August 16, 2018

Standing in Our Power Together

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, Manisha Vaze, Senior Program Manager of NFG's Funders for a Just Economy, reflects on funder strategy discussions for building worker power.


These days, between the news cycle and continued attacks on working families, it can feel overwhelming to push forward our agenda for justice. This feeling isn’t a new one – movement work comes with big ups and downs, especially as the political landscape shifts. While conservative forces are oppressing people of color and social movements more than ever, the movements we support have also stepped up their level of risk-taking and proven over and over again that our voices wield a lot of power.

To me, this feeling of power amidst chaos is what it felt like to be at this year’s NFG National Convening in St. Louis. It was a moment of reprieve from grieving the barrage of terrible government policies and state violence impacting Black and Latinx communities and transgender women of color. It felt empowering to be standing in community with other funders, discussing how best to resource the movement for justice, and hearing from inspiring speakers who shared their stories and brilliance.

There were several standout moments for me during the conference related to the Funders for a Just Economy’s (FJE) goals and objectives as a network. This year, our network wanted to explore shifts in the economy, the rise of political power in the financial sector (a process called financialization), and the moves the worker justice movement was taking in reaction to Supreme Court decisions that were going to be announced during the conference.

One of the financialization workshops provided a phenomenal overview of how the economy and the financial sector were built from a history of slavery, genocide, racism, and sexism. Speakers from the Action Center on Race and the Economy, Americans for Financial Reform, Grassroots Collaborative, and the Partnership for Working Families shared how communities of color and women of color in particular have been excluded from opportunities for wealth creation and have been targets of wealth extraction. In another workshop on financialization and disaster capitalism in Puerto Rico, José García of the Ford Foundation joined speakers from the Center for Popular Democracy, the Maria Fund, and Public Accountability Initiative/LittleSis to describe how these themes continue today. They spoke on how wealth is being extracted from the colony as more and more policies towards privatization benefit investors instead of Puerto Ricans.

The conference’s learning tours also provided an opportunity for grounding ourselves in the context of St. Louis, MO. I joined many FJE members on a tour that was led by the Organization for Black Struggle and Missouri Jobs with Justice. As we drove through the neighborhood towards the Organization for Black Struggle’s office, we learned how decades of racist city policies left neighborhoods bereft of economic opportunity and prosperity.

Screen_Shot_2018-08-16_at_12.41.07_PM.pngOnce at the office, members of both organizations described their organizing strategies to shift power in the state. Currently, communities are engaged in policy solutions that aim to curb the influence of money in politics, raise the minimum wage, and improve the lives of workers in Missouri. Most recently, these organizations were key partners in the educational effort that led to the huge victory of repealing the state’s “right to work” legislation. Repealing this legislation removed limits to workers’ abilities to collectively ensure they have better pay and improved working conditions.

FJE and the LIFT Fund organized a Labor Strategy session on the learning tour to discuss upcoming challenges to labor unions after the looming (and now ruled) decision on Janus v. AFSCME at the Supreme Court. Major themes that funders were grappling with during the discussion included how to develop a funding strategy in this new political landscape and context, how to shape the future of work, how to work with unions and their members, understand new frameworks for collective bargaining, and build power and our vision for change.

And finally, FJE’s dinner programming was another highlight for me. The arts collective Bread and Roses performed a few of the vignettes from their production, A Workers’ Opera, that shared how “right to work” policies have always been fueled by locking workers of color out of industries and shared benefits. And at the conference’s awards reception, NFG Award for Excellence honoree Molly Shultz Hafid and Discount Foundation Legacy Award winner Enrique Balcazar inspired us all to think creatively about how we show up, use our power and influence, and become better movement partners.

As FJE looks ahead, our network will continue to analyze the political landscape and strategize together to further develop our vision for moving money for justice. We will also continue to have deeper dive discussions to address financialization, shape the future of work, and learn about how Labor and the worker justice movement is evolving.

The NFG conference reaffirmed for me what we can do together to push the boundaries in our powerful roles as funders, and foster long-term partnerships with community organizations that are building momentum and shifting power. It was a call to action: our communities cannot wait for us to get it right. History has shown us that those with power will fight – by derailing our progressive agenda and using violence – to maintain white supremacy and capital. And history has also shown us that bold action, escalation, culture shift, and people power can and will prevail. I look forward to continuing to stand in power with each of you.


Follow FJE on Twitter at @FundJustEconomy.

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

 

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October 24, 2019

Reflections from Philanthropy Forward's First Cohort

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change is a CEO fellowship program created by Neighborhood Funders Group and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The program's first cohort started in October 2018 in furtherance of building and advancing a shared vision for the future of philanthropy.

Hear perspectives from members of the first cohort as they reflect in this video on their work together as strategic thought partners, addressing philanthropy's most challenging issues and aligning to build a financial engine for social change.

2018 - 2019 Philanthropy Forward Cohort

A grid with individual photos of each of the 20 members of Philanthropy Forward's 2018-2918 cohort..

Click here for participant bios

  • Dimple Abichandani, General Service Foundation
  • Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Elizabeth Barajas-Roman, Solidago Foundation
  • Ned Calonge, The Colorado Trust
  • Irene Cooper-Basch, Victoria Foundation
  • Farhad A. Ebrahimi, The Chorus Foundation
  • Nicky Goren, Meyer Foundation
  • Justin Maxson, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • Joan Minieri, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Maria Mottola, New York Foundation
  • Mike Pratt, Scherman Foundation
  • Jocelyn Sargent, Hyams Foundation
  • Pamela Shifman, NoVo Foundation
  • Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
  • Steve Patrick, Aspen Institute Forum for Community solutions
  • Dennis Quirin, Raikes Foundation
September 10, 2019

For Love of Humankind: A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Justin Maxson, Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, calls on fellow funding organizations based in the South to respond to the federal government's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with three concrete actions. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Justin 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. The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which strives to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice, is a member of NFG.


 

Justin MaxsonWe are issuing a clarion call to Southern philanthropic organizations to respond to the manic drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruelty coming from the White House. This month began with a mass shooting targeting the Latinx community. Days later, massive raids tore apart hundreds of families and destabilized Mississippi communities but levied no consequences for the corporate leadership that lures vulnerable people to work in grueling, dangerous conditions. It is astounding that since those events, with the resulting fear and trauma still reverberating through immigrant communities across America, the administration has: 

  • repeated its intention to end birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment guarantee that babies born on American soil are citizens. 
  • attempted to terminate the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the care of children in custody. This would allow the administration to detain migrant families indefinitely in facilities where children are dying of influenza, yet flu shots are not administrated, where children are sexually assaulted, where soap, toothbrushes, human contact and play are not standard, and where breastfeeding babies are taken from their mothers. Child separation is known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage.
  • announced changes to the so-called “public charge rule” to make it harder for legal immigrants to secure citizenship if they use public assistance. As our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, this change would cause many to “forgo assistance altogether, resulting in more economic insecurity and hardship, with long-term negative consequences, particularly for children.” Further, the decision “rests on the erroneous assumption that immigrants currently of modest means are harmful to our nation and our economy, devaluing their work and contributions and discounting the upward mobility immigrant families demonstrate.”

There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border. And despite the Supreme Court ruling blocking the citizenship question from the 2020 census, advocates believe the debate will depress response rates. As we wrote earlier this month, this administration’s animus against immigrants and increasingly aggressive ICE actions are compounding the devastating effects on communities across the country. 

Why Southern philanthropy? 

An analysis of recent grantmaking by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found our region has deportation rates five times higher than the rest of the country, yet Southern pro-immigrant organizations receive paltry philanthropic funding. Barely one percent of all money granted by the 1,000 largest foundations benefits immigrants and refugees, and even that money doesn’t go to state and local groups that are accountable to grassroots and immigrant communities. Organizations in Southern states receive less than half of the state and local funding of California, New York and Illinois. 

Where to begin? 

Speak up. As Desmund Tutu taught us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Use your institutional voice to influence decisionmakers.

Examine your foundation’s policies. Find out if your endowment is invested in private detention centers. Consider how supporting organizing, power building and policy advocacy could advance your mission. NCRP has more recommendations in its report.

Give generously. Our partners at Hispanics in Philanthropy have curated a list of organizations helping the families affected by the raids across Mississippi. Our partners at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees have compiled a list of ways to help, from rapid response grants to long-term strategies. 

Many of the Babcock Foundation’s grantee partners are doing more and more immediate protection work, stretching themselves thin and often putting themselves at risk. They are keeping families intact in the short term while building power for the long term, so history will stop repeating: 

If you know of more resources, please share them. If you’d like to learn more about the organizations on the ground across the South – or think about ways we can do more together – contact us. We are always looking to learn and act in alignment with our fellow funders toward a shared vision of a strong, safe, welcoming and equitable region. 

Activist Jane Addams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us.” Regardless of a foundation’s mission, abject cruelty surely undermines it. It also undermines the most basic tenet of philanthropy, which literally means “love for humankind.” We see no love in this administration. It’s up to all of us to spread it.