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17 posts from April 2020

Funding in the Time of COVID-19: Questions to Deepen Racial Equity

April 02, 2020

RacehandWe are witnessing a proliferation of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic from the philanthropic sector, as private foundations, other grantmaking institutions, and philanthropy-serving organizations design and launch a variety of efforts.

For those funders that have articulated a commitment to racial equity in their work, the call to prioritize equity is all the more imperative during times of crisis. We know from experience that when institutions act fast, they are more likely to act on biases that reinforce, generate, and/or exacerbate inequities that negatively impact people of color, disabled people, and queer people.

In order to curtail the harmful impacts that acting fast often has on communities of color, in particular, I offer a list of questions that funders prioritizing racial equity should be asking. These speak to common racial biases often observed among grantmaking organizations — biases the sector should be more aware of and skilled at addressing as it designs, implements, and evaluates its responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is your response race-silent or race-explicit? Experience tells us that race-silent analyses and strategies often reinforce and exacerbate racial inequities. Race-silent language in philanthropic work also tends to reinforce racial biases among staff, grantees, donors, and organizational partners. A better strategy is to name race and racism in your diagnosis of the problem and the design of your response to it. Are you clear about the root causes of racial inequities at play? Do you understand how the problem is negatively impacting Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, and Arab/Middle Eastern people? Do your strategies address the specificities and nuances of the increased threats communities of color are facing?

Are you addressing multiple systems of oppression, in addition to racism — for example, hetero-patriarchy and ableism? In other words, is your approach intersectional? Racism does not work in a silo. Rather, racist systems and structures have a co-dependent, conspiratorial relationship with ableist, patriarchal, and capitalist ones. Together, these systems of oppression have produced the racially inequitable structures and outcomes we see around us today. In other words, racial justice is explicitly tied to economic justice, disability justice, gender justice, and other forms of social justice.

Are there non-funders at the table? Funder-only teams exclude your MVPs. Effective and needed expertise resides within the grassroots, community-based leaders who often are themselves people of color, disabled people, and/or queer people. If you are designing your funding responses without the expertise of the people most affected by racist systems and structures, your equity efforts run the risk of being superficial. We urge all funders to co-create and embrace what disability rights activists have been saying for years: "Nothing about us without us."

Are you only funding incorporated 501(c)(3) nonprofit institutions, or can you direct funds to both incorporated and unincorporated groups? Only funding incorporated nonprofits is a limitation that members of the philanthropic sector need to acknowledge and respond to in both the short- and long-term. If your organization is not currently set up to provide funding to worker cooperatives, mutual aid networks, and unincorporated community groups, you are leaving out a critical part of the social infrastructure that provides support and services for historically marginalized communities. Many social justice groups have intentionally decided not to incorporate as 501(c)(3)s because of the limitations that status would place on their work. Interrogate the assumption that incorporated nonprofits alone are able to get the job done.

Are you assuming that "responsive" means "first-come, first-served"? When funders assume that the first organizations to apply for an opportunity are ones most in need and most capable of responding to a problem or crisis, they most likely are ceding an unfair advantage to historically and predominantly White institutions. Without checks and balances in place, processes that accept and respond to grant applications on a rolling basis fail to account for the fact that not all organizations have the same infrastructure and bandwidth in place to take advantage of institutional funding opportunities. More often than not, these disparities in infrastructure and bandwidth mirror inequities in the larger society, with nonprofits led by and serving people of color more likely to not have fully-staffed development teams or even one paid full-time staff person dedicated to fundraising. Funders should proactively reach out to groups led by and serving historically marginalized communities to understand the types of funding needs they have and respond accordingly.

Are you only talking about grant funding, or are other resources on the table? Your grants budget is not your only racial equity tool. It is common among funders who want to do racial equity work that they look for that work to happen in their grantmaking/programs departments. In reality, foundations oversee other resources — financial, social, and human — that can be directed toward more racially equitable outcomes, both internally and externally. One example: endowments. The vast majority of financial assets held collectively by independent foundations in the United States — an estimated $800 billion — are not being channeled outside the walls of those foundations in the form of grants. Rather, they are invested in the capital markets. How funders invest these endowments has always been a racial equity issue, and the opportunity today to direct those investments to industries and companies that are creating positive impact in  communities of color and for other historically marginalized groups during the pandemic has never been more urgent.

Are you articulating and holding yourself accountable to a long-term vision for racial justice? Short-term responses without a long-term vision for a more racially just economy and healthcare system are likely to reinforce the racist status quo. As we respond to the COVID pandemic, the question at hand is less about whether or not we "return to normal," as many pundits are articulating. That "normal" has been unjust, dysfunctional, and ineffective, especially for people of color, disabled people, and queer people. Instead, get clarity on the long-term shifts and changes you are working toward in the short-term so you can actively re-imagine and re-calibrate for a more just future. 

These questions are intended to be an exercise in better priming our funding institutions to be racially equitable in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, asking different questions is a means of arriving at different answers — the kinds of answers we need from philanthropy to actualize racial justice in our communities.

Headshot_Michele Kumi BaerMichele Kumi Baer (she, her, hers) is the philanthropy project director at Race Forward. Michele lives on Tongva and Chumash Land, what some currently call Los Angeles, and is a dedicated social justice practitioner, writer, and dancer. Connect with her on Twitter at @michelekumibaer.

Private Foundations Step Up Funding for COVID-19 Response Efforts (March 15-31, 2020)

April 01, 2020

Coronavirus covid 19 shutterstock_1656821971As COVID-19 spreads globally and in the United States, private foundations are stepping up with funding to meet the immediate needs of individuals and vulnerable populations impacted by the virus. The "quick-hit" roundup below captures some of the foundation activity in response to COVID-19 over the last two weeks. Items are sorted in alpha order, by state and, within states, by foundation name. 

For more coverage, check out PND's COVID-19 page and Candid's COVID-19 popup page.

ARIZONA

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, Phoenix, AZ | $6.3 Million

The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust has announced emergency grants totaling $6.3 million to science, human services, and arts and culture nonprofits in Maricopa County. The foundation awarded a $2 million grant to Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute to expand automated, rapid diagnostic testing aimed at mitigating the spread and potential reoccurrence of COVID-19; grants totaling more than $2 million to twenty-eight human services providers facing a significant increase in demand for their services; and grants totaling $2.2 million to forty-four arts and cultural nonprofits facing significant losses of revenue from event cancellations and a drop off in donations.

CALIFORNIA

California Wellness Foundation, Los Angeles, CA | $4 Million

The California Wellness Foundation has announced grants totaling nearly $3 million in support of vulnerable communities impacted by COVID-19 — including frontline health workers, economically disadvantaged individuals and groups, immigrants, seniors, and Asian Americans experiencing race-based harassment and assaults — as well as select grantees who are experiencing significant disruptions to their work. Cal Wellness also said it will commit another $1 million in support of community clinics and the associations that advocate for them.

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Redwood City, CA | $5 Million

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has announced commitments totaling $5 million to nonprofits and public health agencies responding to the spread of COVID-19 in San Mateo County, where CZI is based, and the wider Bay Area. Commitments include $1 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation's COVID-19 Regional Response Fund in support of organizations providing critical services such as emergency rental and food assistance; support for a partnership between the Contra Costa Regional Health Foundation and Contra Costa Health Services focused on establishing a mobile testing site for first responders and healthcare workers and expanding mobile testing and screening more broadly; a donation of eight hundred WiFi hotspots to the Redwood City and Ravenswood City school districts in support of at-home learning; and creation of a regional COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to provide local community-based organizations with timely, flexible funding in support of their efforts to address emerging needs in the region.

William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation, Laguna Beach, CA | $1.5 Million

The William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation has announced grants totaling $1.5 million to organizations working to address the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern California communities. The foundation awarded grants of $250,000 to the OC Food Bank and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and grants of $200,000 to the National Domestic Workers Alliance's Coronavirus Care FundWorld Central Kitchen, the Recording Academy's MusiCares safety-net program, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, and the Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation.

Hellman, Crankstart, Stupski Foundations, San Francisco, CA| $2 Million

The Hellman Foundation has contributed $1 million and the Crankstart Foundation and Stupski Foundation have given $500,000 each to San Francisco's Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. The fund, which also received donations from Ann and Gordon Getty ($1 million), Mark Pincus ($100,000), Tom and Theresa Preston-Werner ($250,000), Kyle Vogt and Dan Kan ($100,000), Salesforce ($1.5 million), and Wells Fargo ($150,000), will provide assistance in three priority areas: food security; access to housing; and security for workers and small businesses.

Milner Foundation, Silicon Valley, CA | $3 Million

The Milner Foundation has awarded grants totaling $3 million to three Israeli institutions in support of COVID-19 response and research efforts. The recipients are Magen David Adom, Israel's national emergency medical response organization, in support of efforts to reduce the number of people coming to clinics; Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, in support of research aimed at developing treatments for coronavirus; and Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center – Ichilov Hospital, in support of the intensive care unit caring for COVID-19 patients.

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