September 4, 2018

Are funders ready to fight for our freedom?

By Manisha Vaze, Senior Program Manager of NFG's Funders for a Just Economy

This Labor Day weekend, as we celebrate the last days of summer with barbeques and back-to-school preparation, I am thinking about how the labor movement is facing some of the most serious threats to its future. Well-funded efforts are shutting down public sector unions and workers’ ability to collectively bargain, while corporations are using their lobbying power to lock contingent and informal workers out of basic labor protections.  Companies are worming out of providing basic benefits such as health care, sick days, family leave, and fair work schedules, while also receiving significant tax breaks. These corporations are being propped up as saviors of the American workforce because of their ability to create jobs, or because of the beloved nature of their products, services, and shipping times that come at the literal expense of the workers who make, provide, and deliver these goods.

To me, it’s no accident that while the American economy is purportedly at its height, wages have continued to stagnate and workers have seen little to no benefits. The shifts in the economy have largely come from a culture of extraction of resources from companies on to shareholders and CEOs. It is part of not decades, but centuries of poor labor conditions, racist economic policies, and use of slave labor.

Moreover, we are getting distracted by the short-sighted antics of politics and politicos who are campaigning in two- and four-year cycles instead of working to build long term democratic values in our public policies and budgets. And culturally, many are more interested in maintaining their partisan identities and white supremacy than their own ability to make ends meet.

Despite this doom and gloom, what’s clear is that there is energy and motivation to bring back a culture of interdependence, collectivism, and a demand for basic rights. The current prison strike is emblematic of this energy – incarcerated people are standing up to slavery and exploitation as they are stripped of their constitutional rights. In Los Angeles, United Teachers LA just voted to authorize a strike for better pay and smaller class sizes, following many teacher strikes this year including one in Southwest Washington last week. These efforts are proof that workers will organize against the bosses and resist the authoritarian conditions that lead to their mistreatment, regardless of the cuts to legal protections and structures in place to defend workers’ rights.

These efforts also occurred without any philanthropic funding. Recent data shows that funding towards economic and labor rights are a paltry 6% of the total funding that goes towards human rights, with grassroots organizing efforts being one of the least funded. But, shifting power to create the conditions for real change requires larger investments and larger resources, and more risk taking. When workers are willing to lose wages, face extreme retaliation, and risk their livelihoods, how can we as funders stand by, citing the barriers of our program strategies and five-year plans? Now, more than ever, we need to be fighting for the future of labor and employment – one that is about the value of work and improving the quality of life for everyday people. 

Assata Shakur wrote that “It is our duty to fight for our freedom / It is our duty to win.” Funders, are we ready to do everything in our power to make sure we win?

February 28, 2020

NFG Newsletter - February 2020

February is Black History Month and, in this newsletter, NFG honors Black resistance. Given the persistence of structural racism and the legacies of segregation, NFG has mobilized philanthropy to support POC-led organizing for equitable development since our start 40 years ago. Through our member-led and local advisor-led programming, we are lifting up how Black communities are reclaiming land ownership and addressing the racial wealth gap through grassroots power building.

At the beginning of the month, NFG’s Amplify Fund staff and steering committee spent a day with local organizers, non-profit leaders, and organizations in Charleston and Edisto Island, South Carolina — one of Amplify’s eight sites. Both national and local grantmakers learned alongside some of Amplify’s grantees, including the Center for Heirs’ Property PreservationLow Country Alliance for Model CommunitiesCarolina Youth Action Project, and South Carolina Association for Community and Economic Development, which are bringing together Black, Latinx communities and youth in the region to fight for community power, land rights, and environmental justice in the face of corporate power, criminalization of communities of color due to gentrification, and land theft.

This week, NFG’s Democratizing Development Program (DDP) hosted a two-day Health, Housing, Race, Equity and Power Funders Convening in Oakland, California. Over 100 participants grappled with how anti-Blackness and xenophobia fuel the complex housing & health crisis and community trauma, and heard examples of concrete organizing wins led by Black women from Moms 4 Housing and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. Organizers from around the country urged grantmakers to significantly invest in long-term general operating support, community ownership models, POC leadership, and 501(c)4 funding for Black, Indigenous, and POC communities engaging in policy and systems change around housing affordability and justice. 

From Amplify’s funder collaborative to the DDP convening’s planning committee, funders organizing other funders has been a key part of our work. Funder members: how are you stepping up as an organizer and moving more resources for power building in Black, Indigenous, and POC communities? We invite you to connect with NFG staffprograms, and upcoming events — including our National Convening — and be part of our community where we bring funders together to learn, connect, and mobilize resources with an intersectional and place-based focus. 

Onwards,
The NFG team

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January 23, 2020

NFG Newsletter - January 2020

Animated fireworks with the text "40 Years Strong"

This year marks NFG's 40th anniversary. During our early years, NFG was one of the few spaces in philanthropy specifically focused on people of color-led, grassroots organizing, and power building as the key to effective social change strategies. Today, NFG continues to be many funders' political home at a time when moving resources to struggles for justice is critically important: communities of color are bearing the brunt of the housing crisis, growing wealth and income inequality, and climate change; white nationalist backlash is rising; and our democracy is profoundly threatened. NFG is a space to draw support, deepen relationships, and find co-conspirators as we propel philanthropy to shift power and money towards justice and equity.

In 2020, the NFG network is continuing to explore structural racism in health and housing, racial capitalism, migrant worker justice in rural areas, reimagining community safety and justice, and more. We will also return ‘home’ to NFG’s founding city — Washington, D.C. — for our 2020 National Convening.

As we celebrate 40 years, our dynamic community of grantmakers and grassroots leaders is what makes us strong. This newsletter spotlights The Libra Foundation, an NFG member that shares our commitment to organizing funders in moving more resources to frontline communities and movements.

Keep reading below for more opportunities to engage with NFG. Whether you are new to NFG or a long-time member, we look forward to collaborating with you to accelerate racial, gender, economic, and climate justice.
 
Onwards,
The NFG team

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