September 1, 2017

Reflections on Labor Day from Funders for a Just Economy

Alejandra L. Ibañez, Chair of NFG's Funders for a Just Economy and Lead Program Officer at Woods Fund Chicago, urges colleagues to defend the past achievements for workers' rights that are now being threatened by unprecedented attacks, and to be bold in pushing towards a more just economy.

As we prepare for the Labor Day weekend, which celebrates the strength, resilience, and achievements of workers in this country, I am reminded of the history of organized labor in shaping progressive social movements. And where organized labor has not gone, we see a flourishing of worker centers and the development of cooperatives and small businesses that provide a path towards the economic self-determination for communities of color.

As a Chicagoan, I would be remiss to not recognize the historic role of Chicago workers and activists with such critically important events as the Haymarket Tragedy of 1886 and the Pullman Strike of 1894 in making Labor Day a national holiday. Today our region’s worker centers continue the fight for labor reform and worker’s protections and recently passed the Responsible Job Creations Act, providing protections for our most precarious workers in the Temp industry. This was only possible because Black and Immigrant workers have come together to make unified demands for better conditions.

As an immigrant who grew up in a working class family, with an undocumented mother at the helm forced to work multiple minimum wage jobs, sometimes history can sound like a faint hum against the tireless drum beat of the day-to-day survival for many workers like my mother. Workers today are facing unprecedented attacks we could not have predicted a little more than a year ago and now we have no choice but to do more. This Administration’s current policies are perpetuating economic discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, criminal history, and immigration status and eroding job quality, benefits, and health and safety regulations.

In the face of these harrowing challenges, we must articulate and create the economic structures needed to push forward and continue building a more just economy. Since 1996, the Funders for a Just Economy (FJE) has engaged and organized funders around strategies that improve access to quality employment for working families with living wages, comprehensive benefits, improved health and safety conditions, with the aim of economic stability for low-wage workers. First as a community organizer in Chicago’s near south side, and now as a program officer, I have witnessed the power and success of collective efforts by workers, parents and youth demanding what they need for better living and working conditions.

Now more than ever, our understanding of and ability to support the field in addressing systemic racism, structural poverty, criminalization, and gender-based discrimination is critical to resisting economic conservatism, dismantling white supremacy, and shifting power. We must be bold and strong in our strategies and programs to meet the challenges of today.

As a first step, I am inviting you to this year’s learning tour in the state of Alabama. The people of Alabama are on the frontlines of these challenges, as they face pre-emption laws, mass incarceration of young African American males, blatant racism against undocumented workers and social conservatism that permeates local and statewide lawmaking. On this tour, you will learn how communities are organizing for change with migrants, farmers, and people of color leading the charge.

A more detailed agenda for the tour will be available soon. If you would like to learn more about the learning tour or get involved with Funders for a Just Economy, please contact Senior Program Manager Manisha Vaze at

October 24, 2019

Reflections from Philanthropy Forward's First Cohort

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change is a CEO fellowship program created by Neighborhood Funders Group and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The program's first cohort started in October 2018 in furtherance of building and advancing a shared vision for the future of philanthropy.

Hear perspectives from members of the first cohort as they reflect in this video on their work together as strategic thought partners, addressing philanthropy's most challenging issues and aligning to build a financial engine for social change.

2018 - 2019 Philanthropy Forward Cohort

A grid with individual photos of each of the 20 members of Philanthropy Forward's 2018-2918 cohort..

Click here for participant bios

  • Dimple Abichandani, General Service Foundation
  • Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Elizabeth Barajas-Roman, Solidago Foundation
  • Ned Calonge, The Colorado Trust
  • Irene Cooper-Basch, Victoria Foundation
  • Farhad A. Ebrahimi, The Chorus Foundation
  • Nicky Goren, Meyer Foundation
  • Justin Maxson, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • Joan Minieri, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Maria Mottola, New York Foundation
  • Mike Pratt, Scherman Foundation
  • Jocelyn Sargent, Hyams Foundation
  • Pamela Shifman, NoVo Foundation
  • Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
  • Steve Patrick, Aspen Institute Forum for Community solutions
  • Dennis Quirin, Raikes Foundation
September 10, 2019

For Love of Humankind: A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Justin Maxson, Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, calls on fellow funding organizations based in the South to respond to the federal government's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with three concrete actions. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Justin 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. The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which strives to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice, is a member of NFG.


Justin MaxsonWe are issuing a clarion call to Southern philanthropic organizations to respond to the manic drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruelty coming from the White House. This month began with a mass shooting targeting the Latinx community. Days later, massive raids tore apart hundreds of families and destabilized Mississippi communities but levied no consequences for the corporate leadership that lures vulnerable people to work in grueling, dangerous conditions. It is astounding that since those events, with the resulting fear and trauma still reverberating through immigrant communities across America, the administration has: 

  • repeated its intention to end birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment guarantee that babies born on American soil are citizens. 
  • attempted to terminate the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the care of children in custody. This would allow the administration to detain migrant families indefinitely in facilities where children are dying of influenza, yet flu shots are not administrated, where children are sexually assaulted, where soap, toothbrushes, human contact and play are not standard, and where breastfeeding babies are taken from their mothers. Child separation is known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage.
  • announced changes to the so-called “public charge rule” to make it harder for legal immigrants to secure citizenship if they use public assistance. As our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, this change would cause many to “forgo assistance altogether, resulting in more economic insecurity and hardship, with long-term negative consequences, particularly for children.” Further, the decision “rests on the erroneous assumption that immigrants currently of modest means are harmful to our nation and our economy, devaluing their work and contributions and discounting the upward mobility immigrant families demonstrate.”

There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border. And despite the Supreme Court ruling blocking the citizenship question from the 2020 census, advocates believe the debate will depress response rates. As we wrote earlier this month, this administration’s animus against immigrants and increasingly aggressive ICE actions are compounding the devastating effects on communities across the country. 

Why Southern philanthropy? 

An analysis of recent grantmaking by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found our region has deportation rates five times higher than the rest of the country, yet Southern pro-immigrant organizations receive paltry philanthropic funding. Barely one percent of all money granted by the 1,000 largest foundations benefits immigrants and refugees, and even that money doesn’t go to state and local groups that are accountable to grassroots and immigrant communities. Organizations in Southern states receive less than half of the state and local funding of California, New York and Illinois. 

Where to begin? 

Speak up. As Desmund Tutu taught us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Use your institutional voice to influence decisionmakers.

Examine your foundation’s policies. Find out if your endowment is invested in private detention centers. Consider how supporting organizing, power building and policy advocacy could advance your mission. NCRP has more recommendations in its report.

Give generously. Our partners at Hispanics in Philanthropy have curated a list of organizations helping the families affected by the raids across Mississippi. Our partners at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees have compiled a list of ways to help, from rapid response grants to long-term strategies. 

Many of the Babcock Foundation’s grantee partners are doing more and more immediate protection work, stretching themselves thin and often putting themselves at risk. They are keeping families intact in the short term while building power for the long term, so history will stop repeating: 

If you know of more resources, please share them. If you’d like to learn more about the organizations on the ground across the South – or think about ways we can do more together – contact us. We are always looking to learn and act in alignment with our fellow funders toward a shared vision of a strong, safe, welcoming and equitable region. 

Activist Jane Addams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us.” Regardless of a foundation’s mission, abject cruelty surely undermines it. It also undermines the most basic tenet of philanthropy, which literally means “love for humankind.” We see no love in this administration. It’s up to all of us to spread it.