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. 

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.

March 25, 2021

Philanthropy must be accountable: NFG's March 2021 Newsletter

We need each other and all of us in the fight for racial, gender, economic, and climate justice. The latest incidents of hate against AAPI women, elders, and our communities have left us grieving, angry, tired, and steadfast in our commitment to make philanthropy more accountable to AAPI, Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities and low-income communities. See our full statement calling on all of us to Stop Asian Hate.

As Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director of General Service Foundation, said in Neighborhood Funders Group’s 40 Years Strong convening series, "We must create cultures of accountability. How are we meeting this moment? A lot of what we need to do could be called organizing, but I think of it as meaning making." It is our collective work to make meaning of systemic injustices and resource power-building led by AAPI, Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities at the level that is necessary for all of us to thrive.

NFG is holding philanthropy accountable by urging funders to utilize all of their institution’s assets to pursue social justice, center worker justice movements and strategies, strengthen organizing infrastructure built by Black women to shift political and economic power, support reparations and drive wealth back to Black and Indigenous communities, and reimagine public safety and community care to ensure everyone has a place to call home.

In the next few weeks, we'll be announcing more opportunities to connect with the NFG community, sharing Funders for a Just Economy's next Building Power in Place report featuring organizers in Texas, and releasing a new report on rural organizing in New York state commissioned by Engage New York and NFG's Integrated Rural Strategies Group.


In solidarity,
The NFG team

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