January 14, 2019

Supporting Transformative Change with NFG

Alex Desautels

Alex Desautels, Program Manager for Strategy Development and Dissemination with The California Endowment, remembers her first encounter with Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG), just after entering philanthropy from the field of public health:

I have been in philanthropy now for 4 years. When I was first assigned to go and sit in on an NFG strategic planning conversation, for me it was like ‘Wow, this is the conversation I want to have!’ It focused on the root causes of what we want to solve and grounded everything from there, which is not the typical way that these conversations happen. I felt like I had found a home for me to develop my analysis and partner with other funders in applying that analysis to our funding strategies.

She appreciates NFG’s clarity and boldness in naming and elevating issues of racial and economic justice in philanthropy:

The role that NFG plays in the field, being explicit about their analysis related to racial and economic justice — and what it means for advancing democratic decision-making — is important. NFG helps us ask, ‘What does this analysis mean for who we fund?’ And they have brought on staff with a deep understanding of organizing and the challenge of building a stronger grassroots infrastructure for change – not to the exclusion of other areas like research and policy advocacy, but really centering the voices and analysis of people who are most impacted by the problems funders are seeking to focus on. Their unwavering focus and high capacity is important in the field. 

Alex has been an active part of NFG’s Democratizing Development Program (DDP), a working group of NFG members engaged in learning together how to back community-led and equitable approaches to development in the built environment. With its focus on developing a shared frame, building relationships, and centering the experience of partner-organizations, DDP has been a generative space, setting the stage for members to launch strategic efforts both within their home institutions and in collaboration with others.

One offshoot of DDP – the California Funders Working Group – commissioned Martha Matsuoka, a long-time thinker and activist around urban inequality, environmental justice, and social movements, to develop a framework to help its members understand the root causes of displacement and lack of safe, affordable housing. This led Alex and others to a stronger understanding of the role power-building plays in moving the needle on housing justice issues and to consider what a coordinated intervention from funders could look like:

It helped us understand and look at root causes, including but beyond the traditional focus on supply and demand. This framework has sharpened our analysis of the systemic conditions and shifted our thinking about how to support transformative change. It has forced us to center racial and economic equity, and highlighted the need to focus not just on the what -- the policy solutions -- but also the how: the power that needs to shift in order to change the systemic conditions driving the crisis beyond this moment once the pressure lifts off of middle class people.

In 2018, The California Endowment partnered with other funders to launch the Fund for an Inclusive California (F4ICA),  a collaborative fund investing in power-building strategies along with organizations working in low-income and communities of color to tackle the urgent housing crisis at the local, regional, and statewide levels. Alex sees that the fund’s strength lies in how F4ICA has anchored its emerging grantmaking framework in the participation and perspectives of community-serving organizations in the field:

Our collaborative funding strategy is committed to deepening and redefining relationships between funders and the field to co-create goals (and metrics) that reach beyond individual organizations and coalitions. We host one-on-one conversations and convenings with critical organizations from the Central Valley, Bay Area, Los Angeles, and statewide to co-design the strategies and priorities. The transformative, systemic change we seek requires a new way of working together – from our root-causes analysis to how we allocate resources for change and the transparency of those resources. We strive to model effective ways of being in relationship with each other to advance a collective vision and disrupt the drivers of gentrification and displacement.

This is an intentional effort to disrupt traditional funder–grantee dynamics and to ground F4ICA in the expertise of base-building organizations. Connecting with NFG and its central working principle of strategically moving the philanthropic sector towards more partnership with community-serving organizations has supported Alex in taking a strong position as a funder committed to deepening partnership with the field.

Alex credits NFG with increasing the legitimacy of organizing funders to move resources for social change:

I believe NFG’s role in the field is adding credibility to these ways of thinking about organizing funders, allowing space for further contributions and details. NFG makes possible and expands conversations between funders that center racial and economic justice.

She continues to learn with NFG how to activate more funders at a larger scale, expand and build investment in racial and economic equity, and apply this leaning to her work with TCE and F4ICA: 

I am excited to refine a funder organizing strategy — how do we unlock new and more resources for long term base and movement building? In developing sustained and impactful strategies, the promise of place-based initiatives ultimately lies in the people who live there and the power they wield to change conditions in their communities. At F4ICA, we began by bringing in funders that have a shared analysis of the issue. We are now moving out to those funders and donors who are interested in starting a housing justice and inclusive community development portfolio and are looking for an entry point, as well as those already working on housing and community development issues but not centering power-building. Our hope is that over the course of the collaborative fund, we can connect funders who are new to housing justice and/or power-building directly to the organizations themselves so that we can continue to strengthen the resource environment for our organizing partners.  

January 13, 2022

Saying ‘no’ and rest as resistance: NFG's December 2021 Newsletter

At the beginning of this month, Neighborhood Funders Group hosted our final Member Connection Call of 2021. These calls are informal virtual spaces for grantmakers to truly connect and co-conspire; if you haven't joined one yet, we hope that you will in 2022 — register here for our next call on January 26!

On this year's Member Connection Calls, we've talked about how we're infusing care into our organizations and grantmaking, racial capitalism, racial justice organizing in specific places (and how philanthropy must move more + more + more money to BIPOC and low-income communities), rapid response funding, and lessons revealed to us by the pandemic on how to be better grantmakers and liberate all philanthropic assets.

We've shared the things that never fail to bring us comfort, offered tips for harnessing joy in all of the seasons, and taken each other on trips through our memories to our favorite vacation spots.

After co-hosting Member Connection Calls with NFG's President, Adriana Rocha, for well over a year, I've found that something that someone shares at each call resonates deeply for me. On this December call, it was:

'No' creates space to be a whole person at and outside of work.

It feels fitting to me to be putting the finishing touches on this message to you on NFG's final workday of the year. Beginning tomorrow (December 15), NFG will be closed for a three-week paid administrative break. We're saying 'no' to more meetings, more emails, and more work in favor of pausing, stopping, and creating the space to rest. Because we know from Tricia Hersey at The Nap Ministry that REST IS RESISTANCE.

The NFG team will return to our respective home offices on Wednesday, January 5. Here's a sneak peek into NFG's 2022: we'll be sharing our new theory of change, updating our website and brand, and announcing plans for our 2022 National Convening. And we'll continue sharing how we're centering our culture of care in our efforts to shift power in philanthropy towards justice and liberation.

Truthfully, I don't expect us to feel fully rested when we return — if 'feeling fully rested' is even a possibility in a capitalist world that values grind culture and all too often uplifts white supremacy culture characteristics of perfectionism, urgency, and quantity vs. quality. But I do know that this team-wide break moves us closer to a vision where all of our communities thrive in a liberated world where we are all well, where we are all cared for, and where there is abundance for all —and NFG is invested in this vision.

We look forward to co-conspiring with you to move money to racial, gender, economic, and climate justice in 2022. And we hope that you too say 'no' to what you need to and rest in any & every way that you're able.

Cheers!
Courtney Banayad
she/her
Director of Membership and Communications

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January 12, 2022

2022 Discount Foundation Legacy Award: Call for Nominations

The nominations are now open for the 2022 Discount Foundation Legacy Award!

The Discount Foundation Legacy Award annually identifies, supports, and celebrates an individual who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contributed significantly to workers’ rights movements in the United States and/or globally. Through public recognition and a $20,000 stipend, we hope to recognize and amplify the work of individuals at the intersections leading the way toward justice for low-wage workers of color. This is a one of a kind opportunity to recognize the often unheard voices of worker movements — that includes volunteers, members, workplace leaders, and more who are transforming the lives and rights of their fellow low-wage workers of color.

To be eligible for the Award, a nominee must be active in worker justice, including but not limited to organizing and advocacy-related work. Additionally, nominees do not have to be employed at an organization or institution whose mission is to advance worker justice — they can be volunteers, members or other leaders at an organization or workplace organizing effort. We will not be asking questions regarding immigration or other legal status, and nominees do not have to reside in the US.

Nominees need to be nominated by someone other than themselves, through a simple, quick and accessible application process found here. The Award is meant only for individuals. Organizations, groups of individuals or institutions are not eligible for consideration. If you know anyone who you think should be recognized for their significant commitment to worker justice at any level — from a workplace to the neighborhood to the nation — this is your chance to provide them a powerful boost and real resources they can use in whatever way they choose! 

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In addition to being publicly recognized for their remarkable contributions to the movement, the 2022 Discount Foundation Legacy Award winner will receive a $20,000 stipend to provide them with the flexibility to expand upon their professional activities and achievements They will not be asked for any reporting requirements, and the funding has no specific strings attached or other specific obligations. The winner of the 2022 Discount Foundation Legacy Award will be invited to be honored at a virtual event in 2022. To learn more about the eligibility requirements and nomination process, please see our FAQs here — and please spread the word about this opportunity to your networks, colleagues and friends!

All nominations must be received by 11:59pm ET on March 7, 2022 through the online nomination form. We’re happy to help answer questions about the award, or support with any trouble you have with the application — please reach out to emily@jwj.org.

Created in partnership with Jobs With Justice Education Fund and the Neighborhood Funders Group’s Funders for a Just Economy, the Discount Foundation Legacy Award was launched in 2015 to commemorate and carry on the legacy of the Foundation’s decades-long history of supporting leading edge organizing in the worker justice arena beyond its spend down as a foundation in 2014. Learn more about the Discount Foundation Legacy Award.
 

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