70 posts categorized "author-Kyoko Uchida"

Review: 'Private Virtues, Public Vices: Philanthropy and Democratic Equality'

April 30, 2022

Book_cover_Public_Virtues_Private_VicesIt is lamented that large-scale philanthropy (like everything else) has become politicized and polarizing, subject to conspiracy theories and accusations of whitewashing and being too “woke.” In Private Virtues, Public Vices: Philanthropy and Democratic Equality, Emma Saunders-Hastings reminds us that contributing private wealth for the public good—by definition—has always been a political act.

An assistant professor of political science at Ohio State University, Saunders-Hastings writes like the academic she is, giving careful consideration to historical and contemporary theorists and practitioners—including Alexis de Tocqueville, John Rawls, Peter Singer, Rob Reich, and Erica Kohl-Arenas—and scrupulously qualifying her statements, devoting almost as much space to what she is not arguing as to what she is. She does not deny the merits of philanthropy itself, as Machiavelli did, but seeks “a theory of philanthropy that is political, not just ethical; that applies across multiple levels of idealization; and that is oriented to relational equality”—that is, relations of social and political (not distributive) equality.

“Democratic equality demands of philanthropy and philanthropic regulation not (or not only) better outcomes but changes in the ways that power is distributed and exercised within philanthropic relationships,” she writes.

The book focuses on two objections to philanthropy with regard to democracy: “philanthropy can be an exercise of plutocratic power, and it can be objectionably paternalistic.” The title’s “public vices” are “relational vices—usurpation, subordination, failures of reciprocity, and paternalism,” which can create or reinforce unequal political relationships, even when based on consent. Despite calls for reform, elite philanthropy continues to enjoy both social deference, which limits comparative evaluations of philanthropic donations, and institutional and legal deference, in the form of tax benefits, facilitation of foundation creation, weak oversight, and protection of donor intent....

Read the full review by Kyoko Uchida, features editor at Philanthropy News Digest.

Building more resilient communities: A Q&A with Nicole Taylor, President and CEO, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

April 17, 2022

Headshot_Nicole_Taylor_SVCFNicole Taylor joined the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), the largest community foundation in the United States, as president and CEO in December 2018. She previously served as vice president of the ASU Foundation, as deputy vice president and dean of students at Arizona State University, and as associate vice provost of student affairs and dean of community engagement as well as managing director of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, where she had earned her bachelor’s degree in human biology and master’s in education. She also has served as president and CEO of Thrive Foundation for Youth, the East Bay Community Foundation, and as CEO of College Track.

Since April 2020, Taylor also has served as co-chair of the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable, a group of 59 business and community leaders working to chart a path to “a better normal” in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taylor discussed SVCF’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, center racial equity in its grantmaking, and help address systemic inequities in the region; her experience as a Black woman in the C-Suite and the challenges women of color continue to face in the sector; and the role of donor-advised funds in democratizing philanthropy and the potential impact of currently proposed reform legislation.

Philanthropy News Digest: Can you share some highlights of how the more than $50 million raised in the early months of the pandemic helped address community needs across the region?

Nicole Taylor: In 2020, SVCF raised more than $65 million for pandemic response. This money went toward seven different funds to ensure that we supported the varied individuals and organizations affected by the pandemic and met their unique needs. Through our COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, we granted more than $20 million to core agency partners across the 10-county Bay Area region, which in turn provided relief—food, housing and financial assistance—to low-income individuals and families. We launched additional funds to support local nonprofits, small businesses, education systems, and childcare providers. Nearly $13 million was granted as part of the Regional Nonprofit Emergency Fund, which supported Santa Clara and San Mateo County nonprofits. Over $3 million was granted from the Small Business Relief Fund, which supported small businesses with employees at risk for lost wages.

As the pandemic continues to affect individuals and families, nonprofits, and small businesses, we will continue to serve these communities with just as much urgency, particularly in our own backyard. In 2021 alone, thanks to our donors, we distributed $777 million in grants to Bay Area organizations, a 48 percent increase compared to 2020 and the most distributed in any region. Our hope is that this community-focused giving will provide necessary support while building more resilient communities....

Read the full Q&A with Nicole Taylor, CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Bold and intersectional funding: A Q&A with Ana L. Oliveira, President and CEO, The New York Women’s Foundation

April 13, 2022

Headshot_AnaOliveira_New_York_Womens_FoundationAna L. Oliveira has served as president and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation (The Foundation) since 2006, after leading Gay Men’s Health Crisis for seven years as its first woman and Latina executive director. Oliveira grew up in São Paulo, Brazil, earned an MA in medical anthropology from the New School for Social Research, and directed community-based programs at Samaritan Village, the Osborne Association, and Kings County and Lincoln hospitals.

Under Oliveira’s leadership, The Foundation has expanded its grantmaking—starting with a 20 percent increase in 2009, to $3.3 million—and awarded $9 million in 2021, bringing total grant dollars awarded to date to more than $100 million.

PND asked Oliveira about her priorities for 2022, the importance of investing in grassroots organizations, the fight for reproductive rights and criminal justice reform, and women’s and LGBTQ individuals’ advancement in the sector.

Philanthropy News Digest: In announcing that your foundation had reached $100 million in cumulative grantmaking over 35 years in support of community-based solutions to create a more equitable and just future for women, girls, and gender-expansive people, you noted that “we are also aware of the work left to do.” What are your top priorities for 2022? And for the next $100 million?

Ana L. Oliveira: The Foundation’s focus has been and will remain on investing in women and gender-expansive leaders to advance justice in their communities. This marks a pivotal year for The Foundation, as we celebrate our anniversary and will host the 35th annual Celebrating Women® Breakfast on May 11. Our top priorities in 2022 include deepening our practice of participatory and inclusive philanthropy, altering the traditional power structure of more traditional philanthropic approaches. We will deepen our proximity to community, increasing the presence of those with lived experience at all tables at The Foundation. We will continue to focus on funding those creating and organizing a city and a country that works for all through their gender, racial, and economic equity movements. We believe in a vibrant and participatory civil society, so we will also increase our support to those protecting and expanding democratic practices in the U.S.

We will also start our work to distribute our next $100 million in grants in the next 10 years! It will reflect our commitment to continued bold and intersectional funding that honors the leadership and vision of women and gender-expansive people....

Read the full Q&A with Ana L. Oliveira, president and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights and sovereignty: A Q& A with Carla F. Fredericks, CEO, Christensen Fund

March 23, 2022

Headshot_carla_fredericks_christensen_fundFounded in 1957, the San Francisco-based Christensen Fund works to support Indigenous peoples in advancing their inherent rights, dignity, and self-determination. In 2020 the foundation implemented a new grantmaking strategy that centers its work on “supporting and strengthening Indigenous peoples’ efforts to secure and exercise their rights to their land, territories, resources, and sovereign systems of governance.” The shift from a regional approach to a rights-based one in support of the global Indigenous Peoples’ Movement is rooted in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Carla F. Fredericks joined the foundation as CEO in January 2021. An enrolled citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation of North Dakota, Fredericks is an expert in sustainable economic development, finance, human rights, Indigenous peoples law, and federal Indian law. She has provided core support to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, serving as counsel to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in bringing their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline to international financial institutions, assisting the Maya peoples of Southern Belize in implementing the affirmation of their land rights, and developing a model for Indigenous-driven consent processes and remedy. As a faculty member of the University of Colorado Law School, in 2017 she relaunched First Peoples Worldwide—an interdisciplinary program that engages investors, companies, financial institutions, and policy makers with Indigenous peoples to promote implementation of Indigenous rights. Fredericks also serves as board chair of the Mashantucket Pequot (Western) Endowment Trust, and is a member of the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Group to the Decolonizing Wealth Project.

PND asked Fredericks about the foundation’s right-based grantmaking strategy, the intersection of Indigenous people’s rights and climate action, and her work to integrate human rights into financial frameworks.

Philanthropy News Digest: You joined the Christensen Fund just as it shifted from a regional grantmaking strategy to a rights-based one. What does a rights-based approach look like, in concrete terms?

Carla F. Fredericks: Taking a rights-based approach means that we support and defend Indigenous Peoples inherent human rights, in and of themselves. Indigenous Peoples are too often seen as a means to an end to carry out solutions ordained by non-native people in power—especially in environmental and climate spaces. But Indigenous Peoples’ rights and sovereignty need to be restored and defended because these communities are inherently worthy of the same rights and protections that all people deserve.

Our approach centers Indigenous Peoples as rights holders first and foremost. It is rooted in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which is the global standard that both asserts and recognizes Indigenous worldviews and values and establishes a universal framework for recognition of their rights. UNDRIP is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Part of the goal of growing the recognition and use of UNDRIP by both Indigenous Peoples and states is to move Indigenous Peoples’ rights toward the status of customary, international, and/or domestic law. Our ultimate goal as a foundation is always to improve Indigenous Peoples’ lived realities in every way. This includes ensuring that Indigenous communities know their rights and protections under UNDRIP, and supporting them in defending these rights and protections. Rooting our strategy in UNDRIP is our contribution to the essential global work of ensuring that nation-states recognize and adhere to Indigenous Peoples’ rights, dignity, and sovereignty in order to improve their daily lives beyond just considering the well-being of the land and seascapes they steward.

In concrete terms, this looks like practicing trust-based grantmaking that advances self-determination and is not prescriptive. We’ve moved all of our grantmaking to general operating, multiyear support and have thrown significant financial support behind Indigenous-led funding mechanisms that fund Indigenous communities....

Read the full Q&A with Carla F. Fredericks, CEO of the Christensen Fund.

How organizations are responding to the Ukraine crisis

March 08, 2022

Ukraine_credit_Joel Carillet_GettyImages-1371827450According to UNHCR, between February 24 and March 8, 2022, an estimated 2,011,312 refugees left Ukraine. The vast majority (1,204,403) fled to Poland, while others went to Hungary (191,348), Slovakia (140,745), the Russian Fedeartion (99,300), Moldova (82,762), Romania (82,062), Belarus (453), and other European counties (210,239). On March 1, the United NationsOffice for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued a funding appeal for $1.7 billion in support of humanitarian relief efforts for people in Ukraine and refugees in neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, numerous NGOs are working on the ground in Ukraine and in the region to address the humanitarian needs of those affected by the Russian invasion. Needs range from medical supplies, food, water, hygiene kits, and psychosocial support to mental health assistance for children and families fleeing the region.

Here we highlight just some of the organizations directly assisting  and/or supporting efforts to assist internally displaced Ukrainians and refugees and the communities hosting them.

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

The New York City-based American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has operated in Ukraine for three decades and supports nearly 40,000 low-income Jewish people in 1,000 locations across the country. Through its emergency hotlines, volunteer corps, and network of social service centers, the organization provides essentials such as food and medicine. JDC also is preparing to respond to mass displacement and deploy psychosocial support and increased aid to the most vulnerable. JDC has received grants from funders including Genesis Philanthropy Group, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and the Jewish Federations of North America.

American Red Cross

According to the American Red Cross headquartered in Washington, D.C., as of March 6, 2022, Red Cross teams have distributed more than 90,000 food and hygiene parcels to families on the move across Ukraine, including Mariupol; provided first aid training to more than 12,000 people in metro stations and bomb shelters; delivered more than 32 tons of food, blankets, medicine, medical supplies, trauma kits, and household items; assisted with the evacuation of people with disabilities; and distributed critical care items to more than 7,000 people seeking safety in bomb shelters from shelling. The American Red Cross also has deployed crisis responders to provide humanitarian relief in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, Croatia, Lithuania, and Russia, where Red Cross volunteers are supporting displaced people. ARC has received grants from funders including Bank of America, Key Bank, and Wells Fargo.

“The escalating conflict in Ukraine is taking a devastating toll,” said International Committee of the Red Cross director general Robert Mardini in a statement. “Casualty figures keep rising while health facilities struggle to cope. We already see long-term disruptions in regular water and electricity supplies. People calling our hotline in Ukraine are desperately in need of food and shelter.”

Americares

Based in Stamford, Connecticut, Americares has worked in Eastern Europe for decades, delivering $120 million in medicine and supplies to Ukraine to date. To help provide health services for Ukrainian families affected by the current humanitarian crisis, the organization has sent an emergency response team of physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals to Krakow, Poland. The organization will deliver medicine, medical supplies, emergency funding, and relief items to the region and provide primary care services, emergency treatment for injuries, and mental health and psychosocial support services to help survivors cope with stress and trauma. Americares has received commitments from Boeing and United Airlines, among others.

CARE

Atlanta-based CARE works to address global poverty—with an emphasis on empowering women—and deliver emergency aid to survivors of war and natural disasters. In Ukraine, the NGO is supporting local partner organizations to provide warm, safe spaces for refugees to rest at border crossings and to send food, sleeping bags, diapers, and other essentials into Ukraine. At the Ukrainian-Romanian border, CARE and its partner, SERA, are training 200 psychologists in emergency psychosocial support to help arriving refugees overcome the trauma of war and leaving their homes and also are supporting social services and child protection services at arrival points and on transit routes for the most vulnerable children. In addition, CARE has warned that “[f]or women who have been forced to flee their homes, who are far away from their usual support networks and usual means of income; exploitation—including sexual exploitation—is a real risk” and is calling for coordinated protection services to register and accompany those fleeing the conflict.

“One of the best ways to ensure a gender-sensitive humanitarian response is to fund women’s organizations in Ukraine, and other local organizations led by and serving specific groups, such as people with disabilities,” said CARE emergency media manager Ninja Taprogge in a statement. “These groups also need to be consulted as the international humanitarian response is planned, because their local knowledge, skills and networks are invaluable.”

Center for Disaster Philanthropy

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) in Washington, D.C., has created the CDP Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Recovery Fund, which will focus on addressing needs among the most vulnerable, marginalized, and at-risk internally displaced peoples, and refugees. The organization is in contact with and can award grants to Ukrainian and other international organizations that are not 501(c)3 entities. In addition, CDP has a list of suggestions for disaster giving by foundations.

“Although it will take a few days before we get a better understanding of the scale and extent of additional humanitarian needs from this rapid escalation and expansion of the conflict, we know that people forced from their homes need shelter, food, clean water and other basic necessities, particularly in the harsh winter climate,” the organization said on its website.

Direct Relief

Based in Santa Barbara, California, Direct Relief works to equip health professionals in resource-poor communities to meet the challenges of diagnosing and caring for people in need. As of March 3, 2022, Direct Relief—which has supported hospitals in Ukraine for years—has sent two shipments of medical aid to Poland for transport into Ukraine. The shipments include medicines and supplies requested by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health, such as medical oxygen concentrators, antibiotics, wound dressings, and respiratory medicine, as well as field medic packs. The organization anticipates a rapid expansion of medical relief to Ukraine in the near term, as dozens of medical manufacturers, including Eli Lilly and Co. and Merck, lend their support. FedEx is also working with Direct Relief to provide in-kind support of a charter flight containing medical aid.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), with U.S. headquarters in New York City, has delivered a shipment of emergency medical supplies—including surgical kits, trauma kits, and basic necessities for intensive care units, emergency rooms, and surgical operating theaters—to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health in Kyiv. Experienced MSF emergency and specialist medical staff are currently entering Ukraine, with more scheduled to arrive to support teams already working on the ground. MSF teams are assessing medical humanitarian needs at the Polish-Ukrainian border as well as elsewhere in Poland. The organization is also assessing the needs of refugees in Hungary, with a focus on identifying less visible needs for particularly vulnerable people; in southeastern Moldova, with a focus on chronically ill patients or mental health needs; and in border areas in Slovakia. In addition, MSF has an established presence in southern Russia and in Belarus—with its tuberculosis and hepatitis C programs—where it is assessing whether new medical humanitarian needs have emerged.

Global Giving

Global Giving, based in Washington, D.C., works to facilitate donations to reliable, locally led disaster relief and recovery efforts around the world through its online giving platform. The organization has set up a Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund in support of humanitarian assistance in impacted communities in Ukraine and surrounding regions where Ukrainian refugees have fled, including shelter, food, and clean water for refugees; health and psychosocial support; and access to education and economic assistance. As of March 7, the fund has raised $6.47 million toward its $10 million goal. Global Giving also provides a Ukrainian Crisis: Fast Facts page that provides historical context for the war and its impact on humanitarian challenges.

International Medical Corps

The International Medical Corps, based in Pasadena, California, is on the ground in Ukraine, has created a logistics and support hub in Poland, and is working with health agencies and local partners to provide primary and emergency health services; mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS); gender-based violence (GBV) response services and protection services for women, children, and other at-risk people who face risks during conflict; and medicines and medical supplies, including personal protection equipment, to help provide critical care and prevent infectious diseases like COVID-19 among refugees and displaced populations. The organization first delivered essential relief and medicines to Ukrainian healthcare facilities and trained local doctors and medical staff in 1999; since 2014, when the healthcare system in eastern Ukraine collapsed, it has been providing primary health care, MHPSS, GBV, and COVID-related services.

International Rescue Committee

The New York City-based International Rescue Committee (IRC), which helps those whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive and recover, is on the ground in Poland, working with local partners there and in Ukraine. The organization is providing critical information to some of the one million people who have arrived in Poland from Ukraine and are also procuring medical supplies and essential items such as sleeping bags and blankets for distribution at reception centers on the Ukrainian/Polish border. In addition, IRC is also working to quickly mobilize resources and connect with partners in Ukraine to establish a response that will provide life-saving support to civilians forced to flee their homes. The organization has received a grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Project HOPE

Project HOPE, based in Omaha, Nebraska, is coordinating with local NGOs, hospitals, and government officials across Poland, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine, as well as the World Health Organization, Logistics Clusters, ministries of health, and other authorities. The organization’s immediate focus is on continuing to source and ship essential medicines and medical supplies for primary health and trauma care to affected areas, including hygiene kits, Interagency Emergency Health Kits, and insulin. In Poland, Project HOPE is procuring vital medical supplies to be delivered to a neonatal hospital in Kyiv, supporting an NGO in Kyiv in purchasing and transporting medicines and medical supplies to civilian hospitals, and assessing health needs in the Dnipro region, including for those who are internally displaced. In Moldova, the organization also is procuring and delivering critical medical supplies to the Ministry of Health to serve refugees. In addition, in Romania, Project HOPE is sourcing hygiene kits, medical supplies, and medicines for transport into Ukraine and for the refugee population.

“These refugees have no idea when they will be able to return home or what home they will return to. Many of them only have the few belongings they could grab before fleeing,” said Project HOPE’s Vlatko Uzevski in a statement. Within these waves of refugees are untold thousands who are pregnant, nursing, elderly, or managing serious medical conditions. The doctors and medicines they rely on are gone. There were already three million people in Ukraine in need of humanitarian assistance before this invasion. They are the ones who will bear the brunt of this war.”

Project Kesher

Based in New York, Project Kesher works to build the Jewish community and advance civil society by developing and empowering women leaders. Their work in Ukraine is to mobilize globally to support Ukrainian women and families. Project Kesher Ukraine staff are currently on the ground, either sheltering in place or traveling in search of safety. At the same time, Project Kesher activists are crossing into border countries in Europe, many with children and elderly family members, while those in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and Israel are fielding requests from Ukrainian women for help with evacuation, support at the border, immigrating to Israel, and accessing emergency support services. The organization is in daily contact with Jewish relief efforts on the ground and in Europe.

Razom

New York-based Razom works to foster Ukrainian democracy and civil society through a global network of experts and organizations supporting democracy activists and human rights advocates across Ukraine. Razom’s emergency response to the crisis is focused on purchasing medical supplies for critical situations like blood loss and other tactical medicine items through an extensive procurement team of volunteers that tracks down and purchases supplies, and a logistics team that then gets them to Ukraine. Razom also is coordinating with several partner organizations worldwide, including Nova Ukraine, United Help Ukraine, Revived Soldiers Ukraine, Sunflower for Peace, and Euromaidan-Warszawa; working with governments and embassies on establishing humanitarian corridors; and arranging for warehouses and points of delivery in Poland and Ukraine. Donated funds will be used to purchase tourniquets, bandages, combat gauzes, sterile pads, and satellite phones.

Save the Children

Connecticut-based Save the Children is supporting humanitarian programs aiming to reach 3.5 million children and their families with immediate aid and recovery through its Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, which will provide children and families with immediate aid such as food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support, and cash assistance. Save the Children is on the ground in Romania, working with migrants and asylum seekers in five reception centers. Teams are currently conducting a needs assessment in four refugee camps in northeastern Romania and preparing to distribute essential items and set up spaces where children have a safe place to play, learn, and cope with grief and loss; it is also urgently assessing needs in Poland and Lithuania. In addition, Save the Children is calling on neighboring countries to provide access to asylum, protection, and assistance to all people fleeing Ukraine, regardless of their nationality or visa status.

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

California-based Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights partners with women’s movements worldwide to support women’s human rights defenders striving to create cultures of justice, equality, and peace. In response to the crisis in Ukraine, the fund supports women, trans, and nonbinary activists on the ground in Ukraine and the surrounding region by providing flexible funding and security support. To that end, the organization is responding to requests from groups and individuals seeking help with emergency evacuations and relocations; legal, financial, and medical support; security and disaster survival training; increasing shelter capacities for children, women, and all other civilians; and access to alternative communication channels, mobile internet, power banks, VPNs, proxy, spare phones, and tablets.

World Central Kitchen

Founded in 2010 by Chef José Andrés, World Central Kitchen (WCK), based in Washington, D.C., provides meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises while building resilient food systems with locally led solutions. WCK is on the ground in Ukraine and nearby countries, serving thousands of fresh meals to Ukrainian families fleeing home and those who remain in the country. Within hours of the initial invasion, WCK began working at a 24-hour pedestrian border crossing in southern Poland and now feeds families at eight border crossings across the country. In addition, WCK supports local restaurants preparing meals in eight Ukrainian cities, including Odessa, Lviv, and Kyiv. WCK teams are also on the ground in Romania, Moldova, and Hungary and plan to assist in Slovakia. Andrés ,who last year was awarded a $100 million “courage and civility award” from Jeff Bezos for his humanitarian work, has said via Twitter that he will commit support from that award to Ukraine.

“It’s hard to know that, even in this moment, there are mainly women with children walking for hours out of Ukraine to safety, to different countries,” said Andrés s in a recorded message. “Every country is welcoming them, and every country is doing their best, but it’s hard to know there are people walking in the streets or spending the night in a car with no gas, with no way to heat themselves.”

The majority of these organizations has earned a Candid Seal of Transparency at the Platinum, Gold, or Silver level.

A Candid Seal of Transparency indicates that an organization has shared publicly information that enables informed funding decisions. Depending on the level (Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum), requirements include information about its mission, grantmaker status, donations, and leadership, programs, brand details, audited financial report or basic financial information, board demographics, strategic plan or strategy and goal highlights, and at least one metric demonstrating progress and results. Learn more about how nonprofits can earn a Seal of Transparency. https://guidestar.candid.org/profile-best-practices/

Find more articles in Philanthropy News Digest about  philanthropy’s response to the war in Ukraine.

Find more updates and resources on Candids special issue page on the philanthropic response to the war in Ukraine.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Joel Carillet)

Lauren Brathwaite is content editor and Kyoko Uchida is features editor at Philanthropy News Digest.

 

'Grounded in anger and in love': A Q&A with Richard R. Buery, Jr., CEO, Robin Hood

November 09, 2021

Headshot_Richard Buery Jr.Richard R. Buery, Jr. succeeded Wes Moore as CEO of New York City-based Robin Hood in September, after serving as CEO of Robin Hood's community partner Achievement First, a network of thirty-seven charter schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. He previously served as New York City's deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives, in which he led Pre-K for All, which for first time offers free, full-day, high-quality PreK to every four-year-old in New York City; created School's Out NYC to offer free afterschool programs to every middle school student; launched two hundred community school partnerships; managed the city's mental health reform initiative; and founded the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Mayor's Office of Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises. His experience in civil and nonprofit leadership also included stints as staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, chief of policy and public affairs for the KIPP Foundation, and CEO of Children's Aid. He also co-founded Groundwork to support the educational aspirations of public housing residents in Brooklyn, as well as iMentor, which pairs high school students with mentors to help them navigate to and through college.

A first-generation Panamanian American born and raised in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Buery is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School, Harvard College, and Yale Law School and clerked on the Federal Court of Appeals in New York.

PND spoke with Buery about worsening income inequality and the racial wealth gap, the impact of COVID-19 on the fight against poverty, the importance of equitable access to early childhood education and mental health services, and diversity among foundation and nonprofit leaders.

Philanthropy News Digest: You've held leadership positions with and/or founded numerous organizations focused on children and education — from the KIPP Foundation, Children's Aid, Groundwork, iMentor, and Achievement First to spearheading Pre-K for All and community-school partnerships. How did you come to devote your career to improving educational outcomes for underserved children?

Richard R. Buery, Jr: I think it stems from love and anger. I grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Brooklyn but was able to attend a high-performing specialized high school, Stuyvesant, in Lower Manhattan. Riding the subway for an hour each way between East New York and Stuyvesant, I realized there were two New York Cities — one where children have all the resources they need to succeed, and one where they don't. Why was I one of the lucky ones who got to attend a great public school, when so many other kids in my neighborhood who were just as talented and driven were sentenced to a second-tier education?

Experiencing those two New Yorks every day did something to me. It made me angry. But I got lucky. In college, I began volunteering at an afterschool program in the Mission Hill housing development in Roxbury, Boston. I fell in love with the children, the families, and the community. It reminded me of home. I wound up starting a summer program to support those children when school was out.

So, I think my career is grounded in anger and in love. My experience in Mission Hill taught me that when injustice makes you angry, you can do something about it. You can organize people, organize resources, and you can work with communities you love to help solve problems.

Read the full Q&A with Richard R. Buery, Jr.

 

'Building political power at a grassroots level': A Q&A with Romilda Avila, CEO, Tides Advocacy

September 22, 2021

Headshot_Romilda_Avila_Tides_croppedRomilda Avila is CEO of Tides Advocacy (formerly the Advocacy Fund), a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization working with a network of fiscally sponsored 501(c)(4) projects and funds to strengthen political infrastructure and support power building and policy reform led by those most impacted by injustice. To that end, the organization provides capacity-building support, grantmaking support, and advising services to incubate advocacy initiatives. Avila served as Tides Advocacy's deputy director from 2017 to 2019 and as interim CEO before being appointed CEO in April 2020; she previously worked as a social impact consultant advising national foundations on grantmaking strategies for advancing social justice and equity.

PND asked Avila about Tides Advocacy's commitment to and process of becoming a pro-Black organization, the Political Movement Infrastructure Project, and the role of grassroots organizations in power building. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: You were officially appointed CEO not long after the COVID-19 crisis began in the United States. How did your priorities for the organization shift as a result of the pandemic and its economic fallout?

Romilda Avila: Last year, when the pandemic hit, movement folks had to restructure in the moment; in the middle of organizing in the field, they had to transition to lockdown and figure out technology and community engagement. We rallied and were able to give $150,000 through our internal Resilience Fund to highly impacted partners to make sure that they were able to sustain themselves and their salaries and support healing justice and programming while facing an uncertain future. It was the first time that Tides Advocacy has done this type of grantmaking.

We're also supporting more organizations in terms of (c)(4) funding and inspiring folks to do more political work in the off-season. Through our Healthy Democracy Action Fund, during an important election year, we had an opportunity to work with a great donor who allowed us to support almost fifty organizations through nearly $6 million in grants. Almost $2.1 million went to Black-led organizations organizing in the South and the Midwest, and the rest went to Native, Latinx, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander communities. We're also looking to go deeper with leaders and organizations working on LGBTQ rights — particularly trans issues — and immigrant rights, disability rights, and more, so we can support all people directly impacted by injustice in organizing and building political power at a grassroots level....

Read the full Q&A with Romilda Avila.

'We understood what it meant to be silenced, afraid, and vulnerable': A Q&A with Mónica Ramírez

July 26, 2021

Headshot_Monica Ramirez_Justice_for_Migrant_WomenMónica Ramírez is an organizer, attorney, social entrepreneur, and founder and president of Justice for Migrant Women, whose work includes policy advocacy, civic and political engagement, public awareness and education campaigns, narrative shift initiatives, and multi-sector and multi-ethnic power-building collaborations. For two decades she has worked to protect the civil and human rights of women, children, workers, Latinos/as, and immigrants and to eliminate gender-based violence and secure gender equity, launching Esperanza: The Immigrant Women's Legal Initiative at the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2003. Ramírez also is co-founder of the Latinx House and Alianza Nacional de Campesinos, where she served as board president until 2018.

In our latest '5 Questions for...' feature, PND spoke with Ramírez about the intersectionality of women's, farmworkers', and immigrants' rights; the impact of COVID-19 on farmworkers; and the Healing Voices program. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: You're credited with helping to galvanize the TIME'S UP movement against sexual harassment by publishing the "Dear Sisters" letter on behalf of farmworker women, addressed to women in the entertainment industry. What factors put migrant farmworkers at particularly high risk of sexual harassment, in both similar and disparate ways from women in Hollywood?

Mónica Ramírez: Women of color have historically been left out of the narratives featured in TV shows or movies, much less given the opportunities to feel safe and comfortable enough to bring to light their traumas and seek justice — and the same can be said for farmworker and migrant women. Most people don't realize that migrant women suffer from sexual harassment in the workplace at the hands of supervisors, recruiters, co-workers, and others. They are more vulnerable, as they're employed in small workplaces like private homes and small farms, sometimes with fewer than fifteen workers. And as these women are not covered by existing federal anti-sexual harassment law, they're particularly vulnerable to harm without any recourse to seek justice. To make matters worse, many are afraid to speak out about any incidents of sexual harassment that take place due to fear of deportation, being fired, or having their hard-earned wages taken away....We understood what it meant to be silenced, afraid, and vulnerable....

Read the full Q&A with Mónica Ramírez.

5 Questions for...Marisa Franco, Co-Founder/Executive Director, Mijente

May 31, 2021

Marisa Franco is co-founder and executive director of Mijente and the Mijente Support Committee, a Latinx and Chicanx advocacy organization and digital and grassroots organizing hub. Founded in 2015, Mijente's campaigns have resulted in a number of electoral victories, including the defeat of Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2016 and the mobilization of record numbers of Latinx voters in Georgia and other battleground states in the 2020 presidential election.

Prior to founding Mijente, Franco served as national campaign organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and as lead organizer for the Right to the City Alliance. Earlier this month, Franco was elected to the board of the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

PND spoke with Franco about the politics of immigration enforcement, police violence against people of color, and philanthropy's role in supporting social movements.

Headshot_marisa_franco_mijentePhilanthropy News Digest: Given the growth of the Latinx population in the United States over the last few decades, it's no surprise that Latinx voters are going to the polls in record numbers. From your perspective, what are the factors driving greater voter participation in the Latinx community? And what are some of the obstacles to even higher levels of participation?

Marisa Franco: So much attention was given to the 2020 elections, and Latinx people, across the political spectrum, were definitely impacted. Like many communities, Latinx folks were witness to both the actions of those in elected office during the pandemic and the accompanying economic crisis, and many turned out to vote as a result. It was also the year Latinx people became the largest "majority-minority" group in the United States and came into its own politically. That said, last year was a sort of snapshot of the good, bad, and ugly of where our community stands with respect to realizing its own political power, and there is still much work to be done to nurture and grow our voter engagement. The challenge, in my opinion, is that if Latinos and Latinas don't see real change in their own lives, they will not feel the need to vote.

PND: Earlier this year, Mijente and the We Are Home campaign launched Eyes on ICE: Truth & Accountability Forums, an initiative to collect testimonies that shed light on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's current practices and policies, spotlight the stories of those who have organized to protest those practices and policies, and share solutions designed to address the worst abuses. How do you hope those testimonies will shape the Biden administration's immigration policies going forward?

MF: There is no question that immigrants were a primary target of the Trump administration. Biden campaigned to restore the soul of America — and immigrants undeniably should be included in that effort. With the Eyes on ICE campaign, we wanted to provide an outlet for people directly affected to register their experience with immigration officials. This information will be critical as the current administration reviews the scope and conduct of officials in the Department of Homeland Security. And, going forward, the participation and engagement of immigrant communities will be critical to undoing the harms of the past several years.

PND: The Mijente Support Committee's #NoTechForICE campaign calls "on every tech company that works with ICE to immediately halt its support for the agency." Are you seeing results from the campaign?

MF: Yes, we are seeing greater organizing efforts among tech workers, students, and shareholders. And it wouldn't have been possible if not for the research, advocacy, and campaigning we and our allies have done to bring public awareness to issues of surveillance. There is growing pressure across the globe to hold technology companies accountable for their actions, including companies that are positioning themselves inside the immigrant and criminal justice system; that is a key addition to the conversation around transparency and accountability.

PND: You've said the Marguerite Casey Foundation can help "seed the next iteration of social movement and organizing ecosystems" and lead the way forward for the philanthropic sector with respect to both supporting and operating with the same nimbleness as social movements. What would that look like? And what steps should foundations be taking to better align their strategies with the social movements they support?

MF: To me it looks like having a practice of being in dialogue and relationship with local leaders and organizations and developing a sense of emerging strategies and an organic network to local leaders. It is finding people doing good work and supporting them to do it better or at a larger scale.

PND: In your view, what should philanthropy be focused on with respect to Latinx communities? And what issues in the broader Latinx community are underfunded?

MF: Philanthropy has a lot of options it can choose from. One of our challenges at Mijente has been that at times it has felt like there are too many opportunities on the table. Youth are key, especially given that the average age of a Latinx person in the U.S. is approximately twenty-seven, making us one of the youngest demographic cohorts in the country. Because of what happened in the last election cycle, I also believe it's important to look at how we can counter mis- and disinformation directed at Latinx Spanish-speaking communities.

—Kyoko Uchida

5 Questions for...Frances Sykes, President and CEO, Pascale Sykes Foundation

April 27, 2021

For much of its existence, the New Jersey-based Pascale Sykes Foundation has worked to strengthen low-income working families in the New Jersey/New York region through what it calls the Whole Family Approach, a preventive (as opposed to crisis-driven) strategy that helps family members, both adults and children, support one another in achieving their long-term goals. With the understanding that financial stability, healthy relationships, and physical well-being are linked, families are matched with a coach who works alongside family members to identify and set their goals; ensure they have the resources and tools needed to achieve those goals; and connect them to a network of agencies able to deliver holistic, coordinated support. The approach has been applied in various settings and with immigrant families, foster youth, and families dealing with members who are re-entering society from the criminal justice system.

The foundation's work extends into other areas as well. After rural families in southern New Jersey identified transportation as a major challenge, the foundation supported an initiative known as Transportation Plus, which provides residents of the region with connections to NJ Transit. And through its Economic Initiative, a partnership with a community development financial institution, the foundation invests in a series of low-interest loan funds for small businesses and nonprofits in the region.

Frances P. Sykes has led the foundation since its founding in 1992. In 1995, Pascale Sykes trustees voted to sunset the foundation by 2022. PND spoke with Sykes about the foundation's Whole Family Approach, where things stand with the spend-down process, and her hopes for the field.

Headshot_frances_sykesPhilanthropy News Digest: You've said you created the Pascale Sykes Foundation with two intentions: to serve working low-income families that aren't eligible for many safety-net services, and to help reshape the way social services in the United States are delivered. How did you come to settle on those two objectives?

Frances Sykes: When I was teaching, I witnessed a working family struggle to get help for their eleven-year-old, who was in danger of going down the wrong path. The family made too much to qualify for free supportive services, and under a sliding scale they would have been asked to pay more than they could afford. They were stuck, whereas a middle-class family in the same situation more than likely would've been able to afford to pay out of pocket for counseling and other services for their child. It wasn't fair that the issue the child was experiencing wasn't severe enough, or that the family wasn't poor enough, to allow them to access the resources they needed. Far too many families are in that same position — living one step above the poverty line and lacking access to the kinds of support they need. I wanted my work to be a part of the solution to that challenge — to help build a bridge between what families need and the agencies that have the resources to empower them.

The Whole Family Approach evolved over ten years. By working alongside grantees, Pascale Sykes trustees, staff, and grantees could see what made a lasting difference in families' long-term well-being. And we also came to realize that families know what they want and are capable of achieving it if they are taught how to navigate the system. It's not complicated. Adults in charge. Financial stability, relationships, and physical/social/emotional health reinforcing each other. What happens to one person affects the entire family, and what happens to the family affects each individual within it. Root causes must be addressed or problems recur.

The approach turns traditional social work on its head. In our approach, social workers are no longer expected to fix problems or work with individuals in isolation or address isolated issues. Instead, coaches work to build trust and walk alongside every member of the family as they work to achieve their self-defined goals.

PND: A critical component of the Whole Family Approach is the requirement that two "dependable adult caregivers are actively engaged with the children in the family." Why is it important that two adults be involved?

FS: All families look different. But every adult needs someone to call or turn to in an emergency, or just to share good news with. The second adult not only supports the primary caregiver but is an additional support system for children in the family as well. And that's a win-win for everyone. The stronger the support system, the healthier the family and the more likely its members will reach their shared goals.

PND: A July 2020 report that examined the results achieved by eight collaboratives using the Whole Family Approach found that participating families were in a better position to handle the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis because of the stronger familial ties they had forged and the access they had to support networks, even though they still experienced anxiety and mental health issues in addition to the stressors they were facing pre-pandemic. Are you seeing any evidence that the field in general is shifting toward this type of strategy? And looking down the road five to ten years, where do you see challenges to more widespread adoption of the approach?

FS: The field has been shifting for a few years. You see variations of the Whole Family Approach promoted by larger funders like Kellogg, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and other high-profile organizations under names like "2Gen" or "Intergenerational Approach."

I really see no challenges to its adoption by others in the field — even if others give it another name and make it their own. It's a proven approach that we know works better for families. Our research has shown that adults have less financial stress, that ties between adults in a family are strengthened, that children's health and educational achievement improve, and that the academic aspirations of both adults and children are raised. In the time remaining before we officially sunset later this year, the foundation is on a mission to raise awareness of the approach and to get others to embrace it. We believe it can advance the field and put more of our working families on a path to stability.

PND: The foundation's approach emphasizes collaboration — among family members, nonprofits, and human services agencies, and between the foundation and its partners. In a 2019 post for our blog, you urged funders to shift their grantmaking so as to foster more collaboration and less competition among grantees. What are your thoughts about the state of collaboration in the social sector today?

FS: The competition for limited resources has resulted in a fragmented approach to service provision that undermines the value of those services for families in need. Too often, families are forced to start from scratch in their efforts to access services, filling out the same form multiple times for multiple agencies, then receiving a separate set of recommendations from each of those agencies. What's more, different agencies often will offer differing and/or conflicting advice. Families become overwhelmed. Parents become frustrated, unable to prioritize and plan their next steps. Children feel the lack of stability and bear the brunt of its effects. It's also difficult for busy family members to build solid, trusting relationships with representatives from multiple agencies.

We believe collaboration is key. That's what the Whole Family Approach is all about. To maximize their effectiveness, funders, nonprofits, and agencies that have bought into the approach capture and share information about their clients' goals, progress, and life changes in a centralized database, enabling partner agencies to see families as holistic entities with their own unique challenges, vulnerabilities, and strengths. Instead of operating individually, agencies begin to see other nonprofits in the collaboration not as competitors but as teammates they can lean on to organize priorities, share resources, and advance their mutual goals and objectives.

The more foundations see the benefits of the Whole Family Approach, the greater the chances we'll be able to change the system so that it is more efficient and effective in helping families thrive.

PND: In 1996, your board voted to sunset the foundation within thirty years, and in 2009 a non-trustee workgroup researched and set up plans for the spend-down process. How much of an impact has your status as a limited-life foundation had on your grantmaking strategies? And would you recommend the approach to others who may be thinking about establishing a private foundation?

FS: Being a limited-life foundation is necessary for any small foundation that wants to create real change. Change requires the flexibility to respond to unexpected situations. This can only happen if a funder is focused on making change, not preserving the corpus.

The decision to sunset was based on two key factors. First, the decision to make a large impact was critical, and distributing 5 percent to 6 percent of our investment income each year simply would not accomplish that goal. And second, when we started, the Whole Family Approach was not well known. Thirty years later, we're proud of the fact that more foundations and organizations are implementing a version of the approach, and that it is leading to greater impact. I have no doubt the approach will be accepted more broadly. And when it is, instead of shifting into a new focus area or something less relevant to us, we'll be able to say we accomplished our mission.

We look forward to more funders picking up the mantle and moving this work forward in their own way. And I highly recommend our grantmaking strategy and the Whole Family Approach as a way forward for others who want to make a big impact in a particular way.

Kyoko Uchida

5 Questions for...Carly Bad Heart Bull, Executive Director, Native Ways Federation

April 13, 2021

Carly Bad Heart Bull joined the Native Ways Federation (NWF) in April 2020 as its executive director. Launched in 2006 in Longmont, Colorado, by the American Indian College Fund, American Indian Science and Engineering Society, Association on American Indian Affairs, First Nations Development Institute, National Indian Child Welfare Association, Native American Rights Fund, and Running Strong for American Indian Youth, NWF is focused on activating and expanding informed giving to Native-led organizations through donor education and advocacy. To that end, NWF is working to bring together Native organizations and raise awareness and support for the communities they serve, strengthen Native nonprofits, and ensure the highest levels of ethical standards and fiscal responsibility across the sector.

Prior to joining NFW, Bad Heart Bull, who is Bdewakantunwan Dakota/Muskogee Creek and a citizen of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, managed the Bush Foundation's work with twenty-three Native nations across Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota and served on an advisory committee for the Investing in Native Communities portal, a joint project of Native Americans in Philanthropy and Candid. She holds a juris doctorate and previously served as an assistant county attorney for the Hennepin County Attorney's Office in Minneapolis; led a successful campaign to restore the Dakota name of the city's largest lake, Bde Maka Ska; and in 2019 was selected by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as a Community Leadership Network Fellow.

PND asked her about the impact of COVID-19 on Native communities, Native efforts to address climate change, and the role of language in racial equity efforts.

Headshot_Carly_Bad_Heart_Bull_Native_Ways_Federation_KelloggPhilanthropy News Digest: Native American communities have experienced disproportionately higher infection and mortality rates than the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic. To what do you attribute those disparities?

Carly Bad Heart Bull: COVID-19 disproportionately affects communities of color, and Native people are at an especially heightened risk because of numerous factors, including limited access to quality health services, inadequate housing, lack of access to clean and safe water, and other infrastructure issues. Native people are also more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and other underlying conditions that put them at significant risk.

All these community issues connect back to the U.S. government's failure to comply with historical treaty obligations to fund basic services in exchange for tribal land. The impacts of colonization continue to have detrimental effects on our nations and our people. Our tribes and Native-led organizations are working hard to address these issues, and many of them are doing amazing innovative work. However, they need increased funding and supports in order to most effectively serve their communities. This need existed before the pandemic and it's even greater now. For example, many of our Native language speakers, the majority being elders, have died in the past year from COVID-19. Our Indigenous languages are central to who we are as Native people; they embody the essence of our cultures and teach us Indigenous worldviews and ways of being that connect us to one another and to the land. Assimilation efforts by the U.S. government, including education policies such as the development and implementation of boarding schools and relocation policies, were aimed at disconnecting our people from these important cultural resources. Language teachers and advocates in our communities have been working hard to revitalize our languages for years. It's imperative that this work continues and grows — now more than ever — as we have even fewer fluent speakers to learn from due to the pandemic.

I would also note that we don't yet know the full impact of COVID-19 on Native communities, in part because of the issue of inaccurate and misclassified data as it relates to our communities. It's an important story that needs to be better understood and addressed.

PND: How has philanthropy, both Native-based and more broadly, responded to the needs of Indigenous communities during the pandemic? Have you seen an increase in philanthropic investments in Native communities?

CBHB: Philanthropy responded quickly in many respects. Many foundations increased their giving amounts, and we saw a large number of foundations reduce restrictions on existing and new grants, providing opportunities for organizations to adapt appropriately and use their grant funds in ways that best served the people and communities they were intended to serve during these unprecedented times. At the same time, I've talked to Native nonprofit leaders who lost revenue they depended on because they weren't able to host fundraising events, and in many cases increased philanthropic support hasn't made up for those losses.

That said, I do think the data will show an uptick in funding — a response, in my view, not only to the impacts of the virus but to the greater call to action on behalf of Native communities and communities of color sparked by the murder of George Floyd. We are still not where we need to be, but I remain cautiously optimistic.

One thing I am concerned about is whether any increase in funding for Native communities will be sustained, or just be a one-time philanthropic reaction. I hope the answer is the former. I hope that foundations continue to pay attention to the underlying infrastructure issues that resulted in Native people and communities being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and that support for tribes and Native-led organizations continues to increase and not decline as the COVID-19 numbers start to fall. Philanthropy needs to support systemic change efforts that are led and guided by Native people so that our people not only survive, but can thrive in a post-COVID world.

PND: According to data compiled by Investing in Native Communities, large U.S. foundations have allocated just 0.4 percent of their total annual grantmaking to Native American communities and causes since 2006. What, in your opinion, are the factors behind the lack of funding for Native communities, and what is the Native Ways Federation doing to address it?

CBHB: That's correct, and that's also despite the fact that Native peoples comprise 2 percent of the U.S. population and, even more importantly, are the original people of this land. That same analysis found that only 20 percent of large foundations give to Native communities or causes at all. There are multiple factors at play here, and one of the biggest issues is that of invisibility. This country has done a terrible job of educating the broader population about Native history and people. A 2019 NCAI report found that 87 percent of state history standards include no mention of Native American history post-1900, and twenty-seven states don't even mention Native peoples in their K-12 curriculum. According to the dominant narrative, we are a people of the past. But the fact is, we are still here and we matter. There is really important work happening, much of it led by Native nonprofits, to lift up Native visibility and perspectives with a focus on truth-telling and healing.

I've done quite a bit of speaking on the importance of increased philanthropic support for Native organizations and tribes, and one of the responses I've heard too many times to count is, "We'd love to help, but we don't have a program for that." While intentional programs for funding Native communities are great, they aren't always necessary. It's more than likely that any area a foundation is investing in — whether that be education, health, the environment, economic development — is an area where Native organizations and tribes are doing important, necessary work, and that work should be supported.

NWF is working to address these issues in multiple ways. Our seven founding member organizations started coming together a number of years ago in part to address the lack of philanthropic funding for Native-led organizations and the fact that we were seeing a large percentage of funding intended for Native communities actually going to non-Native organizations. It's still a problem. A large part of NWF's work is focused on donor education and advocacy in support of Native-led nonprofits, because we know that we are best situated to effectively serve our communities. And we are further developing our collective voice in philanthropic spaces to hold foundations accountable and to strengthen the Native nonprofit sector on our own terms.

I came to NWF with experience as a Native program officer, and I hope to build on some of that previous work. For example, at the Bush Foundation we did a major analysis of our grantmaking in Native communities and found that our coding practices were inconsistent and that our grantmaking data were not always accurate. This is a bigger philanthropic-sector issue that needs to be discussed more broadly. I actually believe that the 0.4 percent number is inflated — in large part as a result of foundation grant data inaccurately reported as "serving" Native communities. This may not even be intentional, but it needs to be addressed, and it's an area where we at NWF hope to do more work in influencing change within the sector.

PND: You've said that your earlier career as an assistant county attorney taught you "to speak a new language — the language of law and how to navigate systems of power," and that institutional philanthropy needs to develop a common language as it evolves "from a transactional to a relational practice." What kinds of things would such a common language address?

CBHB: For one, the grant coding issue I just discussed; there needs to be a more consistent sector-wide effort toward making sure that grant data is being accurately reported. Current grant reporting by foundations falsely benefit the foundations themselves rather than the communities they are trying to serve, as they may believe they are serving certain demographics at a rate that they are not. Data tell an important story — and there needs to be more conversation and movement toward making sure the story is being consistently and accurately shared.

Also, there needs to be an emphasis on relationship and trust building. That means taking care of one another and recognizing the roles that we each play in the broader effort toward realizing a healthier society. For too long, grantee organizations have been expected to learn the language of institutional philanthropy in order to receive funding, rather than foundations better understanding, and reflecting, the communities they serve. This type of transactional relationship is imbalanced, and it doesn't serve anyone well in the long run.

Native organizations work closely with the communities they serve, and they need to be appropriately resourced to do their work as effectively as possible. That means not only increasing funds but also increasing flexibility in terms of how foundations fund. It means increasing general operating support and trusting that we know best what to do with the funds. And it means reducing extensive reporting requirements — let us focus on the work rather than on writing detailed overburdensome reports. One thing it doesn't mean is that we don't have to communicate — we should be checking in, building relationships, and learning from one another.

PND: You've noted that Indigenous wisdom and ways of being are integral to the vitality of communities and the planet. How do you envision philanthropy's role at the intersection of racial and environmental justice? And what can it do, or do more of, to support Native advocacy for climate action?

CBHB: Philanthropy needs to increase support of Native-led environmental justice efforts — we will all be better for it. Native people are the original stewards of this planet, and the solutions to some of the most pressing environmental issues we are facing — such as climate change — can be found within the ideologies and practical applications of Indigenous wisdom.

Yet very little of the philanthropic dollars that go to environmental justice efforts go to Native-led organizations or tribes. That needs to change. A great majority of the wealth in the philanthropic sector was accumulated at the expense of communities of color, Native nations and people, and the environment. The extraction of natural resources, the removal of Native people from their homelands, the use of forced labor — these violent extractive and transactional actions have had a detrimental effect on our communities and on the environment. Philanthropy needs to hold itself accountable for the destruction that has taken place in our homelands and they need to support Native-led environmental justice efforts working to protect, restore, and heal this planet while we still can.

I'm optimistic of the future because I need to be for my son. Our work to restore the Dakota name of the biggest lake in Minneapolis, Bde Maka Ska, was and is important because we are the original people of Mnistoa Makoce (aka Minnesota, or Where the Water Reflects the Sky); I want him to grow up knowing where he comes from and to be proud of who he is and of his people. Creating a better world for him, and for future generations yet to be born, is what keeps me going. My ancestors went through a lot so that I could be here, and now I have the responsibility to carry that legacy forward. It's also past time for non-Native people in this country, including in the philanthropic sector, to listen to and act in support of our Native nations and our Native-led organizations and efforts. We will all be better for it.

— Kyoko Uchida

5 Questions for...Lisa Mensah, President and CEO, Opportunity Finance Network

January 15, 2021

After serving for two years as under secretary of agriculture for rural development in the Obama administration, Lisa Mensah joined Opportunity Finance Networka leading network of community development financial institutions, as president and CEO in March 2017. In November, with a $100 million investment from Twitter, OFN announced the launch of the Finance Justice Fund, a socially responsible investment fund aimed at raising $1 billion in grant capital to address racial injustice and persistent poverty in the United States. 

PND asked Mensah about the initial response to the fund, the impact of COVID-19 on the efforts of community development financial institutions, and the persistent lack of investment in rural communities.

Lisa_Mensah_squarePhilanthropy News Digest: What kind of response to the Finance Justice Fund have you gotten from corporate and philanthropic investors since the fund's launch in November? And are you on track to meet your fundraising goal?

Lisa Mensah: It's been wonderful to see the strong interest from both corporations and philanthropies in the work we're doing to finance justice. OFN is in discussion with potential new Finance Justice Fund investors; some of them are new to the CDFI industry and some are longtime partners. All understand that now is the moment to invest in Black and minority communities — the nationwide call for economic justice is louder and stronger than ever. We have a path to meeting our $1 billion goal and expect to announce new investment partners in the first quarter of 2021.  

PND: What was the genesis of the fund? Was it in the works before COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency and nationwide racial justice protests erupted after the killing of George Floyd last spring, or was it created in response to those twin crises? 

LM: Justice takes money, and CDFIs exist to finance justice. Our field started as a small grassroots movement to counter discrimination in banking and investing — the earliest CDFIs were created to provide financial services and support to people that banks wouldn't or couldn't serve. We've grown into a $222 billion industry that works to address longstanding disinvestment, the racial wealth gap, and persistent poverty by investing in people and communities left behind by mainstream finance. So the roots of the fund are really in our industry's history and unique role as community lenders. 

For years, OFN has been advocating for more public- and private-sector investment in communities underserved by mainstream finance. Since I joined OFN in 2017, we've been listening to our CDFIs and exploring new programs that would help the industry go bigger and bring new partners to our work. Then 2020 happened. 

The overlap of a pandemic-related economic crisis that disproportionally hurt low-income and minority communities and widespread calls for social justice put CDFIs front and center as a way to address both. The forces of 2020 — and interest from new corporate partners like Twitter — accelerated our plans. 

The Finance Justice Fund is just one result. In March 2020, OFN also welcomed Google as a partner: With OFN as the intermediary, the company is investing $170 million from its corporate treasury and $10 million from its philanthropic arm into CDFIs to help minority and women-owned small businesses. This mix of debt and grant capital is the type of investment we need to scale. 

PND: How has COVID-19 impacted OFN's and member CDFIs' programs and priorities? Are there lessons learned that might be applicable to the broader nonprofit sector?   

LM: The communities CDFIs serve are the communities that have been hurt most by the economic and health impacts of the pandemic, and so they have been very busy. 

From the very beginning of the crisis, OFN — the organization of thirty-five staff members and the network of more than three hundred CDFIs — understood the threat facing our communities and borrowers. In response, our member CDFIs have established new ways of providing services and support to borrowers. They have been proactive about easing the economic disruption for America's smallest, most vulnerable businesses, nonprofits, and homeowners, making loan accommodations, and standing up new loan programs. Many CDFIs have also helped small businesses adjust their business models to meet the new realities of stay-at-home mandates and changes in customer behavior. Our response from the beginning was focused on survival and recovery for our communities. 

One lesson for our industry and the broader nonprofit sector is that recovery from a major crisis demands partnerships, and that when those partnerships are strong we can move America forward. The last ten months have seen new partnerships with philanthropy, impact investors, corporations, and government. Never again should the CDFI field think of itself as insignificant. We must see ourselves as essential partners to the big work of having an economy that works for all. 

PND: The phrases "racial injustice" and "communities with high rates of poverty and disinvestment" are more often associated with urban, rather than rural, areas. What's behind that disconnect, and what are the implications — for rural communities in general, and for BIPOC residents of those communities in particular? 

LM: The truth is that racial injustice and high rates of poverty and disinvestment exist in both urban and rural areas. Persistent poverty in America — extreme poverty rates of more than 20 percent for more than thirty years — exists in more than ten thousand census tracts, roughly 14 percent of all U.S. neighborhoods. It has a strong hold in many rural communities: 19 percent of areas characterized by persistent poverty are rural, and millions of rural people live in persistent poverty. We also don't hear much about the racial diversity that exists in rural America. We don't think of Native communities or Black communities or Latino communities when we think about rural America, but these are vibrant and important populations in rural America.

I've focused on rural development for much of my professional life. One of the key questions is how to alleviate and begin to reverse the economic distress that has been driven by the systemic loss or contraction of major sectors of the economy such as agriculture, forestry, mining, and manufacturing. The community developer's challenge is to find ways to create wealth and livelihoods by reinvigorating local economies and connecting to larger urban/regional markets. CDFIs do this but also retain a racial equity lens and are willing to make loans to the communities and people who have too often been ignored. This is true in both rural and urban areas. 

And, of course, rural and minority communities live under the double-edged sword of poverty and racism — they've suffered the most historically and suffer the most from crises like COVID-19, climate change, and economic upheaval. 

PND: Your career has spanned the private, public, and social sectors, and you've led collaborative efforts across all three sectors. What has been your North Star in your work over the years? And what are your hopes for the incoming Biden administration with respect to policies that support racial and economic justice?   

LM: Economic justice has been my North Star — for me, that means fighting for financial capital to reach all people and communities. Financial capital is the fuel that drives economic opportunity, and I'm on a lifelong journey to help make sure that the allocation of capital is inclusive. 

I have many hopes for the Biden administration. It is exciting to see the administration embrace a goal of advancing racial equity and then to define this goal as spurring investment in small business opportunities, investing in homeownership and access to affordable housing for Black, Brown, and Native families, and ensuring that racial equity is considered in federal procurement and federal investments in infrastructure, clean energy, and agriculture. These are all policies to which CDFIs have much to contribute.  

CDFIs understand that government policies helped create the racial wealth gap and government policies must help end it. In the last week of 2020, Congress passed a historic government investment in CDFIs as part of the most recent COVID relief bill: $12 billion for CDFIs and minority depository institutions (MDIs). This is a giant step forward for our industry and the communities we serve. But injustice is persistent and tenacious, and we won't undo it with one bold step.

So, I'm considering that federal investment as a down payment, and I hope we can build on it in the months and years to come.  

— Kyoko Uchida

5 Questions for...Starsky Wilson, President and CEO, Children's Defense Fund

December 18, 2020

In September, the Rev. Dr. Starsky D. Wilson was named president and CEO of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), succeeding Marian Wright Edelman, who in late 2018 transitioned into the role of president emerita of the organization she founded almost fifty years earlier. Wilson started his tenure as president and CEO of CDF on December 7.

Wilson previously served as president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation, a faith-based philanthropy focused on child well-being in St. Louis, and as pastor of Saint John's Church, an interracial, inner-city congregation. In the wake of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, Wilson was asked to co-chair the Ferguson Commission, convened by then-Missouri governor Jay Nixon; the report issued by the commission, Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity, called for sweeping reforms to policing and the criminal justice system as well as a renewed commitment to child well-being and economic opportunity for all.

Earlier this month, PND spoke with Wilson, who serves as board chair of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and as vice chair of the Forum for Theological Exploration, about the intersection of faith, racial justice, and philanthropy; the rising generation of racial justice activists; and Marian Wright Edelman's legacy.

Headshot_Starsky-Wilson_childrens_defense_fundPhilanthropy News Digest: As the former co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, what was your reaction to the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the nationwide protests that followed? And have we made any progress toward racial justice since Michael Brown was shot dead by a Ferguson police officer?

Starsky Wilson: The video of the eight minutes and forty-six seconds in which George Floyd was killed by Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck in Minneapolis was a triggering reminder of the four hours Michael Brown, Jr. lay in the street in Ferguson, Missouri, after being killed by Darren Wilson. Six years passed between those tragedies, and yet so much was the same: the days waiting for the responsible police officers to be arrested, the outpouring of pent-up rage and pain from decades of oppression and brutality.

Six years have passed and little has changed in the response of these systems. On the other hand, much progress has been made in the activation and mobilization of community leaders on the ground, and in building the capacity to change narratives and organize people for long-term impact.

The only way to stop police violence is to address the root cause directly and deeply. Racist oppression and myths of criminality lead to public lynchings of Black people by those sworn to protect them. We need effective leaders who are not afraid to stand up and speak out about racial injustice. We must lift up and listen to the voices of impacted communities that for decades have been crying out about police brutality, violence that endangers our children and youth. We must take meaningful action on a systemic level: removing the police presence from our schools, ending the cradle-to-prison pipeline, and investing in programs that allow marginalized children and their families to thrive.

PND: As an early supporter of and participant in the Black Lives Matter movement, you're seen by many as a bridge between Marian Wright Edelman's generation of 1960s civil rights-era activists and a new generation of millennial and Gen-Z racial justice activists. As the new president and CEO of the Children's Defense Fund, how do you see your role in the movement for racial justice?

SW: Child well-being and racial justice are intimately and forever interconnected. Many people don't realize that 2020 is the first year in American history where the majority of children in this country are children of color. This makes the civil rights legacy and child advocacy vision that the Children's Defense Fund has woven together for nearly fifty years even more vital.

That's also why I am honored to join the organization built by Marian Wright Edelman. She has understood since she founded the Children's Defense Fund in 1973 that it is essential to weave together the struggle for civil rights and the fight for children in order for both movements to succeed. That means any action we can take toward providing opportunity, relieving social and economic burdens, and expanding healthcare access for the nation's children helps build a safer and more equitable society for people of color. At the same time, any action we can take to dismantle the policies and structures that uphold systems of racism in this country creates a better nation for our children.

Holding and earning the trust of leaders within the Movement for Black Lives is just as high an honor. I have been pleased to stand with, beside, and behind them on the streets and the public square, to invest in their work, and to strategize with them. At CDF, I look forward to working with these same leaders to extend the movement for justice that so many are inheriting at about the same age that Mrs. Edeleman was when she planted the flag of her work for justice.

PND: CDF recently was awarded a $1 million grant by the Thriving Congregations Initiative at the Lilly Endowment. As a pastor and a nonprofit leader, how do you see the relationship between faith and social justice advocacy? And how will the organization use the grant?

SW: Only faith in some idea, expression, or being greater than ourselves gives us the capacity to see justice in the face of injustice and to sustain strength to pursue it. Faith leaders like Rev. James Lawson and the late Rev. C.T. Vivian taught me that, at critical moments, we must win locally with spiritually grounded activism before we can win globally with on-the-ground activism. My job as a faith leader is to stir our collective imagination, encourage moral action, and pursue justice and righteousness as I encounter those themes in sacred texts and communities. When we bring our beliefs and bold action into the public square, we nurture the change that can transform a nation and help children flourish.

The Children's Defense Fund has a long history of working with faith leaders and communities to activate champions for our children through programs like the Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry and the annual National Children's Sabbath. The generous grant from the Lilly Endowment will take that work to new heights by allowing us to pursue a focused partnership with a small group of congregations to help strengthen the connections between the teachings and actions of their places of worship with the challenges facing children in their communities and across the country.

PND: Over the course of your career you've been focused on the well-being of children, and that includes your work on the CDF Freedom Schools summer literacy program and the Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry. Have you had time to determine what your top priorities for CDF are over the short to immediate term?

SW: There was already so much work to be done to make sure our most marginalized children can flourish — and that was before the COVID pandemic set those children back even further in their learning, their development, and their safety and well-being. The top priority at CDF will always be to be a strong, effective voice for the more than seventy-four million children who cannot vote, lobby, or make campaign donations to the lawmakers with the power to help them. Our immediate focus right now is urging Congress to pass robust COVID relief that will help our children and their families stay housed, fed, and safe in the difficult weeks ahead.

More broadly, we will continue to push those in power to take a holistic view of our children. They are not just students and future employees; they are entire human beings who need to be supported mentally and physically to lead joyful lives. We must be proactive in supporting children in all aspects of their life, not just working on the back end to dilute the damage after they have experienced a traumatic experience. We will not solve the complex, interconnected set of challenges facing our most vulnerable children unless we as a society adopt that kind of approach to serving them.

PND: Many foundations have come to the realization that they need to do more to address systemic racism and support efforts to advance racial justice. What are the one or two things foundations could do in 2021 to really accelerate progress toward a racially just society?

SW: First, foundations must make good on their public statements and commitments made in response to the reckoning we saw in 2020, from COVID-19 to racial uprisings to the presidential election. To truly and faithfully advance racial justice, they must invest in an equitable recovery from the pandemic, including supporting responses designed to correct the disproportionate health and economic impacts on Black and brown children and families. That will require higher payouts, the application of a racial equity lens to their grantmaking, and the adoption of a systems-change approach to everything they do.

Philanthropies must invest in Black-led social change and listen closely to leaders and organizations in impacted communities. Just before coming to CDF, I led the Deaconess Foundation's work to invest $4 million into Black-led pandemic response and racial healing initiatives. That type of deliberate, focused action is what is needed to produce the results foundations say they want in their mission statements and theories of change.

Finally, leaders of foundations can lift their own voices to amplify the demands of those whose voices are too often drowned out or ignored. The freedom to advocate afforded to foundations and their leaders is a powerful tool when it's used to shift narratives and educate the public. And I am truly glad to hear some of these leaders already speaking out loudly and forcefully.

Kyoko Uchida

5 Questions for...Amoretta Morris, Director, National Community Strategies, The Annie E. Casey Foundation

December 10, 2020

Amoretta Morris joined The Annie E. Casey Foundation in 2013 as a senior associate responsible for overseeing the Family-Centered Community Change initiative. In 2016, she was named director of the foundation's national community strategies, in which role she leads its efforts to help local partners and community stakeholders strengthen their neighborhoods.

Morris's portfolio includes Evidence2Success, which supports partnerships aimed at engaging elected officials, public agencies, and community members in efforts to improve child well-being; community safety and trauma-response initiatives in several cities, including Atlanta; and nationwide efforts to create and preserve affordable housing.

Before joining the foundation, she served as director of student attendance for the District of Columbia Public Schools, where she oversaw activities ranging from chronic absence interventions and dropout prevention initiatives to services for homeless students. Before that, she was a youth and education policy advisor in the Executive Office of the Mayor and the founding director and lead organizer for the Justice 4 DC Youth! Coalition, an advocacy group that works to mobilize youth and adults in support of juvenile justice reform.

PND spoke with Morris about how philanthropy can help advance community health and safety during a pandemic.

Headshot_amoretta_morris_aecfPhilanthropy News Digest: How does family-centered community change differ from other types of change strategies, especially with respect to community health and safety?

Amoretta Morris: Unlike other efforts that focus on one specific element, such as education or health, the Family-Centered Community Change initiative took a multipronged approach to improving family well-being in three key areas: family economic stability; parent engagement and leadership; and early child care and education. The initiative was built around the belief that both parents and children will have significantly better outcomes if communities are able to strengthen and combine these services instead of relying on a single intervention.

PND: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the foundation's efforts to promote access to education, affordable housing, and employment opportunities? What have you and your colleagues done to adapt existing projects and/or strategies to address the immediate and/or longer-term impacts of the pandemic?

AM: The pandemic has created — and in many cases, exacerbated — educational, employment, and social pressures for young people and families. Knowing this, the foundation reallocated some of our funding, repurposed existing resources, amended grant agreements, and increased general operating support to our grantees so that they had flexibility to address the challenges their communities are facing.

In response, our partners adapted their strategies in creative ways to support kids and families. These efforts have included things like connecting people to health care; helping families access food and other critical resources; providing financial assistance to help keep families in their homes, as well as housing individuals experiencing homelessness and advocating to halt evictions and protect renters; working to prevent violence and support those affected by it; supporting immigrant families, including those who do not qualify for state or federal benefits; and helping students secure computers and the reliable Internet access they need for distance learning.

We know that communities are battling multiple pandemics simultaneously — COVID-19, economic distress, racial injustice, and gun violence — and that most of them, including COVID-19, will not immediately disappear, even with a vaccine. So, we remain focused on our commitment to young people and their families and the structural change needed to help all kids thrive.

PND: In 2012, the Family-Centered Community Change initiative implemented a new approach to community partnerships called strategic co-investing. The approach calls for the awarding of flexible grant funding, "nesting" an issue within an existing community change effort, and a rethinking of the funder-grantee relationship in which the funder serves as more of a strategic thought partner to its grantees rather than as the "buyer" of certain outcomes and deliverables. What are some of the lessons you've learned from the initiative — both for funders and for community partners?

AM: The strategic co-investor role with Family-Centered Community Change was a new way of working for the foundation — one that enabled us to examine the ways we engage with grantees, residents, and other local funders. Among many lessons, FCCC emphasized the importance of both systemic solutions that address structural barriers and targeted interventions with families and their children. Local leaders cannot "service" their way out of poverty — we need comprehensive policy solutions that create more equitable pathways to opportunity, coupled with services and resources that help children and their families achieve stability and thrive.

The strategic co-investor role also confirmed for us the catalytic effect national funding can have. Investment from a national foundation is often seen as a vote of confidence and can help partners secure additional funding from federal and state government, local funders, or other national philanthropies. And I believe that for our community partners, the work highlighted the critical importance of listening to the families they serve, respecting their knowledge and expertise, and leveraging them as partners.

PND: Your program at the foundation is focused on driving community change by providing a holistic suite of services to families. What are some of the things philanthropy can do to better support community members in designing and implementing their own strategies for improving community health and safety? What about gun violence, which is the leading cause of death for young Black males between the ages of 15 and 24 and has been on the rise since the early days of the pandemic in many parts of the country?

AM: At the Casey Foundation, we want all young people to have the power and resources needed to thrive in communities that are strong and safe. The foundation advances strategies to ensure that youth and families of color have what they need to flourish — safe neighborhoods, affordable housing, and access to resources that promote children's well-being and positive development. To realize that vision, we, as funders, must be willing to build and share power with communities. Providing tools, resources, and trainings is part of the solution. We must also commit to more authentically engaging with and building the capacity of youth and their families to meaningfully contribute their experience and knowledge in the problem-solving process.

With regard to gun violence, we focus on community safety and violence prevention as part of our national community strategies. That work is rooted in the understanding that violence is a health crisis that must be solved through comprehensive, community-led interventions. For example, in Atlanta, one of our "hometowns," we're partnering with grassroots organizations to equip city residents with the tools and skills they need to be peacemakers and provide pathways out of violence. Our nonprofit partner CHRIS 180 is leading the charge by implementing Cure Violence, a public-health approach to address shootings; it treats shootings like an epidemic that must be stopped before spreading. Under that model, credible messengers — people with strong community ties — act to intervene when violence or retaliation is likely to occur, while community-based organizations that run the programs partner with various local actors like hospital staff, nonprofits, and other organizations to prevent additional violence.

We also invest in national networks focused on promoting solutions in which violence is treated as an urgent public health matter. The Health Alliance for Violence Intervention, for example, supports hospital-based intervention programs where healthcare staff and community organizations provide bedside counseling to patients who have experienced violent injuries with the aim of steering them away from retaliation. And national advocacy partners like the Community Justice Reform Coalition and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute have launched campaigns that promote community intervention strategies and demand accountability from elected officials for ending gun violence in their communities.

But we're not alone in this work. We also invest in these efforts alongside our peers as members of the Fund for a Safer Future, a funder collaborative that supports policy, research, and community-based interventions aimed at preventing gun violence.

PND: You've led a nonprofit coalition that advocates for juvenile justice reform, a municipal government's efforts to support underserved and homeless students, and now a national foundation's strategy to center community change in families. Based on your experience in different sectors, what is the one thing we can do to improve child well-being and flourishing, for all children?

AM: The throughline is equity. No matter where the starting place is, your approach should center the voices and experience of those most directly affected by the issue you are trying to solve. In juvenile justice reform, it was organizing alongside formerly incarcerated youth and their families. In DC Public Schools, it meant listening to homeless students, parents, and the school counselors who were making herculean efforts to support those students and parents. And in philanthropy, it is all about deeply listening to grantees, walking neighborhoods, and having community residents take the lead. When you start with the people closest to the pain of the problem, they will lead you to the solution.

Kyoko Uchida

A conversation with Teresa C. Younger, President and CEO, Ms. Foundation for Women

November 04, 2020

The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the nomination — and likely confirmation — of Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to a lifetime appointment on the court have intensified the debate over women's reproductive rights, while the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and nationwide protests against systemic racism have highlighted the challenges faced by girls and women of color.

Teresa C. Younger has served as president and CEO of Ms. Foundation for Women since 2014 and before that was executive director of the Connecticut General Assembly's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut — the first African American and the first woman to hold that position.

PND spoke recently with Younger about the underfunding of organizations focused on women and girls of color, the impact of COVID-19 and the reenergized racial justice movement on funding for women and girls, and the outlook for women's reproductive rights and equality.

Teresa C. YoungerPhilanthropy News Digest: Before she was named to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the founding director of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project and an inspiration to gender equality advocates everywhere. What did Justice Ginsburg mean to you, a woman and fellow ACLU alumna, and to an organization like the Ms. Foundation? And what do you think her legacy will be?

Teresa C. Younger: Justice Ginsburg's legacy was being a progressive woman who dedicated her life to making sure the voices of the unheard were heard. She fought every day for equality for all. This fight continues beyond her lifetime.

Justice Ginsburg's work spanned decades. When I started at the ACLU thirty years after her time with the Women's Rights Project, it wasn't surprising that her impact was still felt in that space. And it was an honor to work in a place that had spawned strategic activism for so many. For me, the ACLU fostered a deep understanding of the importance of grassroots organizing, litigation strategy, public education, and legislation on a state and national level.

Her legacy also lies in her dying wish for the American people to have a say in who fills her seat on the court. At a time when millions of people have already cast their ballots, the GOP is rushing a candidate through an illegitimate hearing process in a desperate attempt to hold on to their power. They are doing all they can to erase the powerful legacy of a powerful woman. A legacy that we will carry forward in the fight for racial and gender equity for all.

PND: In August, the Ms. Foundation received a $3 million grant from Twitter and Square co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey's #startsmall LLC in support of women and girls of color-led organizations impacted by COVID-19, with a focus on those in the South. Why are organizations in the South especially vulnerable, and how will those funds be allocated?

TCY: Even before the communities we serve were affected by COVID-19, the Ms. Foundation worked to fund and support capacity building for women-of-color leaders and their organizations. We've developed and implemented strategies that will help mitigate the mounting impacts of the global pandemic on the most underresourced regions of the country, specifically the South.

In our recent report, Pocket Change: How Women and Girls of Color Do More With Less, we found the total philanthropic giving to women and girls of color is just $5.48 a year for each woman or girl of color in the United States. And this meager funding is not distributed evenly, with the South receiving only $2.36 in philanthropic funding per woman or girl of color, the least of any region in the U.S. Given such inadequate investment and the obstacles women and girls have faced in 2020, we see it as our job to safeguard the survival of organizations that build the power of women and girls, specifically women and girls of color, and to make sure women and girls of color receive the resources they need to lead and uplift their communities.

PND: What kind of impact do you think COVID-19 is going to have on the foundation's work over the next year or three? Do you think those changes are temporary or more likely to be permanent?

TCY: To be clear, COVID-19 is not solely responsible for the crises we face today. Instead, it has exposed and heightened systemic inequalities across the United States. Preexisting health, economic, and social disparities have been laid bare as people of color are infected and die at higher rates than other groups, suffer from higher unemployment rates and a corresponding lack of health care, and struggle to secure access to safe and socially distanced housing.

Grassroots leaders and our grantee-partners were already working to address these issues pre-pandemic. COVID-19 hasn't changed the work, but it has increased the urgency behind it. And the longer our political leaders fail to take action to protect the health and safety of struggling Americans, the more this is likely to become the new normal. Given that uncertainty, the leadership of grassroots women of color-led organizations is needed more than ever. The lived experiences and expertise of those most impacted by health and economic disparities is absolutely critical in developing and implementing solutions that best serve our communities.

PND: According to Pocket Change, just 0.5 percent of total foundation grantmaking in 2017 was designated to benefit women and girls of color. In the wake of George Floyd's death and the renewed attention on the long history of racial injustice in the U.S., do you expect we’ll see a meaningful increase in funding for women and girls of color?

TCY: Even as many people are experiencing a social justice awakening, it is imperative that actions go beyond lip service and social media posts. This is a movement and not a moment, and it is critical that we see an increase in funding, especially for women and girls of color. Pocket Change was a call to action; by highlighting the major discrepancies in philanthropic giving, we are calling on everyone, not just philanthropy, to invest in women and girls of color.

Women and girls of color have been on the frontlines of every major social movement in our history, and they are still leading today. This is why I joined the powerful leaders of Black Girl Freedom Fund and was a co-founder of Grantmakers for Girls of Color. When we show up for women and girls of color, we are making the country better and stronger for everyone.

PND: "Intersectionality" has become something of a buzzword in the social sector. Do you think we'll see a shift toward more funding in support of such strategies over the next couple of years?

TCY: In the words of Audre Lorde, there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. As we explained in the Pocket Change report, women of color-led organizations work on multiple issues within multiple movements. As philanthropists, it's on us to understand that organizations employ various strategies to address various systems of oppression. We must trust and understand that the women on the ground doing this work every day know the best way to fight for their communities.

Real progress is realized when it uplifts all communities that exist on the margins. The Ms. Foundation's efforts are actively and intentionally interconnected as it strives to create a just and safe world where power and possibility are not limited by gender, race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or age.

PND: You're a member of the Democracy Frontlines Fund's Brain Trust, which helped select the ten African American-led racial justice organizations that received multiyear commitments from the collaborative. Can you tell us a little about the criteria and the selection process involved?

TCY: It was an honor to be part of Democracy Frontlines Fund's Brain Trust, especially in this moment. Together, members of the group are working to push philanthropy to make multiyear commitments and help stabilize grassroots organizations led by people of color at a time when the stability of such groups is in jeopardy.

With the aim of disrupting traditional philanthropy, we identified and vetted ten exemplary Black-led organizations to receive funding. The cohort includes groups committed to building sustainable local power, reimagining safety, amplifying the voices of disenfranchised voters, and prioritizing Black, LGBTQI+, youth, disabled, undocumented, and formerly incarcerated leadership. The DFF slate illustrates that change happens at the speed of trust, and no organization can effectively tackle our society’s problems without including those disproportionately affected by those problems.

PND: In 2018, the Ms. Foundation announced a five-year strategic plan focused on supporting women and girls of color as a means to promote gender equity and advance democracy. The plan called for the creation of a 501(c)(4) fund in support of local grassroots efforts to elect women and advance legislation and policies. Where does that effort stand?

TCY: We created the Ms. Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) that funds grassroots activism in marginalized communities, including Indigenous communities. At a time when our rights and lives are on the line, we are excited about the potential of supporting women candidates across the country who can have an impact at the local, state, and national levels. We'll be kicking off and intensifying our state-level actions in 2021.

PND: The 2020 Social Progress Index from the Social Progress Imperative has the U.S. as one of just three countries whose overall social progress score has worsened since 2011, with relatively low rankings in the areas of women's property rights (fifty-seventh among a hundred and sixty-three countries), early marriage (fiftieth), and equality of political power by socioeconomic position (eighty-fourth), social group (forty-ninth), and gender (forty-fifth). A century after the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, what would you tell people who fear that progress toward achieving equal rights and opportunity for women has stalled?

TCY: Let that fear drive you rather than derail you. Let your frustration be your fuel in the fight for equity for all.

When you see injustice, take that moment to consider who you are fighting for and question whether your feminism goes beyond your lived experience. True equality is about making sure everyone has a seat at the table and is listened to when they speak. It's about making sure we all have the same rights, not just on paper, but in practice. It is about making sure we have autonomy over our bodies, the lives we lead, and the opportunities we are afforded. It is about making sure we all have the right to live with dignity. True equality requires vigilance, resilience, empathy and support. It depends on our collective power, because when we take action together, we achieve more than any one person could ever achieve alone.

Kyoko Uchida

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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