March 31, 2017

No more fake budgets?! Exploring Equity-Based Approaches to Financial Review

By Iris Garcia, Grants Manager at Akonadi Foundation

Since 2000, Akonadi Foundation has been working to support and nurture racial justice movement building through our core grantmaking programs, the Arc Toward Justice Fund and the Beloved Community Fund. Over the past 17 years, we have been seeking out ways to align our internal systems and practices with our racial justice values. Through Akonadi’s involvement with Bay Area Justice Funders Network, we met Carol Cantwell, the founder of Fun with Financials, who introduced a new tool for approaching financial due diligence: Financial Health Indicators (FHI). The FHI pulls three years of financial data directly from an organization’s IRS Form 990 and provides an overview of financial trends. In 2014 we adopted this tool for our Arc Towards Justice Fund, which provides general support funding to racial justice organizations in Oakland, to help us be in conversation with our grantees about their financial goals and reduce grantee burden in the grantmaking process. For the past three years we have not requested budgets from our grantee cohort. Rather, we have analyzed their financial data from 990s that we download directly from Guidestar and have used this analysis to engage in conversation with our partners about their financial position. This transition has embodied our values in a few ways:

  1. We try not to overburden our partners with requests for data or content, and by eliminating the need for a budget, we hope that groups can spend that time in community, strategizing, or movement-building
  2. By using and sharing the FHI tool with our grantee partners, we are ensuring a level of transparency, so that our partners know exactly what we are seeing when we review their financial records. This transparency can help address the power imbalance between grantor and grantseeker, and we have tried to use this analysis as a starting point for conversations about building financial sustainability in the long-term.
  3. As part of our application process, we host a webinar about Financial Health Indicators for applicants, and these organizations have been able to ask questions directly to Carol Cantwell. We see this step as building capacity of organizations to look at their finances in a different way and ask themselves questions that go beyond a balanced budget.

We have found that this experiment has challenged us to think more deeply about the financial due diligence process, why we request financial data and what our role is in supporting the financial stability of the racial justice movement in Oakland. If any other funders are interested in exploring equity-based approaches to financial due diligence, we would be happy to connect and share our experience. For another institution’s perspective on using the FHI tool, please read this article by the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program: In Other Words, Funder Budgets are Fake.  

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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. 

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.
The NFG team

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