August 4, 2016

#NFG2016 Conference Recap from Native Americans in Philanthropy

Jennifer Fairbanks, Communication Specialist at Native Americans in Philanthropy, provides her perspective on NFG’s 2016 National Convening.

This post originally appeared on Native Americans in Philanthropy’s blog, which you can find here.

The Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) held their national convening this year from June 14-16 in Oakland, California. With a focus on Philanthropic Strategies for People, Place & Power, the content and programming centered around rethinking the role of funders in building long-term holistic transformation and community power.

Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) has a mission that closely aligns with this to power reciprocity and invest in Native communities through our three strategic directions: ENGAGE together to develop meaningful philanthropy opportunities; EDUCATE to master a method of philanthropy rooted in Native values; and EMPOWER each other to advance Native assets and strengths.

Oakland has a long history of innovation and movement building that has stemmed from grassroots organizing which made it the perfect location to house NFG’s discussions around people, place and power. One of the most well-known grassroots groups that emerged from Oakland is the Black Panther Party, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and recognized by NFG with a special movie screening of The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.

As a “newbie” to the conference, I was excited to see the three-day conference was filled with progressive and thought-provoking sessions that challenged funders to take a look at their own funding and grantmaking portfolios and how they add to the power imbalance or are preventing transformation. Oakland’s history and grassroots advocacy was consistently at the forefront of conversations discussing place and what we could all learn from one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the US. The impacts of displacement and gentrification on communities were examined at the conference with author Jeff Chang who presented on the An Exploration of Power plenary challenging, “We have to understand displacement as another form of re-segregation.” 

Another plenary explored power through three different lenses: political, economic, and cultural. Attendees of the conference were encouraged to not approach government as an adversary but instead to look for champions within who have a commitment to equity. Funders must look at approaching problems with bridging and bonding in collective solutions. “Poverty is not a policy problem. It’s a function of seeing some people as ‘not people’. Diversity is scary to people,” explained John A. Powell, Director of Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.

Learning tours gave participants a chance to explore Oakland on various site visits. The Arts and Culture for Community and Power Building tour that I went on highlighted for us how arts and culture have advanced social justice and supported community activism in the downtown area. We were treated to a tour and panel in the Malonga Casquelourd Center for The Arts, a presentation on the Alice Street Mural, and a look at the inner workings of Youth Radio.

All sights posed a question that many communities of color face: Do you want to be a part of my community or do you want to just benefit from the resources? Native communities in particular who have a long history of removal and displacement are faced with sports teams using Native American names and mascots and non-Natives appropriating cultural praxis while Native people themselves are suffering from health and disparity issues.

The theme of Philanthropic Strategies for People, Place & Power also probed at moving beyond conversation and onto operationalizing the shifting of power. Challenging funders to fund not only people’s pain but also their power will hopefully inspire not just funding needs but funding aspirations as well. Sessions and panels urged the importance of organizing and working collectively in order to see these shifts in power happens and to transform the philanthropy sector as a whole. Taking accountability for your organization’s power and creating strategic philanthropic partnerships is the key to uplifting People, Place & Power.

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October 24, 2019

Reflections from Philanthropy Forward's First Cohort

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change is a CEO fellowship program created by Neighborhood Funders Group and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The program's first cohort started in October 2018 in furtherance of building and advancing a shared vision for the future of philanthropy.

Hear perspectives from members of the first cohort as they reflect in this video on their work together as strategic thought partners, addressing philanthropy's most challenging issues and aligning to build a financial engine for social change.

2018 - 2019 Philanthropy Forward Cohort

A grid with individual photos of each of the 20 members of Philanthropy Forward's 2018-2918 cohort..

Click here for participant bios

  • Dimple Abichandani, General Service Foundation
  • Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Elizabeth Barajas-Roman, Solidago Foundation
  • Ned Calonge, The Colorado Trust
  • Irene Cooper-Basch, Victoria Foundation
  • Farhad A. Ebrahimi, The Chorus Foundation
  • Nicky Goren, Meyer Foundation
  • Justin Maxson, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • Joan Minieri, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Maria Mottola, New York Foundation
  • Mike Pratt, Scherman Foundation
  • Jocelyn Sargent, Hyams Foundation
  • Pamela Shifman, NoVo Foundation
  • Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
  • Steve Patrick, Aspen Institute Forum for Community solutions
  • Dennis Quirin, Raikes Foundation
September 10, 2019

For Love of Humankind: A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Justin Maxson, Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, calls on fellow funding organizations based in the South to respond to the federal government's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with three concrete actions. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Justin was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which strives to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice, is a member of NFG.


Justin MaxsonWe are issuing a clarion call to Southern philanthropic organizations to respond to the manic drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruelty coming from the White House. This month began with a mass shooting targeting the Latinx community. Days later, massive raids tore apart hundreds of families and destabilized Mississippi communities but levied no consequences for the corporate leadership that lures vulnerable people to work in grueling, dangerous conditions. It is astounding that since those events, with the resulting fear and trauma still reverberating through immigrant communities across America, the administration has: 

  • repeated its intention to end birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment guarantee that babies born on American soil are citizens. 
  • attempted to terminate the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the care of children in custody. This would allow the administration to detain migrant families indefinitely in facilities where children are dying of influenza, yet flu shots are not administrated, where children are sexually assaulted, where soap, toothbrushes, human contact and play are not standard, and where breastfeeding babies are taken from their mothers. Child separation is known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage.
  • announced changes to the so-called “public charge rule” to make it harder for legal immigrants to secure citizenship if they use public assistance. As our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, this change would cause many to “forgo assistance altogether, resulting in more economic insecurity and hardship, with long-term negative consequences, particularly for children.” Further, the decision “rests on the erroneous assumption that immigrants currently of modest means are harmful to our nation and our economy, devaluing their work and contributions and discounting the upward mobility immigrant families demonstrate.”

There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border. And despite the Supreme Court ruling blocking the citizenship question from the 2020 census, advocates believe the debate will depress response rates. As we wrote earlier this month, this administration’s animus against immigrants and increasingly aggressive ICE actions are compounding the devastating effects on communities across the country. 

Why Southern philanthropy? 

An analysis of recent grantmaking by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found our region has deportation rates five times higher than the rest of the country, yet Southern pro-immigrant organizations receive paltry philanthropic funding. Barely one percent of all money granted by the 1,000 largest foundations benefits immigrants and refugees, and even that money doesn’t go to state and local groups that are accountable to grassroots and immigrant communities. Organizations in Southern states receive less than half of the state and local funding of California, New York and Illinois. 

Where to begin? 

Speak up. As Desmund Tutu taught us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Use your institutional voice to influence decisionmakers.

Examine your foundation’s policies. Find out if your endowment is invested in private detention centers. Consider how supporting organizing, power building and policy advocacy could advance your mission. NCRP has more recommendations in its report.

Give generously. Our partners at Hispanics in Philanthropy have curated a list of organizations helping the families affected by the raids across Mississippi. Our partners at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees have compiled a list of ways to help, from rapid response grants to long-term strategies. 

Many of the Babcock Foundation’s grantee partners are doing more and more immediate protection work, stretching themselves thin and often putting themselves at risk. They are keeping families intact in the short term while building power for the long term, so history will stop repeating: 

If you know of more resources, please share them. If you’d like to learn more about the organizations on the ground across the South – or think about ways we can do more together – contact us. We are always looking to learn and act in alignment with our fellow funders toward a shared vision of a strong, safe, welcoming and equitable region. 

Activist Jane Addams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us.” Regardless of a foundation’s mission, abject cruelty surely undermines it. It also undermines the most basic tenet of philanthropy, which literally means “love for humankind.” We see no love in this administration. It’s up to all of us to spread it.