November 11, 2020

The Road Ahead

Neighborhood Funders Group is a place for meaning-making in philanthropy. We offer funders a political home: a place to connect, strategize, and take action.

We are about to usher in a new Presidential administration. With it comes hopes and possibilities for a country in which Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities, queer and transgender communities, rural communities, and workers and the unemployed thrive. Black and brown organizers led powerful, grassroots movements to produce historical voter turnout and build power for communities beyond electoral cycles. They did so in the face of massive voter suppression and intimidation in many of the states where the current, dangerous administration is focusing its legal and on-the-ground aggression.

Those at the frontlines — and we at NFG — know that oppressive and unequal systems have only deepened in the last years, acutely affecting daily life now and in the future. No change in Presidential administrations alone can erase this, and the threat of further austerity extends from cities and counties to the states while white nationalist and local police violence is not flagging.

Communities continue to organize and build power at significant risk of violence, often with little media attention or notice. They are still mobilizing to defend democracy and working for justice to reshape their cities and rural regions, and we at NFG are here to do the same with you — to support communities, movements, and grassroots leaders and move even more philanthropic resources to racial, economic, gender, and climate justice.
 

How NFG is making meaning of the road ahead

There is much to grapple with this election cycle and all that has come with it. Our democracy has long been under attack. Black, Indigenous, people of color, immigrant, queer, transgender, rural and unhoused communities, and essential and unemployed workers continue to bear the brunt of the global COVID-19 pandemic, white nationalism and terror, and a financial recession — all of which has exacerbated the United States’ deep racial inequities. Yet communities have continued to deepen and broaden long-term, power building movements rising up for racial justice. They have built up the critical organizing infrastructure over many years to support these movements across local, regional, and state levels. With the right resources, they can expand these movements even further and generate new models to make lasting change over time.

Fundamental shifts have occurred; aspirations for justice — including defunding police, putting housing protections in place, dismantling ICE and border militarization, and protecting & expanding worker power — have now become real conversations in communities and governments. And the effects of such grassroots resistance are evident in election results across the country: from an unprecedented paid family and medical leave guarantee in Colorado, Florida’s minimum wage hike, and Arizona’s pay increase for teachers and educational staff (paid through a tax on the wealthy), to the decriminalization of all drugs in Oregon. At the local level, Los Angeles County won a measure carving out a permanent portion of the budget for alternatives to incarceration, Philadelphia put an end to stop and frisk, and numerous other cities created citizen-led police oversight commissions.

Nonetheless, Black, Indigenous, and people of color leaders are under attack; their safety and lives are on the line for exercising their right to organize and build power. Young people of color are mobilizing the electorate, even with limited resources. The visible, violent, and racist reaction to such organizing work is a clear sign that deepening organizing is indeed shifting systems and structures — power is moving.

Philanthropy has a stake in ensuring that people can continue to organize, build power, and transform their lives and communities — in this current moment and for the long-term. And we at NFG are ready to work with you to not only move your institution, but help bring philanthropic colleagues and this broader community along.
 

What story will be told about philanthropy and the moment we are in?

In conversation with front line movements, NFG is calling on our community of grantmakers to act:

  • Build power led by marginalized communities. This includes low-income communities and workers, rural communities, Black, Indigenous and people of color, LGBTQIA and gender non-conforming people, women, and immigrants. 
  • Fund efforts to ensure the safety, protection, and resilience of movement leaders. 
  • Fund local organizing and local power building — with an eye on long-term change to sustain movements beyond election cycles. 
  • Organize philanthropy to make use of both grantmaking dollars and institutional influence to advance democracy protection.
  • Hold philanthropic leadership and board members accountable to invest in community organizing, power building, and democracy efforts.
  • Amplify narratives that center regenerative possibilities — rooted in care for people and our planet — and challenge austerity narrative and measures.
     

Connect with NFG

We need all of us. And NFG is a place for philanthropy to strategize new and more ways to show up for our communities now and in the long-term — as well as a place that provides space to find your co-conspirators, draw strength, be nourished, reflect upon and celebrate the wins and work that has been accomplished so far.

Philanthropy has a duty to show up in this monumental moment and in the fight ahead. At NFG’s 40 Years Strong virtual plenary on People, Power, and Place, Mary Hooks (Co-Director of Southerners on New Ground) issued this call to action for philanthropy: “We have to invest in the policy fights but also in new experiments and models. We have to take risks that are worthy of the courage of our people.”

Join us — and bring colleagues across & beyond your grantmaking institution — to do our collective work to organize funders and act as we have been called upon: take risks that are worthy of the courage of our people.

May 4, 2021

Introducing Philanthropy Foward: Cohort 3

 

We are excited to announce the launch of Philanthropy Forward's Cohort 3 in partnership with The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions!

Philanthropy Forward is a CEO fellowship community for visionary leaders who center racial and gender justice and community power building to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy. This fellowship brings together CEOs of foundations who are supporting racial & gender justice and community power building to make deeper change at the individual, organizational, and philanthropic field levels.

  • ALEYAMMA MATHEW, she/her — Collective Future Fund
  • AMORETTA MORRIS, she/her — Borealis Philanthropy
  • ANA CONNER, they/she — Third Wave Fund
  • CARLA FREDERICKS, she/her — The Christensen Fund
  • CRAIG DRINKARD, he/him — Victoria Foundation
  • JENNIFER CHING, she/her — North Star Fund
  • JOHN BROTHERS, he/him — T. Rowe Price Foundation
  • KIYOMI FUJIKAWA, she/her — Third Wave Fund
  • LISA OWENS, she/her — Hyams Foundation
  • MOLLY SCHULTZ HAFID, she/her — Butler Family Fund
  • NICK DONOHUE, he/him — Nellie Mae Education Foundation
  • NICOLE PITTMAN, she/her — Just Beginnings Collaborative
  • PHILIP LI, he/him — Robert Sterling Clark Foundation
  • RAJASVINI BHANSALI, she/they — Solidaire Network & Solidaire Action Fund
  • RINI BANERJEE, she/her — Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation
  • TANUJA DEHNE, she/her — Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
  • YANIQUE REDWOOD, she/her — Consumer Health Foundation

learn more about each Fellow!

With a framework focused on liberated gatekeeping, accountability practices, and strategic risk taking, Philanthropy Forward is a dedicated space for leaders to organize together and boldly advance the transformed future of the sector. This growing fellowship of visionary CEOs from progressive philanthropic institutions is aligning to to disrupt and transform the future of philanthropy.

Philanthropy Forward is a joint initiative started in 2018 by Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. Learn more about the fellowship here.

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.