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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May 4, 2021

Introducing Philanthropy Foward: Cohort 3

 

We are excited to announce the launch of Philanthropy Forward's Cohort 3 in partnership with The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions!

Philanthropy Forward is a CEO fellowship community for visionary leaders who center racial and gender justice and community power building to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy. This fellowship brings together CEOs of foundations who are supporting racial & gender justice and community power building to make deeper change at the individual, organizational, and philanthropic field levels.

  • ALEYAMMA MATHEW, she/her — Collective Future Fund
  • AMORETTA MORRIS, she/her — Borealis Philanthropy
  • ANA CONNER, they/she — Third Wave Fund
  • CARLA FREDERICKS, she/her — The Christensen Fund
  • CRAIG DRINKARD, he/him — Victoria Foundation
  • JENNIFER CHING, she/her — North Star Fund
  • JOHN BROTHERS, he/him — T. Rowe Price Foundation
  • KIYOMI FUJIKAWA, she/her — Third Wave Fund
  • LISA OWENS, she/her — Hyams Foundation
  • MOLLY SCHULTZ HAFID, she/her — Butler Family Fund
  • NICK DONOHUE, he/him — Nellie Mae Education Foundation
  • NICOLE PITTMAN, she/her — Just Beginnings Collaborative
  • PHILIP LI, he/him — Robert Sterling Clark Foundation
  • RAJASVINI BHANSALI, she/they — Solidaire Network & Solidaire Action Fund
  • RINI BANERJEE, she/her — Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation
  • TANUJA DEHNE, she/her — Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
  • YANIQUE REDWOOD, she/her — Consumer Health Foundation

learn more about each Fellow!

With a framework focused on liberated gatekeeping, accountability practices, and strategic risk taking, Philanthropy Forward is a dedicated space for leaders to organize together and boldly advance the transformed future of the sector. This growing fellowship of visionary CEOs from progressive philanthropic institutions is aligning to to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy.

Philanthropy Forward is a joint initiative started in 2018 by Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. Learn more about the fellowship here.

March 17, 2021

How Philanthropy Can Move from Crisis to Transformation

Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, urges grantmakers and the philanthropic sector to take concrete actions to defend democracy and speak out against racist attacks on people of color. This post was originally published here by the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project.

Dimple 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. General Service Foundation, which partners with grassroots organizations to bring about a more just and sustainable world, is a member of NFG.


  

Dimple AbichandaniIt was just a year ago, and yet it feels like a lifetime.

Last March, I was dreading a hectic month packed with too much work travel. Long before we had heard of Covid-19, many of us had been preparing for 2020 to be a consequential year, one in which our democracy was on the line.

My mother had generously traveled from Houston to help with childcare during my travels. Her two-week visit turned into three months, and our worlds as we knew them changed.

Covid happened.  

Then the racial justice uprisings happened.

The wildfires happened.

The election happened. 

And then an armed insurrection to overturn the democratic election results happened.

Every turn in this tumultuous year reaffirmed the reality that justice is a matter of life and death. 

Our democracy survived, though barely. But more than half a million Americans did not, and this unfathomable loss, borne disproportionately by communities of color, is still growing.

Across the philanthropic sector, funders stepped up to meet the moment. We saw payouts increase, the removal of unnecessary bureaucracy, and commitments to flexible support from not only public and private foundations but also individual philanthropists who gave unrestricted billions.

A year ago, we all faced a rapidly changing reality — one that it made it hard to know what the next month, or next year might hold.  Now, we have turned a corner in a most consequential time in American democracy, a time that has been defined by the leadership of Black women and grassroots movements for social justice that are building the power of people — and these movements are just getting started. There is momentum for change, leadership that is solidly poised to make that change, and broad-based support for the bold solutions that will move us towards a more just and equitable society.  We are in a dramatically different time that continues to call for a dramatically different kind of philanthropy.

As we look back on this year of crisis, and see the opportunities before us now more clearly, how are funders being called to contribute to the change we know is needed?  To answer these questions, I point to the truths that remained when everything else fell away.

We have the power to change the rules.

In the early days of the pandemic, close to 800 foundations came together and pledged to provide their grantees with flexible funding and to remove burdens and barriers that divert them from their work. Restrictions on funding were waived, and additional funds were released. These changes were not the result of years-long strategic planning; instead, this was a rare example of strategic action. These quick shifts allowed movement leaders to be responsive to rapidly shifting needs. Grantees were more free to act holistically, to mobilize collectively, make shared demands, and achieve staggering change.

Today, our grantees are coping with the exhaustion, burnout, and trauma from this last year, the last four years, and even the last four hundred years. Recently, many of us have begun to invest more intentionally in the healing, sustainability, and wellness of our grantees. Systemic injustice takes a toll on a very individual human level, and as funders, we can and should resource our grantees to thrive.

Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Co-Executive Director of the Highlander Research and Education Center, has urged philanthropy to, “Fund us like you want us to win.” Last year, we learned that we are capable of doing just that — and doing it without delay. Let’s build on funding practices that center relationships and shift power to our grantees.

White supremacy got us into this mess; racial justice will get us out.

Racial justice went mainstream in 2020 as the multiple crises exposed deep inequities and injustices in our midst. In the months after the world witnessed a police officer brutally murder George Floyd, many funders responded with explicit new commitments to fund Black-led racial justice work. These standalone funding commitments have been hailed as a turning point in philanthropy — a recognition of the importance of resourcing racial justice movements.

As we move forward, we must ensure that these newly made commitments are durable and not just crisis-driven. Movements should not have to rely on heartbreaking headlines to drive the flow of future resources. We can build on new funding commitments by centering racial justice in all our grantmaking. As resources begin to flow, let’s ensure that our frameworks are intersectional and include a gender analysis. To demonstrate a true desire to repair, heal, and build a multiracial democracy, philanthropy must do meaningful work in our institutions so that, at all levels, there is an understanding of the root causes of inequality and the importance of investing in racial justice.  Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change, captured the centrality of this when he said, “We don’t get racial justice out of a true democracy. We get a true democracy out of racial justice.”

We know how to be “all in” when it's important. In this next period, it’s important.

With crisis as the rationalization, many endowed foundations were inspired to suspend a practice that our sector has long taken for granted: the 5% minimum distribution rule. In the face of compounding threats to our lives and our democracy, 64 individuals and foundations pledged to increase spending to 10% of the value of their endowment in 2020. And for the first time in years, the philanthropic sector is giving meaningful attention to the topic of spending decisions and the problem of treating the payout floor as though it is the ceiling.

To take full advantage of this once-in-a-generation opening for transformation, funders must put all the tools in our toolbox behind our ambitious missions. Social justice philanthropy can build new spending models that are not only more responsive to the moment, but also set our institutions up to better fulfill our missions — today and in the long-term.

This past summer, 26 million people marched in the streets of their small and large cities to proclaim that Black lives matter. It was the largest mobilization in our country’s history. Last fall, despite numerous efforts to suppress voters, social justice organizers mobilized the largest voter turnout we’ve ever seen. Now, as a result, we are in a moment that holds immense possibility. 

In big and small ways, we are all changed by this year. 

Our sector and our practice of philanthropy has changed too.  Let’s claim the opportunity that is before us by reimagining our norms and adopting practices that will continue to catalyze transformation.  The old philanthropy has been exposed as unfit. The new philanthropy is ours to create.