5 Hot Causes for Donors in 2015

Chronicle of Philanthropy, January 15, 2015 - The Battle for Racial Justice: Grant makers are uniting to address racial-justice issues as tensions remain high following the failure of grand juries to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City. Funders for Justice, a new group of about 30 foundations and other groups affiliated with the Neighborhood Funders Group, has set up a website to publicize activities and promote giving to community organizers working on issues like police accountability. Lori Villarosa, executive director of the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, expects more philanthropic attention to changing demographics, for example the growing black populations in inner suburbs, and "implicit racial bias," or the negative associations people hold unconsciously about other races.


Support for Minority Women and Girls

My Brother’s Keeper, President Obama’s foundation-financed program to boost educational and economic opportunities for minority boys and young men, came under fire for leaving out women and girls. Now the White House has announced a new working group on Challenges and Opportunities for Women and Girls of Color, and some foundations are exploring new ways to help young minority women. One example: The NoVo Foundation invited grant makers to a December webinar to discuss a report by the National Women’s Law Center and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on providing opportunity to African-American girls.

Protection of Gay Rights in Conservative States

After 2014’s gay-marriage triumphs, activists are targeting discrimination by employers in conservative states (among them Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, and Texas), where allies are often hard to come by, says Tim Gill, the country’s most prominent philanthropist focused on LGBT causes. "It’s going to be a very, very different fight, and it’s going to be a long fight." His 20-year-old foundation has spent more than $300-million promoting LGBT equality, he says, and "we’ll have to spend another $300-million to get there."

More Impact Investing

Average investors will soon join the handful of foundations and wealthy individuals pioneering the idea of impact investing: putting money into a business, nonprofit, or government program with an expectation of both social change and financial return. "It’s no longer a question of if it’s going to happen; it’s just a matter of when," says Jacob Gray, senior director for the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Social Impact Initiative. This year, Wharton will produce what it says will be the first-ever comprehensive analyses of the financial performance of impact investments.

Strengthening Low-Income Families

Donors are increasingly worried about the collapse of families in working-class neighborhoods, says Adam Meyerson, president of the Philanthropy Roundtable. They’re backing groups like First Things First, a nonprofit in Chattanooga, Tenn., that aims to reduce the rates of divorce and of out-of-wedlock births to teenagers.

—Drew Lindsay and Suzanne Perry