July 19, 2018

Reimagining How We Fund and What We Fund

In June 2018, Neighborhood Funders Group convened hundreds of local, regional, and national funders for the NFG 2018 National Convening, Raise Up: Moving Money for Justice. Here, Dr. Carmen Rojas, NFG Board Member and Co-Founder & CEO of The Workers Lab, reflects on reimagining the role of philanthropy in these pressing times.


 

gMYRU0Qs.jpegThe NFG conference could not have come at a better time. We are at a critical juncture as a country, and the field of philanthropy has a number of hard truths to face if it hopes to realize a better tomorrow for everyone in the U.S.

We are living at a time when newspaper headlines are describing a booming economy. But, the truth is that four in ten workers is leaving retirement and to returning to work to cover health care, housing, and living expenses. The vast majority of working people earn less than $15 an hour. Only 15 percent of workers have access to paid leave. And half of the people in the U.S. do not have $400 to address a financial emergency. This means that when a child unexpectedly breaks an arm or a car breaks down it can throw the lives of working people into disarray.

There simply isn’t a fair return on work right now. No one who works full (or more than full) time should be living in poverty. And this shouldn’t be the reality in the richest country in the world.

Philanthropy can play a critical role in calling out this absurdity and supporting organizations that are organizing, building, and delivering a better future for working people in our country.

At The Workers Lab, we’ve been thinking about how to partner with our funders and donors to do the work necessary to truly change the lives of working people. The three things that we are encouraging them to do and consider are:

  • Recognize the difference between branding the change and being the change:

In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of the rebranding of philanthropic organizations. More people of color protesting on websites, more of the word “power” emblazoned on materials, more mostly white organizations going through anti-racist training. We need to do more to challenge the norms and change practices in our field. There are a handful of foundations having honest and hard conversations that fundamentally change their composition, practice, and leadership. 

  • Provide a greater set of incentives that treat people as whole:

Most people in this country don’t understand what philanthropy does or can do to make their lives better. This is because the siloing of programs treats people as fractions of themselves and not as whole human beings that think about paying rent, buying food, making it to work, and having the capacity to dream better days all at the same time. We need to create incentives that work across issues and communities. We should fund in ways that reflect people as whole. 

  • Fighting for what we deserve, not what we can win:

We are entering an era when our democracy is actively and publicly being set on fire. There are those who do not believe that we should put working people ahead of corporate profit. There are those that do not believe Black lives matter. There are those who believe that immigrant families should not have the right to be together. Those folks are unabashed about their agenda. They are clear about their north star. We, who believe in justice, need to stop the calculations for what is palatable and feasible. We need to be public and unabashed in fighting for what people in this country deserve, not simply what we can win.

Now, is the time to think in new and creative ways. We must experiment — both with how we fund and what we fund. We must continue to seek innovative capital structures to accommodate a variety of programmatic interventions. We must be open to viewing philanthropy with more flexibility. We must seek new solutions to rebuild a social safety net fit for the 21st Century. Equally important, we must seek innovations for worker power. This could be reimagining new worker ownership structures like worker cooperatives.

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Needless to say, the NFG conference did come at the right time — for the country and for me personally. It gave me hope. If you’re reading this, I likely don’t have to tell you that these are challenging times for those on the side of justice. Being in a room with like-minded leaders who are speaking truth and reimagining a new role for philanthropy was both reassuring and reinvigorating. I left even more committed to this cause and grateful to have NFG as a partner.


Connect with Carmen on Twitter at @crojasphd.

Follow The Workers Lab at @theworkerslab.

Find more posts about the NFG 2018 National Convening on the NFG blog.

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February 28, 2020

NFG Newsletter - February 2020

February is Black History Month and, in this newsletter, NFG honors Black resistance. Given the persistence of structural racism and the legacies of segregation, NFG has mobilized philanthropy to support POC-led organizing for equitable development since our start 40 years ago. Through our member-led and local advisor-led programming, we are lifting up how Black communities are reclaiming land ownership and addressing the racial wealth gap through grassroots power building.

At the beginning of the month, NFG’s Amplify Fund staff and steering committee spent a day with local organizers, non-profit leaders, and organizations in Charleston and Edisto Island, South Carolina — one of Amplify’s eight sites. Both national and local grantmakers learned alongside some of Amplify’s grantees, including the Center for Heirs’ Property PreservationLow Country Alliance for Model CommunitiesCarolina Youth Action Project, and South Carolina Association for Community and Economic Development, which are bringing together Black, Latinx communities and youth in the region to fight for community power, land rights, and environmental justice in the face of corporate power, criminalization of communities of color due to gentrification, and land theft.

This week, NFG’s Democratizing Development Program (DDP) hosted a two-day Health, Housing, Race, Equity and Power Funders Convening in Oakland, California. Over 100 participants grappled with how anti-Blackness and xenophobia fuel the complex housing & health crisis and community trauma, and heard examples of concrete organizing wins led by Black women from Moms 4 Housing and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. Organizers from around the country urged grantmakers to significantly invest in long-term general operating support, community ownership models, POC leadership, and 501(c)4 funding for Black, Indigenous, and POC communities engaging in policy and systems change around housing affordability and justice. 

From Amplify’s funder collaborative to the DDP convening’s planning committee, funders organizing other funders has been a key part of our work. Funder members: how are you stepping up as an organizer and moving more resources for power building in Black, Indigenous, and POC communities? We invite you to connect with NFG staffprograms, and upcoming events — including our National Convening — and be part of our community where we bring funders together to learn, connect, and mobilize resources with an intersectional and place-based focus. 

Onwards,
The NFG team

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January 23, 2020

NFG Newsletter - January 2020

Animated fireworks with the text "40 Years Strong"

This year marks NFG's 40th anniversary. During our early years, NFG was one of the few spaces in philanthropy specifically focused on people of color-led, grassroots organizing, and power building as the key to effective social change strategies. Today, NFG continues to be many funders' political home at a time when moving resources to struggles for justice is critically important: communities of color are bearing the brunt of the housing crisis, growing wealth and income inequality, and climate change; white nationalist backlash is rising; and our democracy is profoundly threatened. NFG is a space to draw support, deepen relationships, and find co-conspirators as we propel philanthropy to shift power and money towards justice and equity.

In 2020, the NFG network is continuing to explore structural racism in health and housing, racial capitalism, migrant worker justice in rural areas, reimagining community safety and justice, and more. We will also return ‘home’ to NFG’s founding city — Washington, D.C. — for our 2020 National Convening.

As we celebrate 40 years, our dynamic community of grantmakers and grassroots leaders is what makes us strong. This newsletter spotlights The Libra Foundation, an NFG member that shares our commitment to organizing funders in moving more resources to frontline communities and movements.

Keep reading below for more opportunities to engage with NFG. Whether you are new to NFG or a long-time member, we look forward to collaborating with you to accelerate racial, gender, economic, and climate justice.
 
Onwards,
The NFG team

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