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

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 12, 2019

FFJ Advisor Discussion Series: Marisa Franco

Marisa Franco, FFJ Field Advisor and Director and Co-founder of of Mijente, a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing and movement building, speaks on the current political moment and how funders can contribute to movement work.

Tell us about the particular moment you are in with your work and place in the movement.

Entering into our fourth year, we are doing our best to be a vehicle to both respond to the real-time challenges our communities face and a place to find respite, connection, and replenished meaning. Given what the Latinx and Chicanx community faces, we’ve got to walk and chew gum at the same time (and hop on one leg, juggle, and balance something on our head!) but we believe that through the continued growth where organizers, healers, change-makers, designers, and disrupters feel Mijente is a place to meaningfully contribute to collective liberation means we are going in the right direction. It is my view that our most critical task at this time is growth and recruitment - millions of people are becoming exposed to the injustice and summarily wrong direction we are heading in - our organizations must be open and accessible entry points for people to contribute to moving us in the right direction.

How do you understand the political moment that we’re in? What do you think we need to do differently right now?

Ultimately I think that lots of what we reference as threats that are coming are largely here - crisis as a result of climate change is here, it’s being felt across the planet. The extreme backlash and attempt to re-entrench power due to demographic change is here, occurring in localities across the United States. Authoritarianism is a growing threat beyond Donald Trump and within the domestic United States. Given all of this, at the very least I think it’s critical we start to widen our panorama of political understanding to include outside of the United States and make the connections internationally. Rest assured, our adversaries are in coordination - we ignore our movement siblings and the struggle outside of the United States to our own detriment.

What should funders be understanding in this political moment? What should funders be doing to support organizations and movements?

What’s important to understand in this political moment is how the volatility impacts the plans, perspective, and morale of people in organizations and social movements. It has become more and more difficult to lay out plans that feel real given how normal it's become for so much to turn upside down pretty regularly. Some understanding and support of this from funders, particularly when it means proposed work is not carried out in the way it was initially described, is very helpful.

Continued support for rapid response tactics is critical, as well as funds that help convene key groups and/or leaders in this time goes a long way. In times like these, those that are able to adapt and move quickly are well positioned to make impactful changes. These folks have got to be able to do so with enough support and not too many hurdles, hoops, and paper to be able to move. So some of these existing practices around simplifying processes, making funds available for rapid response activities, and pop up convenings is something that has been helpful thus far and is important to continue.

December 10, 2018

Welcome to the new NFG website!

Thank you for visiting Neighborhood Funders Group's new website! We've completely redesigned and improved how it works to make it easier than ever for our members to use as an online resource.

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