March 21, 2019

The Amplify Fund is Expanding Support for Power Building and Equitable Development in 2019

When Neighborhood Funders Group launched the Amplify Fund in 2018, it was with a singular core purpose: to bring together funders to learn, collaborate and mobilize resources toward power building and organizing for equitable development.

The Fund aims to strengthen the ability of communities of color and low-income communities to guide decisions about just and equitable development and to shape the places they live. This ambitious goal is grounded in the belief that, as a society, we need a sustainable political and governing infrastructure that prioritizes the needs of people above corporations. Communities that are underrepresented in our civic culture also need to be authentic stakeholders in the decisions that affect their daily lives.

One of our first questions in the Fund’s design was where this multi-site, place-based grantmaking fund would operate. From the outset, we knew we wanted to be in places where work at the intersection of power building and equitable development was being driven by impacted communities. This is typified by grassroots groups across Puerto Rico that are building power with hurricane-impacted communities to alter the course of disaster capitalism, ensure dignified housing, exert community influence over the application of federal disaster relief funds, and bring about a new energy future for the island.

We were clear we wanted to work in communities of color and with low-income people in places that were politically alive in the national arena and where the local politics speak to who we are as a nation, but are frequently overlooked by national philanthropy—like Missouri. Specifically, in the St Louis region, the 2014 murder of Michael Brown Jr. resulted in a new awareness of the ways in which the deep racial segregation and disinvestment of Black communities has had negative outcomes for the region as a whole. Yet, Missouri often is not included in national philanthropic funding strategies.

And, we could see we needed to work in places where we would have strong funding partners who could help us build momentum for long-term sustainable funding. This is the case among the funders that have formed the Fund for an Inclusive California, which is working across the state to build power with communities of color affected by the housing crisis.

In our vision, when people of color and low-income communities have the power to transform the places where they live, the results can shift historical inequities and result in a more just future. To that end, we continue to grow the Fund and are working now with a set of local leaders in North Carolina to determine our funding strategy there. And, this month, we culminated a process of further learning and analysis gained from talking with local leaders – funders and field leaders – and national leaders from across the country to determine additional places to support local work. Beginning in late 2019, Amplify Fund will be dedicating resources to four new places - Pittsburgh, Nashville, South Carolina and Nevada.

Everywhere Amplify works, we strive to increase organizing capacity in communities of color and low-income communities and to rely on their wisdom in developing solutions for long-standing inequities by supporting locally driven collaborations, movement building, and risk-taking. The way we work in each place is different, and tailored to the local context: 

  • Nevada and South Carolina will join North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Missouri, as places where we are co-creating grantmaking strategies with guidance from local advisors, including organizers, funders, and those impacted by the issues firsthand. That process will help us to determine where in each state we will specifically focus and what our grantmaking focus will attempt to help shift in the local landscape.
  • In Pittsburgh and Nashville we will work in a slightly different way, using targeted opportunity grants to support groups, coalitions, and campaigns and lean into timely opportunities to accelerate ongoing work with additional resources. 
  • In California, we are proud to continue partnering with Fund for an Inclusive California to engage a table of local CA-based funders and community leaders to help build the funding strategy in the state. 

Through our grantmaking and funder organizing in all eight Amplify places over the next three years, we will move resources to efforts led by people of color and low-income communities working to build power to advance their vision of equitable development. We will provide general operating support to local groups, coalitions, and tables that center racial justice and community power. And, to be effective in responding to local circumstances, we will continue to listen to and work hand in hand with local leaders to understand regional context and needs.

We are incredibly excited to work in partnership with local leaders in this expanded set of geographies to put power in the hands of people whose wisdom is best suited to influence the decisions that shape the places where they live. Amplify members currently include the Ford Foundation, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, JPB Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Moriah Fund, Open Society Foundations, Surdna Foundation, and The California Endowment. The fund is looking to raise at least $17 million to support grantmaking and programming for its eight places over a four-year period. To date, the member funders have pooled a good portion of this budget goal, but we’re not all the way there yet. We invite other funders in the NFG network and beyond to join Amplify’s current funding partners to increase support for communities working at the intersection of power-building and equitable development. 

For more information about how to join the Amplify Fund, please contact amplify@nfg.org.

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.

September 3, 2019

Capitalism and Racism: Conjoined Twins

By Marjona Jones, Co-Chair of Funders for a Just Economy and Senior Program Officer at Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock

Marjona Jones speaking at a podium.

A few weeks ago, Democracy Now! aired a segment with Ibram X. Kendi, author and founding director of the Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center at American University, where he discussed white supremacy, anti-racism, and the increase in mass shootings. What struck me about the segment was his illuminating statement about the origins of capitalism. Kendi views capitalism and racism as "conjoined twins" and that “…the origins of racism cannot be separated from the origins of capitalism… the life of capitalism cannot be separated from the life of racism.”

Kendi continued by discussing how the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade allowed for the massive accumulation of wealth in Europe and the Americas. Centuries of wage theft, trading in human bondage, insurance claims on "lost" cargo, and reparations for slave owners after emancipation entrenched this capitalist system with inequities based on race built into it. Slave owners protected their concentrated wealth by shaping our socio-economic and legal systems to benefit themselves and the industry of slavery, as well as limit democracy.

As I celebrate the worker movement’s victories on Labor Day this year, this segment and past conversations with grantees has triggered an important question for me: What does the notion that capitalism and racism are inextricably linked mean for our work as funders of racial and economic justice? Our grantee partners tell us how workers are implicated in the entangled web of these “conjoined twins” of racism and capitalism. Many worker-based organizations state that the best vehicle this country has in pursuit of economic justice is through organizing workers, but traditional labor hasn’t always been the best vehicle for racial justice. As Bill Fletcher Jr. and Fernando Gapasin discuss in Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, while many unions integrated in the 1920s, some unionists decided to resist integration to ensure wins and job quality for white workers. These traditionalists understood the idea of “conjoined twins.”

Racial and economic justice movements have exposed exploitative and extractive practices within capitalism, making it less secure to accumulate wealth through those means. However, as Michelle Alexander points out in her book, The New Jim Crow, exposing capitalism for what it is forces it to transform and evolve. For example, following the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, agriculture was still the main economic engine, and free exploited labor was needed for this industry to survive. Capitalism evolved while maintaining its racist and exploitative roots through policymakers passing the Black Codes of 1865 and 1866, making it easier to imprison recently freed slaves to continue that supply of free labor.

We are catching up to the fact that capitalism was never meant to work for everyone. What will the next evolution in capitalism bring as our movements fight even harder for racial and economic justice in the face of harm to workers and marginalized communities?

Funders for a Just Economy (FJE) has created an intentional space to begin discussing what these questions mean for our work and the grantees we support. Capitalism’s origin story is a critical part of analyzing how this system operates. By acknowledging the “conjoined twins,” we acknowledge the role of race and the legacy of slavery. FJE believes that there is a renewed opportunity to support a working-class movement that builds the power of all workers, especially Black, Trans and LGBQ workers, women, and immigrants—and lift their role as the main strategists to change the system. If we believe another world is possible, then so is another system that bakes in justice, equity, and respect.


  

Join FJE for these conversations and more at the upcoming Racial Capitalism, Power and Resistance event on October 17 & 18 in Brooklyn, NY. More information and registration link here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Power Building Study Group for Neighborhood Funders Group members, and the Disrupt the System: How Labor and Philanthropy can Build Worker Power in a New Era event co-convened by the AFL-CIO, the LIFT Fund, and FJE on December 11 in Washington, DC. More information coming soon!