December 11, 2017

NFG moves into grantmaking with a multimillion-dollar collaborative fund

Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) steps into the role of collaborative grantmaker with The Amplify Fund—a new, multimillion-dollar pooled fund focused on investing in equitable, community-led development. The fund, which is seeded by Surdna Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations, is an opportunity for funders to support work to shift local power structures and put decisions about local development in the hands of residents.

“Neighborhood Funders Group’s core purpose is to build philanthropy’s capacity to move more resources more effectively to low-income communities and communities of color,” said Dennis Quirin, president of NFG. “The Amplify Fund is a catalytic opportunity for NFG to live its mission and provide a vehicle for funders to resource this critical work in a more impactful and collaborative way.” 

Jerry Maldonado, program officer at Ford Foundation said, “The Ford Foundation sees NFG and its network of field leaders as a driving force in organizing philanthropy to move resources to equitable and sustainable community development. That's why we at Ford are so excited to be launching the Amplify Fund alongside other funders that share a vision of equitable community development.”

NFG has hired Amy Morris, former NFG board member and former Surdna Foundation program officer, to serve as the fund's Director. The fund will invest in regions of the U.S. that are grappling with development, displacement, and gentrification—where sustainable community power will support long-term wins.

“The strategy and vision for this fund builds on the hard work of field leaders who have developed the guiding analysis and strategic thinking in the very early stages of the fund’s conception, and will continue to remain at the center of the effort,” said Amy of the fund’s grantmaking strategy.

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

Deidre Swesnik, program officer at the Open Society Foundations, said of the Amplify Fund’s focus, “The barriers to making local and regional development truly equitable are substantial. By combining forces and sharing analysis and strategy, we can maximize our impact and our reach—building the power, influence, and direct decision-making authority of communities of color and low-income communities in regions across the country.”

“The Amplify Fund will bolster the ongoing efforts of residents in historically marginalized communities and support local movements toward equitable community development,” said Phillip Henderson, president of the Surdna Foundation. “We are truly grateful to partner with Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and the Neighborhood Funders Group to launch this ambitious initiative that will build and strengthen the field of community-engaged development to create just and sustainable communities for the future.”

The fund is looking to raise at least $14M to support grantmaking and programming in up to ten sites over a four-year period. To date, the seed funders have pooled the majority of this budget goal, but we’re not all the way there yet. The Amplify Fund invites other funders in the NFG network and beyond to join this exciting effort. Foundations or donors that join the fund in 2018 may have the opportunity to sit on the national steering committee, help select sites, guide strategy decisions, and determine structure and grantmaking practice.

For more information about how to join the Amplify Fund, please contact the fund’s director, Amy Morris, at amy@nfg.org.

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

Read the newsletter

Find More By:

News type: