July 19, 2018

Why We Move Money for Justice

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, Lorraine Ramirez, Senior Program Manager of NFG's Funders for Justice, talks about mobilizing resources for social change.


IMG_0972.JPGThe Ferguson uprisings sparked change in St. Louis and around the world. Funders for Justice (FFJ) was honored to meet some of the leaders of the uprisings, and understand the connections between their work and movements for justice across the US.

What I Learned in St. Louis

The power and magnitude of the uprisings sparked by Michael Brown’s murder was clear at the conference’s screening of Whose Streets?, a powerful documentary made by activists and leaders of the uprisings. In discussion with Damon Davis, one of the filmmakers, and Kayla Reed, one of the leaders featured, we learned that four years later, Ferguson residents who stepped up create the movement in Ferguson in 2014 are still navigating the charges from the uprisings and volunteering as organizers, working other jobs full time to pay bills.

There have been tremendous wins in Ferguson since the 2014 uprisings, but the struggle for justice will be a long fight. St. Louis organizing infrastructure is strong on knowledge, skills, experience, and relationships – but the funding has been limited and un-sustained. Most groups don’t have enough funding to pay people for the organizing work they do. Community spaces like the Ferguson Library, which provided refuge and solidarity meeting space during the uprisings, are still deeply underfunded as well.

This wasn’t visible where the conference hotel was located in the Central West End of St. Louis, which is lush green, full of fancy restaurants, and seemingly at ease with a significant police presence. In stark contrast, Ferguson and other municipalities are unable to get first responders on the scene in emergencies. The selective and unrelenting policing through fines, fees, and legal run-arounds continues to keep residents in poverty. And the Black residents who led the uprisings are still facing hostile police and white neighborhoods with yard signs supporting the police.

Screen_Shot_2018-07-19_at_8.14.56_AM.pngFour years after the Ferguson uprisings began, The Movement for Black Lives, a nation network of organizations, is one of the major national forces completely shifting how we understand and talk about race in the US. The conference workshop on how to support The Movement for Black Lives’ five-year strategic plan was a full room. I was struck by how many NFG members are committed to finding a way for their institution to support M4BL and its member organizations. Participants came looking for information, and left with solid commitments to take action and new colleagues to partner with. This gave me not only hope, but total confidence that together we can mobilize the necessary resources to support M4BL in a plan that will change all of our lives.

I also attended the Native Voices Rising workshop, and Edgar Villanueva’s workshop on Decolonizing Wealth: Keys to Funding Our Healing. One message resonated with me: organizing looks different in Native communities than it does in other communities of color – and so most funders are hesitant to take the time to learn more and make grants to support Native organizing. I left both presentations thinking about the incredible amount of learning that we as funders need to do in order to meaningfully partner with Native communities and Native social change struggles. To join the Native Voices Rising collaborative fund, write to Native Americans in Philanthropy.  

What does community safety mean? What does justice mean? 

Many NFG members, like much of this country, grapple with the meaning and magnitude of a complete transformation of what is currently the US criminal justice system. What would a vision of a whole new frame and practice of community safety and justice even be? Charlene Carruthers, director of BYP100 and FFJ Advisor, spoke to this on FFJ’s State of the Police State briefing panel: “Abolition is about changing our response to violence.”

A learning-to-action trajectory is central to FFJ’s member organizing approach. We mobilize grant dollars and leverage our positional currency to move resources to communities creating models for community safety and justice that don’t look to police and prisons to keep us safe. Many members of the Funders for Justice community, myself included, are a part of the communities we fund, and have a personal stake in their success. And we know that in order for any of us to be truly free, we must all get free.

FFJ members frequently call on each other for models and recommendations on how to move money to Black organizing, racial justice organizing led by multiple communities of color, and the types of grassroots-led policy fights that will end mass criminalization as we know it. FFJ members seek connection with other funders on a similar trajectory of change in their own institutions. This is always a reminder to me that it is in these conversations that we are doing our own work as funders to envision a new future for our institutions. Peer coaching circles, which NFG is launched at the conference and will begin this fall, will be an important place to do this work. To participate in a peer coaching circle, contact Adriana Rocha, Vice President of Programs at NFG.

As Kevin Ryan, longtime NFG member and recipient of the 2016 NFG Award for Excellence in Philanthropy, once told me: “I fundraise because I love my community”.

Why do you move money for justice?


Sign up for the FFJ listserv by emailing fundersforjustice@nfg.org.

Visit fundersforjustice.org and follow FFJ on Twitter at @Funders4Justice.

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

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

Read the full newsletter.