July 12, 2018

Answering the Call from Movement Leaders

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, Julia Beatty, Program Officer for the Black-Led Movement Fund and the Communities Transforming Policing Fund at Borealis Philanthropy, reflects on philanthropy's accountability to grassroots movements.


“Uprising creates the authorization for funding movements.”

These words, spoken by Reverend Starsky Wilson, Executive Director of the Deaconess Foundation in St. Louis, are some of the many insights that I’ve been reflecting on since I left the Neighborhood Funders Group’s 2018 Convening, Raise Up: Moving Money for Justice.

This year, the convening surfaced good, hard questions about what our responsibility as funders is to grassroots movements—how are we holding ourselves and each other accountable?

This question was especially on my mind given that the conference was held in in St. Louis, Missouri where Mike Brown was killed by a police officer almost four years ago. Reverend Wilson’s words reminded me that it was the protests in the streets of St. Louis in 2014 that ultimately pushed funders to respond to the needs of Black communities.

During the Funding the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) session, organizers showed a video from the 2015 national M4BL convening. As I watched clips of family members remembering their loved ones whose lives had been taken by police and state violence, I asked myself: what is our responsibility to these family members and to the incredible organizations that do so much with so little to amplify their voices and call for transformative social change?

922.jpgIn philanthropy, we are finally having some open conversations about race and racism. Talking about white supremacy happens more frequently (though still not frequently enough) in philanthropic spaces. These cultural shifts have happened in large part because of how the movement has pushed us all—not just funders—to acknowledge this country’s long and sordid history of structural racism and injustice.

Throughout the conference, I learned so much from Black and Brown organizers doing critical, powerful work in their communities. I heard the leaders of the Movement for Black Lives articulate an inspiring 5-year strategy for how to work towards a fundamentally different world where Black lives, and their organizations, are valued and supported and where institutions that have been harmful to our communities are abolished and replaced with those that will value and affirm the flourishing of Black lives. During the Native Voices Rising panel I learned about the important, yet vastly under resourced work being led by Native communities to address the structural conditions that stem from a legacy of genocide and which drive the continued marginalization of indigenous people today. I also learned that only 0.5% of foundation money goes towards Native organizing. A shameful half of one percent.

We say knowledge is power, but that’s only true if we do something with that knowledge. The farther out we get from Ferguson, are we doing enough to support the people and organizations that have brought us this far? The Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity will share a report later this year showing that there were gains in funding for Black communities after Ferguson, the emergence of the Movement for Black Lives, and other movement activity in 2014. In fact, after almost a decade of relatively limited growth, giving to communities of color overall went up by 36% immediately after 2014—though this growth is uneven between communities of color. However, for these increases in funding to mean something, they must be not only sustained, but deepened. Funding for Black communities cannot just be a trend that we abandon.


Reverend Starsky reminded us that local movements can change philanthropy. How can we be accountable to the progress those movements have created?

As I reflected on this question, more questions surfaced:

  • Am I working in authentic alignment with leaders in the field?
  • How can I better advocate for new policies within philanthropy that address how we marginalize already marginalized groups with our restrictive grantmaking practices and change-averse culture?
  • Am I doing what I can to resource groups with less burdensome and more flexible grants and capacity building resources?
  • Am I getting money to the field as quickly and efficiently as possible?
  • How am I supporting grantees to eventually become self-sufficient and not need to rely so heavily on foundation funding, so that they no longer must to ask funders for permission to do the work that their communities know is most important?

I am also reflecting on what it means to fund a movement. In order to strengthen the Movement for Black Lives as an ecosystem, we need to get creative in our grantmaking. Strengthening the infrastructure of organizations that are a part of the M4BL, investing in its leaders, and offering rapid response funding are all critically important, but we also need to think about how we are supporting their nationally coordinated organizing. At the NFG conference, we were invited by the M4BL to provide critical funding support to the national coordinating bodies which drive the movement on a national level. Supporting the movement means resourcing those tables to continue to build power and win victories for Black communities, which ultimately benefit us all.

As funders, we are being called in this moment—the question for us is how will we answer?

Follow Borealis Philanthropy at @BorealisPhil.

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.