October 14, 2020

Surdna Foundation Stepping Up for Racial Justice

Don Chen, President of Surdna Foundation, announces the foundation's plans to increase its grantmaking by $36 million to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color leaders, organizations, and networks most affected by systemic racism. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Don was part of the 2019-2020 Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. Surdna Foundation, a member of NFG, seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.


Across the U.S., millions have stepped up in support of Black lives and against systemic anti-Black racism. Today, I want to tell you how the Surdna Foundation is stepping up, too.

Meeting the Moment

Racial and social justice has long been at the heart of every grant we make. But the pandemic, economic crisis, and our nation’s long-needed reckoning with racial injustices call upon all of us to do more and to do better.

In response, Surdna is increasing its grantmaking for racial justice by approximately $36 million over the next three years. These new funds will intensify our support for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color leaders, organizations, and networks most affected by systemic racism.

Our goal is to give our grantee partners breathing room to respond to today’s urgent needs and to sustain their work toward addressing deep, structural anti-Black racism to realize just and sustainable communities in which everyone can thrive.

Combined with our annual grantmaking of roughly $41.5 million per year, this increased spending will bring Surdna’s total financial commitment to racial justice to approximately $160 million between now and the end of 2023.

How Will the Funds be Granted?

As a longtime funder of racial and social justice, Surdna will initially use additional grant dollars to support existing grantee partners, including:

  • Artists and arts organizations that are particularly threatened by revenue losses during the pandemic and those working with their communities to imagine and prototype a more racially just future.
  • Grassroot organizations and networks working at the intersection of racial, economic, and climate justice.
  • Businesses and entrepreneurs of color in need of access to capital and a runway to imagine, innovate, and generate wealth in their communities.
  • Efforts to abolish youth prisons and foster safe communities.
  • Program- and mission-related investments that extend the impact of the Foundation beyond grantmaking.

Our Inclusive EconomiesSustainable Environments, and Thriving Cultures program teams, alongside our Impact Investing staff and the Andrus Family Fund, will work within their existing strategies to make investments that support previously identified ideas developed with grantees and partners. Opportunities for new grants and grantee partners will be developed at a later date.

Each year, we will determine the exact amount of increased spending, estimated to total $36 million over three years, by an annual valuation of our endowment on December 31st. In keeping with trust-based philanthropic practices, we will listen to our grantee partners’ needs and award multiyear, core support grants whenever appropriate.

Fulfilling Our Mission

As an institution working to foster just and sustainable communities, we know that thriving cultures, inclusive economies, and sustainable environments simply are not possible without directly addressing structural racism. Sustainable communities must include access to fair opportunities and the processes that shape our lives and communities.

For over five generations, Surdna has been governed largely by descendants of John E. Andrus, who founded the foundation in 1917. As Peter B. Benedict II, Surdna’s board chair and fifth-generation family member said, “Not only is stepping up our funding at this moment the right thing to do, but it also underscores the importance of our social justice mission.”

On a practical level, we fulfill our racial and social justice mission in three ways: 1) programmatic grantmaking, 2) offering support to grantees beyond the grant money, and 3) program- and mission-related investments, including leveraging our $1 billion endowment to influence other investors to do impact investing that will result in more just, sustainable markets and outcomes. We intentionally invest in communities of color, supporting those that have historically been underfunded, and make impact investments that are not only profitable but good for people and the planet.

Centering Our Grantee Partners

For years, the Surdna Foundation has supported solutions to dismantling the policies, behaviors, and cultural drivers that have produced racial injustices over generations. The greatest reward of my job is seeing the transformative work of our grantee partners. Here are just a few examples of initiatives we’ve had the privilege to support this year:

Imagining a More Racially Just Future

Artists can help us radically imagine and build a more just future in which we all can thrive. Take, for example, Designing Justice+Designing Spaces (DJDS), a nonprofit real estate and architecture firm with a mission to end mass incarceration and structural inequality. At the heart of its work is the question: What would a world without prisons look like? DJDS works with communities and those in the criminal justice system to imagine and design healing alternatives to prisons like the new Center for Equity in Atlanta.

The NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through its Radical Imagination grant program, it will fund six Indigenous artists/culture bearers to imagine, design, and create projects that propose solutions to our most intractable societal problems. NDN Collective is one of our Thriving Cultures program’s 11 re-granting partners supporting artists of color to advance racial justice within their local communities.

Caring for the Land and One Another

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities are disproportionately impacted by environmental and climate inequity—such as flooding, land loss, and environmental toxins—and have the experience, expertise, and powerful solutions to resolve these inequities. To realize healthier, more equitable outcomes, our Sustainable Environments grantee partners seek to increase the capacity of communities of color to self-determine the ownership, control, and stewardship of land and infrastructure assets.

The National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA) promotes Black food and land, by increasing the visibility of Black leadership, and building power in our food systems and land stewardship. NBFJA has facilitated seed grants to BIPOC members across the country for food security, community wellness, and cooperation.

The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) is an alliance of grassroots Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining, and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws. In response to the pandemic, IEN has been resourcing frontline community-based mutual aid organizations and providing immediate relief to small business owners in need. IEN’s extensive grassroots network of Indigenous peoples has connected community members with basic needs like food and water, healthcare, and preventive measures, and through their PPE partnership has distributed over 190,000 masks to the hardest-hit areas of Indian Country.

Creating Inclusive Economies

People should have power, choice, and ownership over the economy no matter their race or ethnicity. Yet, the Black and white wealth divide is as wide today as it was in 1968. Our Inclusive Economies grantee partners are working to close the gap.

One Fair Wage is a national coalition, campaign, and organization seeking to lift millions of tipped and subminimum wage workers nationally out of poverty by requiring all employers to pay the full minimum wage with fair, nondiscriminatory tips on top. As restaurants and other establishments close nationwide due to the pandemic, One Fair Wage launched an Emergency Relief Fund to provide assistance to restaurant workers, delivery drivers, and other tipped workers and service workers who are bearing the economic brunt of this crisis. Its members are also mobilizing voters to make a fair minimum wage a reality across the country.

Common Future is a network of leaders seeking to shift capital into historically marginalized communities, uplift local leaders, and accelerate equitable economies. From bridging the wealth gap for Black entrepreneurs to ensuring communities have a final say over the development that impacts their neighborhoods, Common Future’s leaders shed light on how to rebuild economies that work for everyone.

Investing for Impact

Investing in entrepreneurs of color is one of the most effective ways to drive job and wealth creation and address long-standing racial inequities. To that end, we make impact investments that provide capital to fund innovative, market-based approaches that address systemic challenges while generating social and financial returns.

For example, The Impact America Fund (IAF) makes early-stage investments in tech-driven businesses that create ownership and opportunity within marginalized communities. The fund’s founder, Kesha Cash, is one of the few Black women in venture capital and understands that traditional venture capital funds often overlook prioritizing and supporting entrepreneurs of color. IAF helps founders get traction with institutional investors, who often don’t have the expertise or lived experience in these communities to appreciate the huge opportunities at hand.

VamosVentures is another investment firm that sees tech as an essential ingredient for communities of color to thrive. VamosVentures, founded by Marcos Gonzalez, invests in diverse teams with a focus on Latinx entrepreneurs. The fund supports diverse-owned companies with capital, commercial opportunities, and strategic guidance with the goals of generating returns and social impact through wealth creation, social mobility, and tech-driven solutions to challenges persistent in communities of color.

Unlocking Potential by Ending Youth Prisons

The Andrus Family Fund envisions a just society in which vulnerable youth have more than one opportunity for a good life. As part of this vision, many of AFF’s grantee partners are working toward a world without youth prisons.

Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) unlocks the leadership of formerly incarcerated young people to dream beyond bars. Through youth programs, life coaching, policy organizing, and restorative retreats and trainings, CURYJ helps young people lead the way in transforming their communities and investing in their healing, activism, and aspirations.

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory and abusive policing practices in New York and build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and reduces reliance on policing. Running diverse coalitions of more than 200 organizations, CPR works closely with those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD to build accountability and increase transparency. These are just two of AFF’s grantee partners that are shining a light on injustice and lifting up ways to foster safe, thriving communities for all.

Contributing to Racial Justice

This is a year for the history books. Every day seems to bring a new challenge. At the same time, I’m grateful. Having spent a career working to advance just and sustainable communities, I’ve often wondered what it would take to get a critical mass of leading voices to wake up to long-standing racially unjust conditions and demand transformative change. I believe that moment has arrived. By intensifying our support, the Surdna Foundation hopes to contribute to greater sustained momentum for change.

I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months about our grantees and what the Surdna Foundation is thinking, doing, and learning.

Onward,

Don Chen
President
Surdna Foundation

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.