Make It Your Own Awards

In 2007, the New York Times recognized the Case Foundation as the first grant maker to let the public play a role in deciding how to spend grant dollars. The Make It Your Own Awards™ was inspired by a novel approach to civic engagement, which suggested a need to place citizens at the center of creating change by combining meaningful dialog with collective, hands-on action.

The Make It Your Own Awards (MIYO) challenged people from all walks of life to discuss what matters most to them, decide what kind of community they want, and then take action together. With more than 4,600 applicants, the program drew a diverse set of both individuals and small community based organizations, many of whom had never applied for foundation funding to support their work. What’s more, the program involved the public in nearly every aspect of the decision-making process and design – and as one of the first grant programs decided by public vote, more than 15,000 votes were cast to help name the Top 20 projects. MIYO was also an opportunity to help all 4,600+ applicants understand the latest (at the time) social media tools to help empower them to raise funds and rally supporters whether or not they were successful in receiving funding from the foundation.

What Was the Outcome

Since the grant period officially ended in 2009, grantees have been working hard in their communities. But did they finish? And what did they learn? Equally important, what did we learn from this entire process? To find out, we commissioned a rigorous evaluation of the program, resulting in the report, Citizen-Centered Solutions: Lessons in Leveraging Public Participation from the Make It Your Own Awards.

Here’s a glimpse of some the key findings in the recently released report:

  • Two years after the grants were awarded, 80% were still highly engaged and moving forward.
  • Even though only 20 projects received grants, a majority of the 4,641 applicants moved their projects forward. 
  • The grant award enabled winners to conduct public meetings, which otherwise may have not occurred.
  • Public voting process was the least popular aspect of the MIYO process.
  • Grantees did not feel they could decline optional resources, including new technologies, even if they did not want them or have the time. 
  • Email and organization web pages were still the most effective and used methods for applicants and winners to engage with their supporters. 
  • Read this message from Jean Case reflecting on the program and its successes and surprises.

Resources and Templates

Not only do we want to share lessons learned, but we also want to provide as many resources as possible for those who wish to create similar open-grantmaking initiatives. Make use of the dozens of program resources and templates available, including:


Make It Your Own is all about the spirit of community, and we wish to acknowledge the key role the following organizations played in this initiative.