November 2, 2016

Changing Foundation Culture to Support Place-Based Change

In September 2016, the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and Neighborhood Funders Group convened 100 local, regional, and national funders for Towards a More Resilient Place: Promising Practices in Place-Based Philanthropy. Here, Raquel Gutierrez of Vitalyst Health Foundation reflects on where the culture in foundations needs to evolve to match developments in the field. 

By Raquel Gutierrez, Vitalyst Health Foundation

The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and Neighborhood Funders Group chose an inspiring setting for their convening, Towards a More Resilient Place: Promising Practices in Place-Based Philanthropy, earlier this fall. The shimmering leaves on tall aspens graced the mountains that surrounded us, enveloping us in a blanket of gold and a myriad of green pines. There was a quiet there that settled my restless mind. The altitude reminded me to breathe deep. There is a calming simplicity in the art, architecture and landscaping that define the Aspen Institute.

In many ways, the conference matched our surroundings. Outside of logistics and agenda building, the approach was simple, tried and true: Bring people together from across the country who are passionate about justice and social transformation, and provide opportunities to share, listen, reflect, and share some more. The opportunity to listen and learn about strategies from other funders and nonprofit leaders was a gift; it will inform how I approach my portfolio and will influence Vitalyst Health Foundation’s journey specific to equity and approaches grounded in democratizing development.

Reflecting Our Values Through Action

The opening plenary, Community Power Building as Community Resiliency, has stuck with me even weeks later. The opportunity to hear emerging leaders in philanthropy share their experience—frustrations and all—illustrated how they are changing the practices and world-views that have historically dictated philanthropy. Their forthrightness about cultivating relationships with folks in the community while navigating the transformation of implicit biases that exist within their foundations’ practices resonated with my experiences. While the presenters remarked, "I hope I still have a job after this panel,” I thought, “If we can't have these conversations here, where can we?” As someone who has only worked in philanthropy for four years, it was refreshing to have colleagues speak truthfully about their struggle to work with the norms that make up the culture of their respective foundations, while simultaneously trying to change these internal practices and use approaches that can better reflect their values in action.

The Community Changing the Rules: The Role of Residents to Influence Policy session reaffirmed Vitalyst Health Foundation’s move to support community organizing and capacity building of social justice oriented organizations. For example, it was significant to hear folks make the connection between Freddie Gray’s life and the conditions which lead to his death. I was able to bring back questions such as, “Where can someone fall through the cracks? How do we cultivate and support residents to formulate and drive their own health policy agendas? What data do residents need to create their agendas, and are we willing to fund that work?” I left with a deep desire to better understand democratic development and with a higher level of commitment to my role in Neighborhood Funders Group’s Democratizing Development Program.

Growing Edges of the Place-Based Community Change Movement

There is a tide of change in philanthropy that felt very present at the convening, particularly as it relates to passing the torch to an emerging set of leaders. Some of it was typical generational shift anxiety, but there was an extra ingredient of overall openness to risk taking that felt palpable, particularly among the emerging philanthropists. Some seasoned funders were in a reflective mood about how much more is possible. They asked, “Shouldn’t our efforts have had more impact?” and “What could we have done differently?”, without solely blaming nonprofits or community leaders for the lack of impact. The idea that grantmakers are thinking about what role they played in the lack of impact could develop into something significant. I was also encouraged by people’s commitment to resident engagement that puts the philanthropist in a supporter and learner role, rather than sole designer and driver of initiatives.

Finally, another indicator of how philanthropic culture is changing comes from the many comments of gratitude for inviting convening participants from communities directly involved with a foundation’s work. I was honored to have Joseph Larios, a resident in one of the communities Vitalyst Health Foundation works in and a member of our Board of Trustees, represent the innovative work of his community in such a dignified way, sharing the meaningful and important work happening in Arizona. The Towards a More Resilient Place convening showed me how a growing cadre of leaders is embracing this growing edge that will be critical for strengthening communities in the future.   

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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.