April 22, 2015

On Earth Day, Empowering Allies for the Year Ahead

People, Place and the Pope offer new hope for environmental progress

Rachel Leon, Environmental Grantmakers Association
Dennis Quirin, Neighborhood Funders Group

There is new hope for sustaining people, place, and planet on Earth Day’s 45th anniversary, as burgeoning voices for equity, community, and faith are rising to the forefront of the environmental movement. Is the philanthropic community poised to invest in these arenas so that we can maximize this moment of opportunity?

Whether your starting place is economic justice or climate resilience, the solutions to these global challenges will require philanthropy, and the broader movement, to move beyond specific silos and recognize the growing power of a multi-sector, boots-on-the ground approach.

Accordingly, Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) and Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) find our paths increasingly intertwined. Building a sustainable and equitable future depends on how well we connect our work across issues and communities. To do that, we need to partner in new ways and challenge old assumptions.

One approach to successful collaborative partnering is to focus on places where communities are collectively taking on multiple, cross-cutting issues. Last fall, for example, NFG and EGA co-organized funder learning tour on equity and sustainability in Puerto Rico on equity and sustainability in Puerto Rico, with a follow-up briefing last week with Philanthropy New York. This collaboration is bringing together funders from different sectors with different missions (democracy, climate, equity, conservation), but finding common ground in a special place. The trip highlighted community-based strategies for resilience focused on social, economic, and environmental justice.
 
Puerto Rico is facing a major financial crisis, rising seas, and rising inequality, yet it often falls between the gaps of funding streams due to its geographic and political status (territory vs. state): National funders tend to overlook it as non-US, whereas international funders consider it domestic. Yet this small island is ripe with opportunity. Our tour helped us uncover one of Puerto Rico’s true strengths: a rich culture that has given birth to incredibly robust community infrastructure, including strong community-based organizations. And the work of these organizations is getting noticed in philanthropy: Open Society Foundations has listed Puerto Rico as one of their thee priority "Open Places" sites and the Rockefeller Foundation includes the capital, San Juan, as one of 100 Resilient Cities.

Historically, environmental justice represents a small portion of the “green funder pie,” and when funding public policy, local and grassroots groups generally aren’t the ones who get the funding. In 2012, health and justice represented just 6 percent of EGA members grantmaking, with 84 percent of environmental justice grants going to organizations with budgets over $75,000. These new efforts in places where community is front and center represent a potential shift in that dynamic. The question is, will philanthropy-at-large catch the wave?

Shifting demographics across the United States continue to draw attention to natural allies for conservation and climate. As affinity groups representing grantmakers, we see that to forge a winning path forward, it is more critical than ever for philanthropy to prioritize community, equity and diversity. At EGA’s recent Federal Policy Briefing, for example, we learned about the potential impact of the rising Latino electorate on domestic environmental policy beyond placed-based strategies. According to Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions, polling shows that Latinos are an archetypal group of environmental champions—strong supporters of conservation, and in favor of government action on climate change. Latinos rank “combatting climate change” as their second most supported issue after immigration reform, with roughly 90 percent of those polled “in support.”

Many states that are facing major policy decisions around conservation and environmental issues (including Florida, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Pennsylvania) also happen to include large and growing Latino electorates. And there’s power in numbers. The size of the voting Latino electorate could grow to more than 13 million by 2016, representing a 34 percent increase from 2008.

New champions are also rising up from faith. This summer, the world is waiting for the Pope to address environmental issues in an encyclical letter that’s likely to include climate change. Carrying the weight of the Pope’s moral leadership and global influence, this letter could potentially plant the seeds of a fundamental shift in public opinion among people of faith and beyond.

To be successful in our efforts to protect our planet, we need to be proactive in engaging as many stakeholders as possible as allies. And these opportunities don’t end with the Latino or faith-based communities—there are exciting collaborations happening in education, arts, health, and beyond.

With environmental issues poised to retake the global spotlight around December’s December’s 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, we hope we can look back and see that not only did strategic collaborations and new voices help dramatically shift public opinion, but also funding streams flowed to places and alliances ripe for support and impact.

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rachel_leon.jpg  Rachel Leon is executive director of the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA), a network of hundreds of environmental funders working to achieve a sustainable world. EGA works with members and partners to promote effective environmental philanthropy by sharing knowledge, fostering debate, cultivating leadership, facilitating collaboration, and catalyzing action.

@egaconnects

dennis_quirin.jpg  Dennis Quirin is the President of the Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG). NFG organizes the field, develops leaders, and cultivates thought leadership among its national base of members and encourages the support of policies and practices that advance economic, racial, and social justice.

@nfg_org

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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.