment of the U.S. RJ movement: the annual evaluation of the Catalyst Fund and its grantees. This annual report represents a remarkable collaboration between Groundswell and our grantees to provide foundations, individual donors, and field practitioners alike with a bird’s-eye view of one of the most compelling movements of our time. The evaluation instrument — the indicators it measures and questions it asks — was co-designed by Groundswell staff, grantees and Korwin Consulting. The annual report that it produces would not be possible without the more than 72 organizations across the country who devote significant time and energy to sharing their data, stories, and reflections with Groundswell Fund each year, as well as the smaller set of RJ leaders who help us analyze and interpret the findings.

Given that time and energy are precious in movement work. Groundswell works alongside our external evaluation firm, Korwin Consulting, to analyze and present the collective picture of their work to a wide community of foundations and donors. For those already giving to or working within the RJ movement, it has helped inform strategy as we work to identify and address key gaps, navigate trends, and find windows of opportunity. For those who are new to RJ, it has often inspired people to give and participate.

To Groundswell, success is when grantees have a grassroots base powerful enough to win and maintain RJ policy and systems change over time. To achieve this level of success, Groundswell believes that organizations must demonstrate growth in five areas:

  1. Organizational capacity (budget size, staff size, strategic plan, infrastructure, etc.);
  2. The size of the grassroots base the organization can mobilize on its issues;
  3. The number of ally organizations the organization can mobilize on its issues;
  4. The number of public officials the organization has won as champions on its issues; and
  5. The reach and impact of culture change efforts (social & earned media, etc.).

In addition to quantitative data, the evaluation collects qualitative data: how an organization’s message was adopted in the media and affected the outcome of a campaign; how an ally organization in another movement became a supporting organization in an important campaign; or how a community leader become a significant force in the organization and community.

Finally, Groundswell also asks each grantee to report progress on a measurable set of benchmarks they set for themselves at the time their grant was issued. This enables us to understand how the work is progressing and/or pivoting and changing. Groundswell’s analysis of each grantee’s progress is showcased in our annual dockets for the Catalyst and Birth Justice Funds, and in our year-end report of Rapid Response Fund activities.


“Groundswell has created empathy for the needs of smaller organizations, particularly those led by women of color. They have modeled and encouraged resiliency in giving to those groups, while not expecting their paths to be linear every single year. Instilling that value in other funders has been important.”

— Rebekah Saul Butler, Grove Foundation (Catalyst funder)