March 30, 2020

A Call for Social Solidarity: COVID-19 Response from NFG's Programs

In the midst of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, NFG stands with our communities and workers who are in crisis. As we help organize with frontline leaders and philanthropy to meet the immediate needs of our communities at this time, NFG also remains committed to long-term transformation towards a just and equitable society.

Funders must listen and move resources to organizations that are accountable to the communities that disproportionately bear the brunt of this public health and economic disaster, now and into the future. These communities include Asian Americans and Asian immigrants who are experiencing violent attacks and scapegoating based on race in addition to all the other impacts of the pandemic. 

While the pandemic has created a broader sense of national crisis and urgency, such crises are the everyday reality of many people in our communities. As movement leaders Cara Kindred and Eesha Pandit have written, “many of our communities live in crisis and economic disparities constantly. These crises, such as lack of access to dignified and quality health care and housing, a living wage, electricity, running water and freedom from state, communal, and interpersonal violence, are created and sustained by institutions and social structures that are working as intended…

This moment asks us to consider how we will pivot and adapt in a way that centers collective care, safety, and protection for each other.”  Read the full essay here. 

NFG is doing just that in our programming and grantmaking. Keep reading to hear from each of our programs how philanthropy should be pivoting and adapting:

Amplify Fund 

At Amplify we are stretching from our core! We maintain our central belief that community power drives just and equitable development and in the face of COVID-19, a just and equitable recovery. We share 3 ways to take action with us below: 

  • Give more than you ever thought possible. As a time-limited pooled fund, we are reallocating budget items so we can distribute as much in direct support as possible. We hope you give at the maximum level possible even if that’s above the 5% minimum endowment payout or your current averages. 

  • Root in racial justice now more than ever. We are continuing to resource local organizations led by directly impacted people in our 8 places across the country, and encourage you to support communities as decision-makers, follow local expertise and prioritize local leaders and leaders of color. 

  • Do what works for grantees. We are steadfast in our commitment to listen to grantees first and then act quickly, and, collaboratively, with philanthropic partners. When distributing resources, consider using JustFund, an online “one-stop shop” application portal to reduce redundancy and burden for grantees.

Democratizing Development Program 

Across the country, we are seeing health and housing justice leaders push for COVID-19 Housing and Homeless community demands that temporarily or permanently put moratoriums on evictions, rents and utility shutoffs for residential and commercial tenants. We are seeing homeless communities, having no other choice but to seize state and private properties for shelter.

Rent is due on April 1. Millions won’t be able to pay their rent due to layoffs or illness. Others don't have a home at all, or haven’t had an affordable and safe place to call home for a long time. Congress will try to respond. Today’s public health emergency exacerbates our existing housing and public health needs that already disproportionately impact low-income and communities of color. 

All philanthropic institutions should continue to partner to break out of our silos to further support housing needs and groups working at the local, state and national level. Community and family foundations should look at how they can support local groups to engage in People’s Action and others working on the national Homes Guarantee campaign. Right to the City (RTTC) is also launching a National Campaign for Rent, Utility, and Mortgage Suspension. From their experiences of enduring the long-term impacts of the 2007-2008 foreclosure crisis, RTTC is also launching a $5 million dollar emergency fund for its local, state and national grassroots members. We are grateful that philanthropy is “rapidly” responding to the health and housing crisis, but what is needed is a deeper, sustained, and longer-term commitment for program and investment dollars to support the housing needs of all.

To continue our collective response on health and housing, we are organizing a Democratizing Development funders strategy discussion to lift up examples on where funders can respond and to further support nonprofit leaders and grantmakers on short-term and longer-term strategies to build community power during this growing health crisis.

Funders for a Just Economy

On March 23 and 24, FJE hosted emergency calls with funders and its annual two-day Policy Briefing. We surveyed funders and community organizations to learn more about the immediate needs and actions groups are taking to protect workers and their families amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis.

Through these events and data, FJE created the following calls to action for funders:  

  • Coordinate, Coordinate, Coordinate. Coordinate with Grantees - Listen! Minimize the work and burden on them and support the resilience of grantees with increased funds. And support grantees to build a ground game for broader change that combats austerity policies and builds power for the long term. Coordinate with Labor and Worker Centers - Support the current worker organizing happening in high-demand and vulnerable industries, such as healthcare and other care work, grocery, farmwork, warehousing, shipping, construction, cleaning services, rideshare, public transit, and delivery. Coordinate with your Funder Colleagues - Let’s fight hard for more money! Don’t let fears of dwindling endowments and trusts determine your grant making budgets. The time is now to liberate your accumulated wealth. Advocate with your peers to allow grants to become flexible, general operating support grants.

  • Fund the immediate needs, emergency supports for all workers, their families, and their communities, and new ways of organizing. Ask: How do we find connection during isolation? How do we bring in more people into our movements in this moment? How can we build new technology infrastructure to support new organizing tactics? Support demands on corporations benefiting from relief that will increase worker power. Support policies that provided resources to people who are undocumented, incarcerated, unhoused. Support movements to decarcerate and release people in jails and detention centers now and in the longer term abolish these facilities.

  • Use resources now to support and promote longer term structural change. While immediate and emergency relief is important in the short term, we need to promote the need for structural and permanent reforms. Fund now and fund later. And with this funding, support the communications and research capacity of organizing and power building groups. They have the best strategies and knowledge of how to utilize this moment to support longer term systemic change.

Funders for Justice 

Folks of color, particularly those folks with service or contract jobs with little or no access to health care, savings, and/or housing, will see an increase in policing and criminalization. We urge you to move money directly to the field (see list of resources), in far greater amounts than you ever have before, faster and with as little burden as possible to organizations. We especially ecourage you to fund organizing and relief work led by and for communities of color and low-income communities working at the intersections of racial justice, gender justice, criminalization, and models for community safety and justice. Consider the following when making grants: 

  • Mass decarceration is a demand that is gaining traction and victories across the country. Movement bail funds are also bailing people out and migrant rights groups are getting folks out of detention. How does this change your previous belief that jail, prison, and detention are necessary? 

  • Rates of domestic violence are increasing during the shelter in place and quarantine requirements, and police are being called on to intervene in this violence. Yet, more police has never beeen an effective pathway to ending domestic and gender-based violence. Police unions are using this as a moment to advocate for larger deparment budgets, at the same time that folks need. goverrnment-funded free and easy access to health care, food, and housing - all of which support survivors in getting free from abusers. What are ways to support the safety of survivors?  Who are gender justice funders and organizations that you can partner with to support survivors?

  • The police are being called on to enforce shelter-in-place orders and quarentines. This brings an increased police presence into communities hardest hit by the pandemic - low-income communities of color. What are the dangers in this? What’s possible and necessary for reduced or no policing? 

  • How are Asian communities in the US being targeted for racist, xenophobic attacks? What does a community safety response to hate violence look like, rooted in racial justice and without involving police?   

Integrated Rural Strategies Group

We know that the demographics of rural America are changing, that folks may need to drive 3-4 hours to access a hospital, and other services — including access to remote schooling and telehealth services — might be limited or might not exist. We are organizing with funders that support work in rural regions and having important discourse around critical infrastructure. 

We’re considering how food shortages will impact rural areas, how broadband internet could become a national utility, and how philanthropy can strengthen the national social safety net for all. 

While uncertainty surrounds us all in this unprecedented moment, let’s practice social solidarity together. NFG offers you a political home: a place to connect, strategize, and take action. 

October 21, 2020

Strike Watch: Solidago Foundation's Rebecca Greenberg on Funding Democracy Defense from Georgia to Arizona

Strike Watch brings you original content from FJE on urgent economic justice issues and the latest developments in grassroots efforts to build worker power - and where funders can partner and are taking action. This week, we bring you an in-depth interview with Rebecca Greenberg of the Solidago Foundation, who shares how and why the foundation has gone all-in on shoring up grassroots movements in four US states at the front-line of electoral defense. The Black and brown-led organizations Solidago partners with build power for low-income communities to advance a just economy and progressive co-governance; they see electoral defense pre- and post-election as inseparable from this mission. We are grateful for Rebecca taking time to share learning on the critical ways electoral defense work is having an impact and will be crucial for what comes next in Georgia, Arizona, Minnesota and North Carolina - and for honing in on key practices for funders supporting such movements!

Can you share a bit about where and how Solidago is focusing when it comes to election defense, protection and post-election support, and what you’re hearing from the ground?

Given that it's the biggest election of our lifetimes, we have focused our 2020 grantmaking in four core states: Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota and North Carolina. In terms of what we’ve been seeing, I would say top lines are voter suppression. This isn’t new in any of the places where we've been and with the groups that we're talking to. They're kind of like, “Welcome to our world, welcome to our lives, welcome to what has always been true.”

COVID-19 has completely shifted the terrain in every way. Leaders, organizers and communities on the ground have ramped up and pivoted to phone, text, and digital and online strategies, and the groups are able to organize and connect with folks as it relates to their Get Out the Vote (GOTV) work, as well as how as it links to mutual aid networks and rapid response. Many plans for this shift and expansion in GOTV have been in the works already as part of the way organizations are deeply connected and responsive to community needs.

"There is persistently a high level of calculated state-sanctioned repression that is overtly racialized across all of our core states - and beyond. Just because none of this is a surprise to groups doesn't make it less challenging to overcome and to combat."

What folks are facing in terms of voter suppression is multi-faceted: safe in-person voting and worries about mail and all of the misinformation and disinformation floating out in the cyber space. Organizations are physically helping people get to voting places safely with physical distancing and other barriers. There's an interesting difference in mobilizing in states where there's already a culture of vote by mail - like Arizona where roughly 70% of voters vote by absentee ballot – versus North Carolina where less than four percent of voters participated in voting from home in the last election. In different places there is also risk of violence - real threats that have already surfaced in all four of our core states (AZ, GA, MN and NC). In North Carolina for example, during the primaries in February, white militias and white supremacist groups showed up armed in the back of trucks or cars, with guns out, at the freeways where folks were getting off to go to their polling places. This has happened even prior to this cycle in the eastern part of the state, where over 20% of the state’s Black community population lives. Along with armed violence there’s the weaponizing of COVID-19, where states are creating their policy around and practices around election administration to repress votes, like the limiting of ballot boxes. Particularly egregious in Georgia, this includes actual in-person voter intimidation tactics by refusing to wear masks or passing local policies, ordinances or rules making it not legal to wear a mask at an in-person polling place. Outside of polling places, there are hostile forces taking masks off and coughing on folks waiting in line - a fear and intimidation tactic particularly directed at people of color and Black voters disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. It is very intentional, very calculated and perverse.

Georgia definitely received a lot of attention after the Abrams campaign in 2018, and there is persistently a high level of calculated state-sanctioned repression that is overtly racialized across all of our core states - and beyond. Just because none of this is a surprise to groups doesn't make it less challenging to overcome and to combat. The repression of elections is methodical, and there's political will and buy-in at the state and now national level for the system to function in this way.

How did Solidago – a long time supporter of economic justice and worker movements – decide to jump into election defense, and how have you extended support?

The foundation has been in a period of transition over the last year. At the beginning of 2020 the Board decided that the foundation was going to return to its original trajectory, to spend all the assets of the foundation down and to sunset by 2022-2023. Our Board prioritized the election. This is not changing our theory of change and the way that we have been committed to supporting base-building community rooted groups, organizing, mobilizing, working with and for communities of color low-income communities of color. Now, this year, we are supporting those groups in their work around this election. The geographies where we focused after a lot of analysis are swing states where are there contested elections up and down the ballot, where there is a progressive ecosystem of movement of independent political organizations and power-building groups, and where there is an opportunity for us to come in to support with flexible resources. In the Spring we did a docket that was very focused on GOTV on the [501](c)(3) side -  non-partisan and supporting long-term power building organizations doing that work. Our (c)(4) sister foundation supported related organizations in long-term power building groups working more explicitly on the political and electoral organizing side, in relationship with their non-partisan integrated voter engagement work.

Election protection surfaced as a key need, and the questions we asked ourselves were: Is this a body of work that exists separate and apart from the other core work of base-building and independent political power? The answer is no - it is baked into the work because it is so steeped in the systems that folks are dealing with, practices and policies so extremely and unabashedly racialized and directed at Black and brown communities, including citizen militias, white supremacists and white nationalists. In some case there might be a specific plan or body work with national networks guiding and helping state-based groups in election defense, but it’s part and parcel of what movement organizations do over the long-term.

And it shows up differently across our focus states: In Arizona, several amazing Latinx movement leaders grew up organizing in response to fighting for their lives while living in the SB 1070 days under Arpaio, and now - together with a multi-racial coalition of movement allies - are leading the work in the state. That has shaped an amazing set of groups where there's already a culture of vote-by-mail, but where there are still many challenges and systemic roadblocks for communities of color, Black and Native communities to access the ballot. In particular, Native American communities have been deeply impacted by COVID-19, but there is movement energy around supporting and connecting their organizing in this process. In Arizona, we have been supporting the coalitions and voter engagement tables, which hasn’t historically been Solidago's approach. In some states, groups have told us that for Election Protection work, it is helpful to support the tables as that’s where this work lives. Still, we tend to think that if we have the flexibility and ability, we should support the scrappy groups on the ground without intermediaries. At least in some of these places, when it comes to election protection, groups have affirmed that they are in relationship and alignment through the tables. Our strategy is to resource the groups directly and also support this shared infrastructure.

Solidago is unique in many ways in its extensive support for 501(c)(4) organizations. What ways are you funding these groups, and do you think that it’s important for economic and social justice funders to consider resourcing this part of movements?

For a lot of the organizations we've been in relationship with over the years, we helped support getting their (c)(4) up. These are now off and running; our work has been to both support lobbying dollars on the (c)(4) side and unrestricted dollars in alignment with the work on the (c)(3) side. “Election Protection” is typically more thought of as the (c)(3) kind of universe where it's non-partisan, so it was interesting to hear from groups in the (c)(4) spaces that they need support here too. (c)(4) work is more than just persuasion. In this space, non-partisan voter engagement work includes know-your-rights on how to access the ballot and equipping the volunteers and staff, at every level of the organization, with the ability to actually engage with the community to answer questions about how voting affects someone’s life right now.

Being able to provide support for language access came up in some of the (c)(4) groups in Georgia, for example with the AAPI population heavily concentrated and growing in the greater Atlanta area. As with many other states, Georgia is not providing adequate language access in vote-by-mail materials, so (c)(4) dollars can be used to provide translation for persuasive information accessible to groups of voters who otherwise do not have access. Where in-person contact is limited because of COVID-19 digital and print materials in appropriate languages are able to reach more people, more quickly.

When we are looking at the likelihood of a contested election and what's going to happen in the days, weeks and months following November 3rd, we want to be able to resource groups’ tool belts, which they have created and built over time. We want to ensure that at any given moment they're able to do a mass mobilization in coordination with others in their town, in the city and at the state level; to lobby with their elected officials; to participate in strategic litigation efforts; to fight and advocate for policy change. All those different tactics at their disposal also advance economic justice.

Can you share some of the ways you’re seeing the connection on the ground between the pre- and post-elections organizing happening, and the work for economic justice?

We can’t lose sight that this election is about more than the president. There are key races up and down the ballot in a lot of different places, and for many state-based groups it is but one more step towards progressive governance. In these final weeks it's all hands on deck to get as many people out to vote as possible, and the groups we work with are also continuing to build plans and prepare for what's going to happen when redistricting starts in January or in places where the state or local level dynamics and politics might present opportunities for passing some progressive legislation.

"As folks organize, it’s clear how in critical elections at every level, economic justice is at stake. For instance...Georgia 9 to 5, in partnership with other groups like Black Voters Matter, is challenging devastating real life implications of what happens when the public utilities are controlled by conservative forces."

I was particularly excited about the foundation agreeing to prioritize Georgia as one of the four states this year. Historically we have funded in some Southern states – in Texas, Florida and Virginia – but like a lot of institutions have not moved many resources in the deep South. It’s a good chance to be able to demystify what I hear a lot in philanthropy or in certain spaces – which is, “There’s a lot possibility and opportunity in the region but we don't really know how we can fund there - is there is the infrastructure there for us to be able to support.” The answer is, of course, the infrastructure is there and might look different; groups might call themselves something different than what you might be used to.  Relationships are incredibly important and organizations in the South have been building for a long time, with few resources. This is true of the grassroots worker center model and even some of the larger statewide organizations, who contend with the fact power and money is very concentrated in the metro Atlanta area. We’ve encouraged our board really support Black women’s leadership in this progressive ecosystem, leading statewide work and focusing on areas like coastal andsouthwestern GA. These organizations are targeting a smaller set of counties for particular state legislative races to shift power on the state level and chip away at exclusionary, destructive policies – with the last two years particularly terrible under Governor Kemp.

I want to also recognize that in Georgia in particular, we were introduced to a lot of this work by partners in philanthropy - so this isn't some like discovery that we made by any stretch of the imagination. We were lucky to be invited to a site visit organized by Jillian Murphy with the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund back in February and Melanie Allen who's now co-directing the Hive Fund for Gender and Climate. Both Jillian and Melanie, together with other colleagues, have been instrumental in helping us shape our understanding of the state.

As folks organize, it’s clear how in critical elections at every level, economic justice is at stake: For instance, In Georgia, economic justice groups, primarily Georgia 9 to 5, in partnership with other groups like Black Voters Matter, is challenging devastating real life implications of what happens when the public utilities are controlled by conservative forces (in GA, by the Public Service Commission, an elected body that gets little attention on the ballot). The fact Georgia is right to work state, the fact unemployment is skyrocketing and the minimum wage is already an unconscionable $5.15 per hour - all these forces are working against folks.  Our partners and Georgia 9 to 5 have shared devastating stories of community members in Southwest Georgia attempting to take their own life after trying to unsuccessfully resolve having their lights cut off and the ways their members are under stress and at risk. These stories get lost in the focus on the national elections, and yet they can also be shifted with building power locally.

What have you learned and honed in terms of funding practices from this last year of funding election defense – and where you think philanthropy can take action in this urgent moment?

As we have continued to move general operating support to groups organizing year-round via multi-issue, multi-racial organizing groups, we are also preparing emergency grants – a rapid response for after election day. We’re finalizing what that looks like and if we’ll just focus on the four states we are in currently, but Solidago not going to be requiring proposals from folks. Our goal is to respond - quickly - anticipating what might be a long road to deciding the election.

I think there are needs that groups have that might not seem like conventional power-building towards a strategic agenda, but that is crucial to support in this moment - folks are going to need PPE for their members to be able to vote and for people recruited to be poll workers or to help monitor counting of ballots. In some states like North Carolina there are longer cure periods than in Georgia for mistakes on your mail-in ballot, and groups may be involved with that process. This requires short-term sustained responsive support. The best bet is to keep offering flexible general operating support - it doesn't have to be a large grant. For us, we don’t move the same resource as larger national foundations, and can’t by definition offer longer-term funding as we plan to sunset, but we seek to make up with that in being flexible and fearless. The point is, at this moment, the funding does not have to be a huge, it just needs to be responsive:  what do groups really need to be able to provide the level of PPE, water, food, entertainment for people coming to vote, and how can we protect folks at the polls and after? How can we support the work folks will be doing to keep community mobilized, motivated and energized right after the election?

"Crucial healing work and supportive work is needed - it doesn't have to be conventional GOTV. And the good news is, it’s never too late to support: if you're not going to be a transactional political donor or a transactional anything donor then it's never too late."

People running organizations, volunteering and surviving in this insane time are tired, and as we talk about voter suppression or election protection, we have to uplift people being targeted -   Black, brown and low-income communities. No one has been given a reason to believe that any of their participation in this process matters, except for how groups and communities on the frontlines are asserting a voice for themselves through all of the amazing work in community and on the ground. That kind of inspiration is crucial and it’s really important and so keeping people sustained, motivated, and healthy who do this work day in and day out. That can't be undervalued. Crucial healing work and supportive work is needed - it doesn't have to be conventional GOTV. And the good news is, it’s never too late to support: if you're not going to be a transactional political donor or a transactional anything donor then it's never too late. Just ask the groups what they need and they'll tell you; build that relationship, now.

In the foundation world, we might just be paying attention now because we finally feel like we have something to lose. But folks on the ground have been experiencing this for much longer. We need to trust their decisions and that theirs is the strategy that's going to be deployed now. They have the plans, tactics, ability to mass mobilize, or sue the government. They have ideas on power building beyond the election. We have to respond in this moment by continuing to support groups to build and be ready to move their agendas across so many levels, and in ways that allow them to protect people and protect opportunities for economic justice.

September 29, 2020

NFG Newsletter - September 2020

Last week, NFG’s Amplify Fund and Funders for a Just Economy hosted a virtual learning visit in Nashville to showcase how Stand Up Nashville and The Equity Alliance are building power in their city for all residents. These Black women-led organizations have laid the foundation for recent movements supporting mutual aid and just recovery from disasters, community development, and economic justice (watch this video to learn more about these powerful groups).

We heard from Tequila Johnson and Charlane Oliver, Co-Founders and Co-Executive Directors at The Equity Alliance, and Odessa Kelly, Executive Director at Stand Up Nashville, who described how the incredible organizing and power built by Black communities in Nashville is often overshadowed by more resourced, white-led groups that receive more philanthropic dollars and consequently have an outsized influence in the city.

"There are a lot of great organizations doing great work making great systemic change and they're grossly underfunded because the people who usually get the money are usually the loudest people in the room. And we all know that empty barrels make a lot of noise." Quote by Tequila Johnson, The Equity Alliance.

 
This imbalanced distribution of philanthropic resources is true in many communities across the US. Tequila, Charlane, and Odessa called on funders not to always give money to the loudest person in the room or the groups that make the biggest splash on social media. As Tequila said during the learning visit: empty barrels make a lot of noise but impacting systemic change requires philanthropy to dig deeper to understand and fund the less visible power building work led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color organizations.

This Nashville visit coincided with the news that there is no justice for Breonna Taylor and that the systems that killed her will not be held accountable. Black Lives Matter — today, tomorrow, and forever. And funders must be accountable to Black communities so that philanthropic resources aren’t just funding more empty barrels to make noise — but taking risks that are worthy of the courage of our communities.

Philanthropy has a stake in ensuring that people can organize, build power, and transform their lives and communities. NFG urges you to fully resource work that centers the lives, safety, and success of Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities:

  • Be in conversation and community with NFG as you work to do better in your role as a funder.

  • Take action to dismantle the internalized racism, white supremacy, homophobia, and transphobia that exists in the philanthropic sector; check out NFG’s Accountability and Philanthropy’s Role convening plenary video for examples of how funders are doing this.

  • Learn how you can support divest/invest campaigns with Divest/Invest: From Criminalization to Thriving Communities, an online toolkit for grantmakers on how policing and criminalization impacts private and public funding for housing, healthcare, education, and other infrastructure necessary for safe communities.

  • Commit to doing better in support of and in solidarity with trans communities by signing onto Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ Grantmakers United for Trans Communities Pledge (read more about NFG’s commitment below).

  • Move more money to M4BL and Black-led groups like The Equity Alliance and Stand Up Nashville.

  • Use tools like JustFund to find groups to fund and reduce the burden on grantees.

  • And exercise your power and platform as a funder to be vocal about the actions you are taking to deepen your institutional and personal accountability to Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities and low-income communities.

In solidarity,
The NFG team

Read the newsletter.

Find More By:

News type: