February 15, 2017

Funders: Let's Stop Fixating on Our Issues and Start Supporting our Values

Dimple Abichandani, NFG member and Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, encourages colleagues to move from business as usual toward new practices of solidarity, including increased funder alignment and greater support of cross-issue movement building efforts that often struggle to raise funds.

This post originally appeared in Inside Philanthropy here.

As I think about where we go from here, I can’t stop thinking about the election.

The 2010 election.

In 2010, there were two dozen states that had anti-Sharia law ballot measures and/or legislation pending. In fact, Sharia law did not pose any real threat to communities, but these ballot measures introduced by conservatives tested whether Islamophobia mobilized voters. On election day in 2010, voters in Oklahoma overwhelmingly voted to amend the state constitution to ban the use of Sharia law in state courts. The vote in Oklahoma confirmed the potency of Islamophobia and the degree to which “othering” and fear turned out voters.

At that time, I led the Security & Rights Collaborative, a donor collaborative at the Proteus Fund fighting Islamophobia. In my progressive philanthropy circles, there were colleagues concerned about the troubling trend, but only a handful of foundations were supporting anti-hate efforts in 2010. And more often than not, when I reached out to funders to invite their support, I would be met with regret that “this is not our foundation’s issue.”

On December 7, 2015, candidate Donald Trump announced a proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States. Where philanthropy ignored the early warnings, he had clearly paid attention. And as we all know, last week, President Trump made good on his promises by passing an executive order temporarily barring entry into the United States of people from seven majority Muslim countries.

Today, we all can see how hate and “othering” helped elect one of the most dangerous and xenophobic administrations in U.S. history. Decades of hard-won progress across so many issues from racial and gender justice to reproductive rights, economic justice, and environmental justice may be unraveled.

So where does that leave us in philanthropy? As we face multiple challenges on multiple issues, how can philanthropy most effectively fight back?

I ask this question today from my current position as the Executive Director of the General Service Foundation, a private foundation that advances justice. In my first year at GSF, our board and staff took time to look beyond and behind the issues we fund to articulate our core values and the impact we are working toward. As I work with my fellow funders in this moment, I know that these core values, our clarity about our purpose, and the example set by movement leaders charts a path forward.

Today, advocates across issues are coming together to stand with each other in solidarity. As they lock arms to demonstrate a progressive united front, there is growing power and potential for a movement of movements. Funders ought to follow suit, and adopt a practice of solidarity that supports a more unified field in this unprecedented moment—a moment that warrants a continued, strong, and united response at a scale not seen before.

Solidarity is the opposite of saying, “Sorry, that’s not my issue.” Rather, this is a time of affirming our shared values, and seeing the intersections between all affected communities and the various issues that we are fighting for. It is a time for us to work together across our institutions to advance shared values. A practice of philanthropic solidarity is an invitation to be more expansive in our own vision of justice. What if, when they came for our immigrant sisters, reproductive rights funders stepped in, understanding that separated families cannot experience reproductive justice? What if, when they shut down the Flint water crisis investigation, funders of racial and economic justice joined environmental funders and those who support women and families to fight back together in recognition of our common cause?

Today, many of our institutions are stepping up and increasing our payout to meet the challenges of the Trump era. These new commitments of funding represent an opportunity for us to move from business as usual toward new practices of solidarity. At GSF, our first step in moving from issues to values came a year ago when our board approved a spending policy by which any increase in payout would be available for more flexible funding that was values aligned rather than issue specific. This small shift opened the door for us to focus on strategies rather than issues and to support cross-issue movement building efforts that often struggle to raise funds.

After the election, when our board approved an increased payout for 2017, we committed to aligning our giving with fellow progressive funders. Aligned giving is a departure from philanthropy’s default culture of autonomy, and it will take experimentation to find ways that work, but in this moment, we are clear that aligning our efforts will increase impact and can reduce the burden of fundraising on grantees. We are excited to partner with other funders in this moment to seed new practices.

Last spring, I moderated a conversation with Linda Sarsour and Marisa Franco at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrant & Refugee Rights, titled “Crucial Intersections: Race, Immigration and the Future of Cross Issue Social Movements.” Many of you may recognize Linda Sarsour, a Muslim American activist, as one of the lead organizers of the historic women’s march. When we spoke about philanthropy’s role in supporting cross-issue work, Linda described how she has long fought for reproductive rights, immigrants rights and police reform, but she has only ever received funding from national security-focused funders. She felt frustrated and handicapped by the constraints of philanthropic silos, to have the breadth of the Muslim community’s concerns put in a narrow, foundation-defined box.

“I’m so ready to show up and be whole in my work,” she told me.

In this moment, we need all of our leaders across so many movements that are building power for marginalized communities to be supported in ways that allow them to show up and be whole in their work. If we practice philanthropy as usual and stick to our silos, we are easily divided by our opponents. Instead, we can approach our grantmaking from a broader perspective of the values that guide us, to show up together and in solidarity. Woven together, we are strong. Together, we are whole.

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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.