For GEF SGP, the community-based approach is the cornerstone for addressing local and global environmental and sustainable development challenges. SGP provides grants to civil society organizations (CSOs), notably national and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), and indigenous peoples organizations. SGP grantees may also include other not-for-profit organizations such as professional associations, unions and other civil society groups.

By enabling a direct connection between sustainable livelihoods and the generation of local and global livelihoods, SGP empowers communities to act and participate in their own development and hence ensures community ownership and impact. Over the course of the last 20 years, SGP has provided grants to over 20,500 civil society projects with 64 percent of grants channeled to NGOs, 34 percent to CBOs, and 2 percent to other not-for-profit organizations. More than 60 percent of projects have directly benefitted communities either through direct grants to CBOs or through other NGOs and CSOs working with communities.

Constant interaction and consultation between SGP country programme teams and local and national stakeholders ensures that GEF SGP remains highly responsive to local and national needs and priorities. SGP responds to the demand from local communities and NGOs for grants in the GEF focal areas. The permanent presence of SGP country teams and continual access for CSOs mean that National Coordinators (NCs) and National Steering Committees (NSCs) are well apprised of community needs and understand local contexts.

In the course of its experience working with grantees, SGP has continuously sought to simplify its procedures and facilitate access to grant funding for local communities. In cooperation with UNOPS, it has developed Memoranda of Agreements (MOAs) that can allow grants to be awarded to community-based groups that are not formally registered without having to go through an intermediary NGO.

​​​​​​​SGP experience further shows that it is important to invest in capacity development of potential grantees to facilitate their access to funding, and enable successful implementation of projects. SGP has developed flexible project preparation and design processes, such as giving small planning grants to communities to support proposal development and accepting different proposal formats such as participatory videos and photo stories in lieu of written proposals, where necessary.
For SGP, its grantees are the implementing partners on the ground, who have played the central role in SGP's efforts over the years. Local communities have contributed in many ways, by committing their time, resources, and labor, and by providing knowledge, innovative ideas, and in-kind co-financing for SGP projects. CSO partners have provided strong advocacy, strategic direction, and technical guidance, contributing to SGP projects as grantees as well as by strengthening CBO capacities.