189 posts categorized "Human/Civil Rights"

Uplifting the LGBTQ+ community in the nonprofit sector

June 30, 2020

Pexels-photo-4658052The LGBTQ+ community has had a lot to celebrate during Pride Month. On June 15, in a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status.

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, nearly one in five nonprofit employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or "queer" report that their sexual orientation has had at least a "slightly negative" impact on their career. Thanks to the court's ruling, however, the future looks brighter.

Pride Month is a celebration of LGBTQ+ equality and achievement, but this year, especially, we are reminded that social progress is driven by the passion, commitment, and hard work of thousands upon thousands of ordinary people over time. As our month-long celebration comes to a close, let's remember the actions and courage of the activists who laid the groundwork for the recent Supreme Court decision — and for those who even now are peacefully demanding an end to systemic racism and police brutality against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) — and show our support for LGBTQ+ equality, racial and gender justice, and an America where all people, regardless of skin color or sexual orientation, can realize their full potential.

Not sure how to start? Here a few ideas:

Strive to incorporate the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into your nonprofit's operations, and commit to adopting diverse and equitable hiring practices. Obviously, this will be more of a challenge if you aren't a member of the leadership team at your organization or working in a human resources (HR) capacity, but you can and should raise the issue of DEI with your nonprofit's HR department if you feel the organization isn't paying sufficient attention to it. Because LGBTQ+ people have long faced barriers to advancement in the nonprofit sector (as well as other industries), investments in DEI also represent an investment in LGBTQ+ people. And while it's important that nonprofits invest in more equitable and inclusive hiring practices, they should also mandate unconscious bias training for all employees, current and future. Such training helps people identify the implicit biases they may have and act on in their own lives and better position them to address those biases. For example, hiring managers should be encouraged to look for potential candidates outside of their usual networks and can use diversity job boards to do so. For additional DEI tips and advice, Candid's GrantSpace portal is a great place to start and is also an excellent source for LGBTQ+ specific resources.

Support nonprofits already working in the LGBTQ+ space. Even if you're not working at a nonprofit that directly supports the LGBTQ+ community, it doesn't mean you can't have an impact. The end of another Pride Month is the ideal time to step up and support organizations working to promote and uphold LGBTQ+ equality and rights. Know, too, that there isn't one, right way to stand with the LGBTQ+ community. Instead, feel free to participate in virtual Pride events, sign petitions, advocate for LGBTQ+ equality, and donate what you can to charities that champion LGBTQ+ causes. And while you're at it, do what you can to support one of the many nonprofits working to advance the Black Lives Matter movement.

Actively seek out and engage with your professional LGTBG+ peers. Reaching out to and engaging with your LGTBQ+ colleagues can be more helpful than you might imagine, and, besides, it's just a good inclusive practice. The LGBTQ+ community has a long history of trauma and feeling invisible, and as a result LGBTQ+ people (as well as other members of traditionally underrepresented communities) often lack the confidence to publicly express their opinions or feel excluded from important conversations. One way to ensure that all voices in your organization are heard is to actively seek out those voices and include them — and that's especially important if you're in a position of privilege or power. You can do this by individually connecting with different colleagues, and, if you often have the spotlight in meetings, by inviting colleagues who may be reluctant to have their voices heard to contribute their thoughts.

Actively use preferred pronouns in the workplace. Using pronouns (i.e., "she/her/hers," "he/him/his," and "they/them/theirs") that people have chosen for themselves is a sign of respect and an important acknowledgement that you see them for who they are. You and your organization can also encourage their use by including them in email signatures, bios, and name tags. If your organization doesn't already do this, raise the practice with your HR department. It may also be helpful for HR to conduct a training for staff before rolling out a new pronoun policy so that staff understands the rationale for the policy and how pronouns should be used.

Create special interest groups that make it easier for LGBTQ+ people in your organization to connect with one another. At Candid, we have various virtual spaces where staff members belonging to different communities can connect. I personally love the fact that there are different outlets where I and others can express our true, authentic selves. It can be difficult for members of the LGBTQ+ community (and other marginalized groups) to feel comfortable enough to bring their authentic selves into their place of work, so employers should do what they can to make it easier for them to do so and create safe spaces for different communities within their organizations.

Learn, and keep learning. Educate yourself about different aspects of the LGBTQ+ community, including the history of Pride Month and milestones in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. In light of the Black Lives Matter protests, I also urge you to learn about what's happening with the Black LGBTQ+ community. As one activist highlighted in a recent USA Today article that looked at how members of the LGBTQ+ community in Kentucky have stepped up as leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement says: "Pride isn't canceled. It's evolved." It's a statement that rings true for me for two reasons. First, the feel of this year's Pride Month has been different because of COVID-19, with many in-person events cancelled or transitioned to an online format. And two, the focus of many Pride events has shifted to the struggle for racial justice and equity. It's been a huge epiphany for the LGBTQ+ community and Pride, as some of us learn for the first time (and others remember) just how important the civil rights movement and Black activists have been to the struggles of LGBTQ+ community. Pride Month would never have come about without Black LGBTQ+ activists such as Bayard Rustin, Stormé DeLarverie, Audre Lorde, and Marsha P. Johnson. Now it's your turn: here are a few ways you can be an active ally to the Black LGBTQ+ community in the months and years to come.

I do believe our sector has made commendable strides in advancing DEI, but there's still progress to be made with respect to the LGBTQ+ community (and other underrepresented groups). Before I sign off, I want to highlight two groups doing great work in this space. Recent research by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) makes a strong case that foundations need to increase their funding for marginalized communities, as well as social, racial, and economic justice work. And in terms of the LGBTQ+ community specifically, Funders for LGBTQ Issues works to increase the scope and impact of philanthropic resources benefiting the LGBTQ+ community. I encourage LGBTQ+ nonprofit professionals to check out the group's website, which includes a lot of LGBTQ+ focused research, jobs, and funding opportunities.

As we bring down the curtain on another Pride Month, remember: No one is really and truly free until everyone is free, and the impact of Pride shouldn't be restricted to just one month. You should strive to uplift the voices of the LGBTQ+ community, and of other marginalized groups, throughout the year.

VVoPham HeadshotViet "Vee" VoPham (he/him/his) is the marketing specialist for the Networks division at Candid. You can follow him on Twitter at @VVoPham.

5 Questions for...EunSook Lee, Director, AAPI Civic Engagement Fund

June 25, 2020

Launched in 2014 with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New YorkEvelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Ford Foundationand Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund works to foster a culture of civic participation among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Since its inception, the fund has provided funding to strengthen the capacity of twenty-five AAPI organizations in seventeen states working to inform, organize, and engage AAPI communities and advance policy and systems change. 

EunSook Lee, who has served as director of the fund since its inception, coordinated the 2012 National AAPI Civic Engagement Project for the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development and, prior to that, served as senior deputy for Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), as executive director of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), and as executive director of Korean American Women In Need.

PND spoke with Lee earlier this month about xenophobia and racism in the time of COVID-19, the importance of civic engagement in an election year, and her vision for fostering a greater sense of belonging among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

EunSook Lee_AAPI CEFPND: The AAPI Civic Engagement Fund was created by a group of funders who saw a need to expand and deepen community and civic engagement among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who historically have been both a community of color and a predominantly immigrant and refugee population. After more than a hundred and sixty years of immigration from Asia, why, in 2013, midway through Barack Obama's second term, did the AAPI community become a focus for funders?

EunSook Lee: While we launched the fund in 2013, it was conceived as an idea after the 2012 elections, a season that was emblematic of how funding had flowed in the past to AAPI communities: episodically and chaotically. Just months before the presidential election, a burst of investment came in from civic participation funders and political campaigns in support of efforts to get out the vote in AAPI communities. As part of that influx, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation pledged $1 million for a national project focused on civic engagement and identified National CAPACD as the organization to host the effort.

In a very short period of time, we made grants to dozens of groups, connected them to State Voices and other civic engagement entities for the first time, and provided support where we could to help them execute their plans for the election. With a few exceptions, most AAPI groups had not been sufficiently resourced or supported to develop their infrastructure. We couldn't sit back and hope they would succeed, so we did a bit of everything to help them build the capacity they needed to get the word out in their communities.

We also decided it was important to show how AAPI communities had voted, so we partnered with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education FundLatino Decision, and others to hold a first-of-its-kind multiracial election eve poll that polled Asian Americans in their own languages. The resulting data enabled us to shift the narrative on Asian-American civic engagement, demonstrating that the Asian-American community had turned out in record numbers and that its views on most issues were in alignment with the views of other voters of color.

Following the 2012 elections, a number of funders became interested in pursuing a longer-term effort to build year-round capacity for AAPI groups and put an end to the cycle of episodic funding tied to election cycles. And that's how the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund was born.

PND: The coronavirus pandemic and some of the political rhetoric it has engendered have heightened the visibility of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in ways that have not always been positive or welcome. What are you hearing from grantees about the kinds of challenges they are facing as a result of the public health crisis, and how is the fund responding?

EL:  The challenges resulting from coronavirus are layered. At the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund, we acknowledge how difficult the work is for AAPI groups that may not have the resources or capacity to meet current needs but know they cannot turn their backs on the communities they serve.

Language barriers are a primary obstacle for our partners right now. Local and federal agencies are setting up new programs, processes, and rules as they go, and that basic information is not reaching non-English speakers. Whether it is about applying for unemployment or getting information about small business loans or helping your child with online learning, monolingual AAPIs are navigating a maze with little to no language support. At the same time, physical offices are closed, so those who are not familiar with Zoom or struggle with Internet connectivity are unable to get the information through other means.

After the three Vietnamese papers serving the tri-county Philadelphia area had to shut down due to the coronavirus, Philadelphia-based VietLead and other grassroots groups started making wellness calls to community members. Others are translating support materials and posting them online, holding in-language webinars on Zoom, and posting information on YouTube and Facebook, which are easier for many people to access. Some have also distributed information directly to homes along with drop-offs of basic food supplies. And because those who are undocumented have been unable to access the majority of relief programs, a number of AAPI groups have set up their own cash-relief programs for those who have been left out.

The anti-China rhetoric that began with the Trump administration has exacerbated and exposed longstanding bigotry against Asian Americans in this country. A number of our grantee partners are working with their communities to track incidents of racism, and all have heard from community members who have been subjected to verbal abuse and bullying, denial of service, vandalism, graffiti, and even physical assaults. Some of the cases of discrimination are occurring in the workplace and may be considered civil rights violations. Others rise to the level of a hate crime.

NativeHawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) have been especially impacted on account of existing inequities. One-fifth of NHPIs are uninsured, and in general they suffer from higher rates of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Partly because of those factors, the latest figures for California show that NHPIs are nine times more likely to contract COVID-19 and are dying at a disproportionately higher rate than any other group in the state.

We are working to support and amplify the various ways AAPI groups that are responding to this health crisis. We established the Anti-Racism Response Network Fund, which to date has made emergency grants totaling over $1.5 million to an estimated forty groups in twenty states. We are also working with sister funds to direct some of their COVID relief funds to AAPI groups. We also plan to support the online convenings of these groups as they do what they can to support each other, learn about each other's programs, and find ways to collaborate and amplify the voices of progressive AAPIs.

PND: Voter registration and turnout rates among AAPIs, despite being historically lower than those of other populations, have risen in recent years. As highlighted in a 2019 report from the fund and the Groundswell Fund, 76 percent of AAPI women said that they had encouraged friends and family to vote in the 2018 midterm elections. How do you see that trend playing out among the AAPI population in the 2020 elections? And what kind of role do you think AAPI women might play?

EL: The Wisconsin primary was disastrous in terms of protecting the health of voters and running the election efficiently. AAPI groups focused on civic engagement and the empowerment of their communities are vital to advocating for safe, efficient alternatives such as vote by mail, ensuring language access, and getting the vote out. We have heard about a range of systems failures that COVID-19 has exacerbated, especially cases of incompetent leadership at various levels of government. Because our groups are connected to their members, they are best positioned to galvanize them to vote.

More specifically, AAPI women are being recognized as critical organizers and community leaders. Our 2018 Asian American Election Eve Poll talked about how they not only were more active in protests and at the polls but also effectively mobilized others. In fact, twenty of our twenty-two core civic engagement grantees are led or co-led by women. There is no question that AAPI women will continue to power this movement through the 2020 elections and beyond, driving voter turnout and raising awareness about the issues most important to their communities.

PND: AAPIs Connect: Harnessing Strategic Communications to Advance Civic Engagement, a report recently published by the fund, notes that "[t]echnology offers the potential for AAPIs to be more connected with one another and to [the] larger society, but...it also has the potential to exacerbate divisions and create a more disconnected America." How is technology exacerbating division and disconnection within the AAPI community? And what are the biggest challenges AAPI groups face in building capacit — not just in the area of communications, but overall?

EL: At one time, there were a few mainstream media outlets that most Americans relied on for their news. For those who were bilingual or monolingual, in-language media supplemented that access to information. While there is now an explosion of platforms where information and news is being disseminated, some of the critical in-language news outlets are financially unstable or shutting down. Our national conversation has suffered as a result. At the same time, AAPI communities are being left out of many conversations. Not only is there a greater likelihood of our being isolated from the mainstream or from other communities in terms of the information we consume, there's also a greater possibility that we may end up being uninformed or misinformed.

AAPI groups have an opportunity to play a greater role in addressing this disconnect by looking at ways to build their communications infrastructure. But they need support and funding to deepen that work and make an impact on the local, bi-multi-lingual/biliterate, harder-to-reach populations.

As in other areas, AAPI communities and community-based organizations are often playing catch-up. According to our grantee partners, the biggest barrier they face in building communications capacity is a lack of resources. That includes funding to support dedicated staffing, skills building, and tools that equip them to communicate the critical work they are doing in their communities.

That has become a focus for our fund, to support the training and building up of the strategic communications capacity of AAPI groups. Funders can help by dedicating more resources in terms of grants and other learning opportunities so that AAPI groups can establish their media and communications muscle and infrastructure. They can also look at ways to strengthen movement-wide tools and overall creating funding strategies with a racial equity and intersectional justice lens.

PND: Over the course of your career, you've led grassroots nonprofits, served as a congressional staffer, and worked as a consultant to funders. Having observed the process of social change from all those perspectives, what is your number-one recommendation, in this moment of uncertainty, for groups that are looking to bring about social change?

EL: It is essential in this moment that AAPI organizations be seen — and see themselves — as part of this larger movement-moment in an authentic, non-performative way. We cannot be used as a wedge to divide or undermine the focus on systemic racism. We must commit to genuine and radical solidarity over the long term based on an understanding of how freedom for our respective communities is intertwined. We must push forward pro-Blackness in our communities and share analysis on the root causes of anti-Blackness, which is keeping us from true systemic change.

Many AAPI organizing groups are centering Black lives and framing anti-Blackness through the lens of our lived experience. Civil rights and organizing groups are including AAPIs in their efforts to tackle poverty, health inequities, and barriers to reentry for individuals emerging from incarceration. But there is an opportunity in this moment to dig deeper, to acknowledge that your organization may not have done as much as it could have to follow Black leadership and work with organizations that have deep ties to the Black community and have been doing this work for many years.

It is important that AAPI organizations examine our practices and past policy decisions to better align our future actions with our words. We must think more deeply about what it means for organizations to be anti-racist, to tackle systemic inequities, and to embrace an agenda that goes beyond our immediate self-interest. To achieve this, we need more AAPI organizers and social justice organizations, not fewer, better infrastructure and increased capacity, and more financial support for that infrastructure and capacity.  

— Kyoko Uchida

"I Am Tired...The Pandemic of Racism Must End"

June 08, 2020

Black_Lives_Matter_protestOver the past week, civil unrest has gripped the nation. Much of it was sparked by the unwarranted and senseless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer who held his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes as Floyd begged for his life and three other MPD officers stood by and did nothing. Tragically, it is only the latest example of an African-American citizen of this country being subjected to wanton police brutality and losing his life as a result. Enough is enough. I cannot, in all good conscience, remain silent while police violence against African Americans goes unchecked or unpunished.

I am a proud African-American man who loves this country. I have close friends and family of all races, and I pride myself on being measured and fair. I have always tried to view the "glass of life" as being "three-quarters full instead of a quarter empty," but my patience has run thin...and I am tired.

Tired of watching innocent black men being targeted with violence by police officers.

Tired of bigots taking the law into their own hands and feeling justified in confronting black citizens of this country.

Tired of negative, media-driven stereotypes that shape the dangerous narratives around young black men.

Tired of white people calling the police on black people, falling back on their feelings of entitlement and privilege to weaponize the police.

Tired of both the purposeful and passive suppression of talented black professionals by corporate America.

Tired of watching black-owned businesses struggle because they cannot access capital.

Tired of corporate America profiting from the fruit of black culture, but not nurturing the tree that bears it.

Tired of the word diversity, which is meant to deflect attention from the word black.

Tired of systemic and institutionalized corporate racism masked by flowery mission statements and codes of conduct that are rarely enforced.

Tired of the rise of the digital and social media economy without commensurate investment in populations that have driven much of its success.

Tired of being disrespected in restaurants as if I did not exist.

Tired of being followed in retail establishments as if I were about to commit a crime.

Tired of not being afforded the same assumption of competence and associated opportunities as my white high school, college, and business school classmates.

Tired of explaining why I like to spend time with black people, even as white people are never asked to explain why they like spending time with other white people.

Tired of the overall physical and psychological toll that being a black man takes on me every day.

As the father of two talented, charming, educated, young black men with unlimited potential, it pains me deeply that I needed to have "the conversation" with them when they were teenagers regarding their possible interaction with cops — the same conversation my dad had with me almost five decades earlier, and that no doubt his dad had with him. Every evening before I go to bed, I say a prayer that my boys will not be targeted and killed by law enforcement who see them as a threat — something none of my white friends or classmates have ever had to endure, much less think about.

Why are we having the same conversations about racism in America in 2020 that we've had for the past fifty, hundred, two hundred years? The reason is that we have never truly had a desire to actually address the "pandemic" of racism in this country. I guarantee you we will develop a vaccine for COVID-19 in short order, just like we've developed cures for other diseases that have plagued us over the centuries. We are a nation able to muster vast amounts of money and intelligence in service to a worthy cause, and the pandemic of racism should be no different. Racism can be cured, but black people alone cannot put an end to the disease. We need the commitment and engagement of consciously aware white people to do that.

Let me be clear: I do not condone violence and looting. But I fully understand the frustration and outrage sparked by yet another incident in which the life of a black person is considered to be worthless. The sight of so many young people — white, black, yellow, and brown — coming together across this country and around the world to protest the injustice of it gives me hope.

Corporate America is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this conversation and to drive the lasting change we so desperately need. As it has done throughout history, American business can offer viable solutions that address the disease of racism while setting an example for the country and the world. The initial response from dozens of CEOs and corporate leaders over the past week gives me cause to be optimistic. But I challenge all of corporate America to follow the lead of these men and women and develop a plan for their businesses informed by fairness, love, and compassion for everyone. Only then will we unlock the true greatness of America.

Headshots_earl_gravesEarl "Butch" Graves, Jr. is an American businessman and retired basketball player.

Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic, the SDGs Are More Relevant Than Ever

May 10, 2020

SdgThe world is dealing with a crisis of monumental proportions. The novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the globe, destroying lives and ruining livelihoods. The primary cost of the pandemic as calculated in the loss of human life is distressing, but the knock-on effects in terms of the global economy, people's livelihoods, and sustainable development prospects are even more alarming. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the global economy has already fallen into recession, and while the full economic impact of the crisis is difficult to predict, the ultimate cost is likely to be extraordinary and unprecedented.

That is why we must all support the United Nations' call to scale up the immediate health response to the virus, with a particular focus on women, youth, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises, the informal sector, and vulnerable groups who were already at risk. Working together we can save lives, restore livelihoods, and get the global economy back on track.

At the same time, the pandemic has utterly exposed fundamental weaknesses in our global system of governance and demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt how poverty, inadequate health systems, underresourced educational systems, and sub-optimal global cooperation can exacerbate a crisis like COVID-19. These are exactly the kinds of challenges the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are meant to address.

The rapid spread of the virus has come at a time when the SDGs were beginning to get traction and a significant number of countries were making progress in implementing them. But with the world today consumed by the need to contain the virus and mitigate its many adverse and debilitating impacts, countries are resetting their priorities and reallocating resources to deal with the challenge.

Emerging evidence of the broader impact of the coronavirus crisis on efforts to achieve the SDGs should be troubling for all. UNESCO estimates that some 1.25 billion students globally have been affected by the pandemic, posing a serious challenge to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 4, while the International Labour Organization (ILO) projects that some 25 million people could lose their jobs over the coming months, dealing a serious blow to progress on Sustainable Development Goal 8 — and that is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Crucially, in many parts of the world, the pandemic also is creating roadblocks to progress on clean water and sanitation targets (Goal 6), addressing pervasive inequality (Goal 10), and, perhaps most importantly, addressing the twin crises of global poverty (Goal 1) and hunger/food insecurity (Goal 2). Indeed, the World Bank estimates that pandemic will push an additional 11 million people into poverty.

In other words, what we cannot afford to do in this critical moment is to de-link the global response to the pandemic from action on the SDGs. Indeed, by continuing to make progress on the SDGs, we will be putting ourselves on a firmer path to dealing with global health risks and the emergence of new infectious diseases in the future. Achieving SDGs Goal 3, for instance, will mean that we succeeded in strengthening the capacity of countries to conduct early warning surveillance, reduce the risk of contagious pathogens from spreading, and manage the situation promptly and effectively should they be faced with such a situation.

As the global community strives to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, we must seek to turn the crisis into an opportunity and ramp up our actions to support and ultimately achieve the goals by 2030. The world has the knowledge and expertise to muster the full complement of resources needed to to do that. Buoyed by a spirit of solidarity, governments, businesses, multilateral organizations, and civil society have been able to raise and direct trillions of dollars to defeat the virus. We can do the same to defeat global poverty, reduce inequality, provide a quality education to all, protect the climate, and build a more just and sustainable global economy. All that is missing is the political will.

As governments, business, and civil society around the world respond to the impacts of the pandemic, it is incumbent on all of us to stay focused on the underlying factors that have exacerbated those impacts. We cannot relent in our efforts, even amid this painful pandemic, to address people's basic needs, protect the beauty and diversity of our planet, and build a fairer and more just world. COVID-19 reminds us that we face common, global challenges that can only be solved through united, global action. In a crisis like this, we are only as strong as our weakest link.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Erna Solberg are, respectively, president of the Republic of Ghana and prime minister of Norway and co-chairs of the UN Secretary-General's Eminent Group of Advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals.

5 Questions for...Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director, Wallace Global Fund

April 29, 2020

Ellen Dorsey has served since 2008 as the executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, where she helped launch Divest-Invest Philanthropy, a coalition of more than two hundred foundations that have pledged to divest their portfolios of fossil fuel companies and deploy their investments to accelerate the clean energy transition. Dorsey and Divest-Invest Philanthropy signatories were awarded the 2016 inaugural Nelson Mandela – Graca Machel Brave Philanthropy Award.

Earlier this month, the fund announced that it would pay out 20 percent of its endowment this year in support of COVID-19 relief and ongoing systemic change efforts and called on other funders to increase their grantmaking. 

PND spoke with Dorsey about the fund's decision-making process, the moral obligations of foundations in a time of crisis, and the longer-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dorsey_EllenPhilanthropy News Digest: What was the impetus behind the fund's decision to commit 20 percent of the endowment to grantmaking in 2020, and how did you and the board arrive at that amount? 

Ellen Dorsey: We have said for a while now that philanthropy cannot engage in business as usual, either by failing to align our investments with our missions or not giving at a level commensurate with the seriousness of the many challenges we face. Before COVID-19, we were already calling for philanthropy to declare a climate emergency and increase giving levels over the next ten years. COVID-19 was yet another overlapping shockwave added to the list of threats that compounded our sense of urgency.  

For too long, philanthropy has been content to give the bare minimum — the 5 percent required by law — while growing its endowments. Even before COVID-19, the Wallace Global Fund felt it was unethical for any foundation to grow its endowment during a five-alarm fire, particularly given the many financial and logistical challenges faced by our grantees. 

As for the percentage decision, it happened organically. We were already planning to spend a significant percentage of our endowment this year on critical work being done within our core priority areas, and we invested 100 percent of our stock market gains — close to 22 percent — in 2018. Keeping our investments aligned with our mission is something that has long been a board priority. We see this as consistent with the legacy of our founding donor, former U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace, and his warning that democracies must put people before profits if they plan to survive. 

PND: In a joint opinion piece with the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's Aaron Dorfman, you argued that "it is no time for philanthropy to think about cutting back...[instead, it should] give more to address the public-health crisis while continuing to fund existing social and systemic change efforts." You've said elsewhere that preserving foundation endowments instead of boosting granmaking was "both immoral and a failure to honor the mandate that foundations have to serve society." Have you received any pushback from CEOs at other foundations? And do you think philanthropy will take this "opportunity to fundamentally rethink past practices and upend the status quo," especially with respect to the mandatory 5 percent payout requirement?

ED: Ultimately, it's an empirical question. We will see. Right now, many foundations are stepping up and making significant pledges to address COVID-19 and the related economic crisis. Will enhanced giving continue as the reality of reduced endowments sinks in later this year and persists into 2021? The fallout of COVID-19, coupled with the spiraling climate catastrophe, requires dramatically more funding, not less. We have a decade to fundamentally reduce emissions and change the energy base of our global economy while creating more sustainable and equitable systems.

What we need from philanthropy goes beyond simply spending more. Frankly, if ever there was a time to fund system change work, it is now. We need to break the corporate capture of democracy, create new patterns of ownership, change the growth-only measures of economic and societal success, level patterns of inequality, and meet the basic human needs of billions, all while reversing the climate catastrophe barreling down on humanity. Philanthropy needs to support movements that are advancing new paradigms, support systemic theories of change that confront our unjust system, and invest its money in a way that is consistent with these values.

PND: As you've acknowledged, some foundations have taken steps to provide more — and more flexible — support for nonprofits, while more than seven hundred foundations have signed on to the Council on Foundationspledge to do so. Are we seeing a shift among foundations toward more grantee-centered practices? Or will things revert to the status quo after we get to the other side of this crisis?

ED: History shows that there is a tendency among philanthropy to scale back when times get tough. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession, philanthropic grantmaking dropped by 15 percent. We've been really encouraged to see the groundswell of statements calling for philanthropy to use this moment to break that bad habit. It is particularly important given the unique vulnerabilities faced by nonprofits, movements, and the communities they serve. 

It is hard to say right now whether the status quo will fully return in any sector, but I will say that philanthropy has an obligation to resist it. Getting rid of COVID-19 will do nothing to stop the dire consequences we were already facing as the result of a number of threats, most notably climate change. In fact, if society returns to its established habits of emitting more carbon into the atmosphere, damaging or destroying ecological habitats, and giving corporations free rein to pursue the myth of limitless economic growth, the consequences of climate change will only continue to worsen.

The same could also be said for economic inequality, the rising privatization of public resources around the world, gender-based violence in the Global South, and the rise in misogyny faced by women around the world. There is no vaccine for social injustice. We cannot allow ourselves to be so relieved once the COVID-19 crisis has passed that we ignore the fissures in society it has exposed. Philanthropy has both an opportunity and a duty to partner with people-centered movements that are fighting for systems change and broad, structural reform today, and we must continue to support them in the aftermath of this pandemic. 

PND: This is not the first time the Wallace Global Fund has used its investment portfolio to boost the impact of its grantmaking; in 2018, the fund pledged to invest all its gains from the previous year into organizations working to advance social and environmental justice. Have you seen tangible returns on those investments?

ED: Yes, without a question. We have already seen positive impacts from our funding and there are results to come that we cannot yet see. We fund progressive social movements and systemic change work both globally and in the U.S. We believe building people power is the necessary ingredient to challenging entrenched economic and political interests. We have been funding the fossil fuel divestment movement for over a decade and, to date, there are more than a thousand institutions  around the globe that have divested — institutions with a combined $14 trillion under management. We have funded the youth climate movement, the so-called climate strikers, and those calling for a Green New Deal. They are changing the debate on climate in truly significant ways. We're also supporting groups around the world that are challenging authoritarian governments and defending basic human rights.  

Often those fights seem insurmountable, but defending the front lines is often the only antibody to the virus of authoritarianism and is essential if we are to preserve our democratic ideals and way of life. In the U.S., our grantees are working to transform conditions of inequality, defend democratic institutions, get toxic money out of our political system, and break up monopolies. These are big and audacious goals, not easy to measure in the near term, but they absolutely are critical in terms of the system change work we need. I think it's fair to say we would rather invest in deep change than obsess about lowest-common-denominator metrics. 

PND: What, if anything, do the systemic social change efforts you've urged your philanthropic peers to support — climate action, defending the rights of marginalized populations, strengthening civil society and democracy — have to do with the public health and economic emergencies caused by COVID-19?

ED: It's true that all those issues were issues before COVID-19. For example, we know that seven hundred people a day were dying from poverty in the U.S. before the virus ever reached our shores. But COVID-19 has laid bare the many ways in which it is not the great equalizer many claim it is.

Communities of color have been disproportionately devastated by the virus. Places with higher levels of carbon-based pollution are seeing corresponding spikes in death rates. Voting rights are under increasing threat from a lack of contingency planning and stalled efforts to expand vote-by-mail nationally. And as millions of small businesses were forced to close their doors — many for the last time — American billionaires made more than $300 billion.

These injustices are all interconnected. One of the movement leaders who inspires me most, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of the Poor People's Campaign, has built a movement on the simple yet profound notion that the struggles against systemic racism, inadequate health care, poverty, voter suppression, ecological devastation, environmental injustice, and human rights abuses are not separate struggles at all. We are dependent on each other in our quest for liberation, and our narratives must be bound together if we hope to win.

— Kyoko Uchida

Coronavirus Highlights the Gaping Holes in Our Healthcare and Labor System

March 05, 2020

FastFoodWorkersMaps and daily counts of the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) around the world have become a staple of television, the Internet, and print media. Not unreasonably, Americans fearful of contracting the virus have emptied their local supermarkets and drugstores of masks, soap, and hand sanitizers in hopes that simple measures will protect them. Meanwhile, concerned officials are telling people they should speak to their employers about their work-from-home options and, if they begin to exhibit flu-like symptoms, to stay home.

Unfortunately, this latest global pandemic throws into stark relief the status of our broken healthcare and labor systems. Low-wage workers who care for our children, staff our hospitals, and work the kitchens and cash registers in our fast food restaurants cannot work at home. Nor, in the event they get sick without adequate insurance, can they afford to get tested for COVID-19 or obtain medical care. For them, and many others, missing a day's pay almost always results in dire financial consequences. Many have no paid sick days or family care days; they live in constant fear of losing their wages or, worse, their jobs. And if schools are closed, who will care for their own children when they report to work?

The all-but-inevitable spread of the virus in the United States is about to bring us face-to-face with a simple fact: masks (as the surgeon-general reminded us in a tweet!) and hand sanitizers will not make us safe; only fair wages, a strong social safety net, and universal paid family and medical leave will protect Americans from the worst consequences of the virus. In a quote that has circulated widely across social media, journalist and author Anand Giridharadas observed, "Coronavirus makes clear what has been true all along. Your health is as safe as that of the worst-insured, worst-cared-for person in your society. It will be decided by the height of the floor, not the ceiling."

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Texas Border Families Fuel a Network to Build Power and Equity

October 11, 2019

Rio-grande-valleyIf you're familiar with the Rio Grande Valley and listen to the rhetoric out of Washington, D.C., you know it has nothing to do with the reality lived by most families in the region.

Even as the national spotlight continues to cast its glare on the border, a collective yearning for human dignity, civil rights, and community progress is building in the valley, which is home to more than 1.3 million people. Sadly, the aspirations of the people who live there — and the region's vibrancy — are easy to overlook.

What you won't learn from listening to the president and his supporters is that the region is home to a grassroots movement driven largely by Latinx families comprised of both U.S. citizens and immigrants that for years has been advocating for solutions to problems created by decades of structural poverty and a lack of equitable access to financial resources.

Families in the region know better than anyone how public policies create progress and economic opportunity — or fail to. Poverty and intolerance, they will tell you, are blocking human potential — and creating costs for all of us. At the same time, dignity and compassion continue to be core values of the region's residents as they organize for social change and better lives.

"This is a moment where people can see beyond themselves," says Martha Sanchez, organizing coordinator for farmworker and civil rights organization La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE). "Hate is not healthy for anybody. We need to look more deeply."

A Philanthropic Network Amplifies the Voices of Families

Central to this movement-building work, community and family leaders say, is the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, a multi-issue coalition of Marguerite Casey Foundation grantees and allies. It is among fifteen regional networks the foundation and its grantees started. (The foundation, which has invested more than $7 million in the Equal Voice Network model, also supports the Native Voice Network and a youth-led network).

 

The network is an incubator of sorts where low-income families can meet, voice ideas, and focus collectively on bottom-up, community-led policy solutions.

Grassroots leaders in the region will also tell you that the Marguerite Casey Foundation, which has been investing in community organizations in the Rio Grande Valley since 2003, is one of the few philanthropic funders to issue sizable, multiyear general support grants to nonprofits in support of family-led movement building. Those dollars are used by grantees as they see fit in their efforts to alleviate poverty and promote equity in the valley. As we like to think, that support represents both philanthropic trust and movement building in action.

"We try to be a regular presence, to see how we can connect organizations with other ones. It's about being a bridge," says Christina Patiño Houle, the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network weaver, a role akin to a coordinator or facilitator. "What we provide is convening space. The network provides the focus of pulling people in so they're in conversation."

The network is comprised of eight foundation grantees in the valley and approximately twenty allied nonprofit organizations, many of them also based in the region.

Because network members are in regular contact with Rio Grande Valley residents and the focus is on grassroots movement building, local, state and U.S. government officials — including elected ones — make it a point to stay in frequent communication with the organizations and their leaders.

"It's a testament to the network's ability to mobilize people," says Patiño Houle.

Network members meet regularly to discuss the well-being of families in the region, which boasts more than forty-five cities and hundreds of unincorporated neighborhoods known as colonias.

While the issue of immigration touches all network members in some way, families say there is more to life in Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy and Starr counties than what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border: families are fighting to secure healthy, stable, and safe communities, quality education for their children, and peace and prosperity. So when network members meet in working groups, they also focus on jobs, housing, civic engagement, education, and health.

Out of that collective focus comes passion-inspired efforts aimed at creating positive social change. Families are at the vanguard of these efforts.

The work often starts at one nonprofit organization, which then spreads the word to other network members. Or it can emanate from weeks or months of brainstorming after a group of network members have heard from families about the steps needed to go forward. The network also amplifies the work of its partner organizations.

Families Honor Asylum Seekers — by Dancing

The morning before Mother's Day is muggy and overcast near Edinburg, a Rio Grande Valley city about twenty-five miles from the border. At Sunflower Memorial Park, in the flatlands off state Route 107, the inviting rhythm of Mexican-Caribbean music blares from loudspeakers.

Under a metal shelter, about ninety people — nearly all women — are wearing workout clothing, shuffling left then right, hips twisting freely and arms waving to the beat of cumbia and reggaeton. It looks like a normal exercise class at a local gym, but nearby are Maria Campos, her daughters, and about fifteen cardboard boxes full of goods.

Before participants start dancing, they hand Campos and her children toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, pasta, canned food, blankets and clothing.

The donated items will go to asylum seekers and others who were recently released from federal immigration facilities and are now waiting at shelters to be united with relatives or sponsors. The event is organized by LUPE, the grassroots nonprofit started by activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta in 1989. Campos and her daughters are LUPE members. They and the participants at the park are continuing the work of serving humanity.

"This is the closest that many community members will get to what's happening at the border," says John-Michael Torres, LUPE's communications coordinator, as the music continues in the background. "We want to lift up treating people the way we want to be treated."

Campos, who lives in a colonia near Edinburg, has visited shelters with other LUPE members — some of whom have read books to migrant children there — to offer support to asylum seekers released from U.S. detention facilities.

"I put my hand on their shoulder," she says in Spanish. "I tell them, 'You are not alone.'"

Families Lend a Hand to Asylum Seekers

Mother's Day, and the air is still thick and humid in Brownsville, which sits about sixty miles southeast of Edinburg. At the city's bus station — minutes from a U.S. Mexico-border crossing — Sergio Cordova has arrived with food and supplies for immigrants and asylum seekers following their release from U.S. detention.

He is a volunteer with Team Brownsville, a humanitarian organization that provides food and emergency supplies to asylum seekers and migrants on both sides of the border. The network supports Team Brownsville by amplifying its needs and supporting its communication efforts.

As asylum seekers have arrived at the border in recent months, nonprofit organizations, including the ACLU of Texas, have dispatched staff members to talk with them about the conditions there and their treatment by U.S. authorities. U.S. border guards are stationed at the midpoint of the bridge that crosses the river to Brownsville, and these days they turn away asylum seekers looking to be processed at the border and instruct them to wait in Mexico. Advocates say the old protocol of allowing asylum seekers to start the process after they had crossed onto U.S. soil was safer and more compassionate for families fleeing strife, turmoil, and violence.

Inside the Brownsville bus station, passengers are waiting to board buses to distant points. At first, it's hard to determine who might have been released from federal immigration detention or how long a person or family might have been at the bus station. Some newly-released migrants spend days there, patiently waiting to be reunited with relatives or sponsors in the U.S.

Cordova, a local school district employee who grew up in an immigrant family, scans the room looking for people without shoelaces and belts. Immigrants and asylum seekers who were just released from federal detention aren't likely to have either, as U.S. authorities, citing safety reasons, require that they be turned over.

Cordova gives food to an immigrant family who hasn't eaten in days, and then an older woman approaches, saying in Spanish that people nearby need help. A younger woman quickly follows, keeping an eye on Cordova.

The younger woman, who appears to be in her twenties, looks distraught. Her brown hair is frazzled, and a small towel is draped over her shoulder. When she moves again, it's clear she's not alone. An infant, a girl, is sleeping on a metal bench in the waiting area. Cordova rips open a pack of diapers and hands the mother a stack along with a toothbrush. Soon, a bowl of cereal is placed next to the girl, who is covered by a blanket.

The mother pauses and smiles slightly. She tells Cordova she is from Honduras and that it's taken a month for her and her daughter to make their way to the border. Asylum seekers often make the journey by walking. It is Mother's Day.

"Any baby who comes through, we make sure they have formula," Cordova says. "All we give them is all that they'll have."

The stories that Team Brownsville volunteers and city staff hear at the bus station are harrowing and almost always involve tales of the instability, turmoil, and violence that people are fleeing, especially if they are from a Central American country. But people arrive from other countries, too, including Sri Lanka, China, Bangladesh, Kosovo, Cameroon, and Cuba.

Later in the day, Cordova and Team Brownsville volunteers walk across the U.S.-Mexico border with food and supplies for families and individuals waiting to apply for asylum. On the Mexican side of the border, as people eat the donated food, one man talks about the persecution he faced in Cuba because he is gay. He says he is looking forward to living in the United States.

Families Meet to Boost Education

Each week, members of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network gather at a different community-based organization to chart a path to progress in other areas, including housing, jobs, and health.

The day after Mother's Day, the network's education working group is meeting at ARISE Support Center, located in a yellow two-story house in the city of Alamo. The house, which serves as the nonprofit's headquarters, is now a place for community organizing. Rooms are filled with chatter in English and Spanish.

It's fitting the meeting is at ARISE. The organization works with many nearby colonia residents, especially mothers. After getting tired of the conditions in their colonias — bumpy, potholed roads, a lack of streetlights — they became grassroots community leaders with the goal of creating positive change for their families and neighbors.

In minutes, the seats around the table in ARISE's lime green meeting room have been filled. Parents and community leaders are there to discuss ways to improve communication between families and school district officials.

School district board meetings, network members say, are held only in English — but parents in this heavily Latinx region mostly speak Spanish. Many say an English-to-Spanish translation policy at school board meetings would help support all families in their pursuit of a quality education for their children.

Also on the working group's agenda for the day: a discussion of how Mexican-American studies can be introduced into the school curriculum. Butcher paper goes up on the walls. Participants write down and discuss ideas.

"It's democracy because we are not working only for the best of one person," says Ramona Casas, a community organizer who helped start ARISE in 1987. "We're looking out for the best of community members."

A $190 Million Policy Win to Address Flooding in Colonias

Rain has just swept through the Indian Hills colonia, near the city of Mercedes, leaving the unincorporated area moist and muggy.

Near the intersection of Apache Drive and Campacuas Drive stands a sprawling tree. When neighborhood families need to discuss community issues and concerns — say, better roads or water drainage or their kids' safety — this is where they gather.

Lourdes Salinas, a community organizer with Proyecto Azteca, which works on affordable housing in the region's colonias, is standing under the tree with a few mothers. She lives in this colonia.

The women are talking about a major victory scored by the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network in November 2018: a $190 million bond measure to fund nearly forty drainage projects in Hidalgo County colonias.

The county has hundreds of colonias — some community leaders put the number at between eight hundred and a thousand. Tens of thousands of families live in those colonias because they're affordable. But colonias are located on former agricultural land that was developed with an eye to retaining water for crops, says Ann Williams Cass, executive director of Proyecto Azteca.

When it rains here, homes and streets flood. Families talk of water rising as high as their waists. The water not only damages houses, including bedrooms and appliances such as washing machines, but can block streets leading into and out of colonias. Families are unable to leave their homes to buy groceries. Mothers talk of holding young children in their arms to keep them out of the water. Sometimes they slip and fall. Kids tell their parents that even the sound of rain frightens them. Sanitation systems fail during the flooding, contaminating neighborhoods.

In June 2018, the flooding reached worse-than-normal levels. Some have dubbed the event the "Great June Flood."

After that, families affiliated with the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network pressed their calls for better drainage. They went door-to-door and talked with neighbors, documented cases of flooding, attended government meetings, and studied flood maps and data. They then succeeded in putting a November 2018 bond measure on the ballot and spoke with Rio Grande Valley residents, explaining that the slightly higher taxes would benefit everyone.

Responsibility for the bond measure passing is shared by many families and community organizations, including ARISE, LUPE, and Proyecto Azteca, which all work in various colonias — places where their own families members live.

Sarai Montelongo, a mother in the Indian Hills colonia who started an influential Facebook page, used her platform to call attention to bumpy roads and the safety of neighborhood children and raise awareness about the drainage bond.

"We used to be a colonia that people forgot," she says in Spanish, standing under the large sprawling tree and near streets that have been the site of community meetings with elected officials.

While $190 million will not solve all the drainage issues in Hidalgo County, community leaders say it is a policy step in the right direction and that they will continue to work for more improvements.

"It will be a big change," says Salinas.

Rio Grande Valley, USA

Motorists looking to head north from the Rio Grande Valley to San Antonio take State Route 281. The drive takes about four hours and can be monotonous, save for the scrubby flatland greenery and what looks like a large gas station in the middle of the highway.

It's actually a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint. Many people have questioned the need for these checkpoints so far from the border. According to the ACLU, however, the federal government can operate the checkpoints if they're within a hundred miles of the United States' "external boundary."

The ACLU also notes that U.S. border authorities are only permitted "a brief and limited inquiry into [the] residency status" of people who travel through the checkpoints. Cass of Proyecto Azteca says the federal checkpoints exist in every direction heading out of the Rio Grande Valley and are also found at airports.

A few days after Mother's Day, two U.S. Border Patrol agents dressed in olive green uniforms stand at a checkpoint lane and wait for motorists. One holds the leash of a K-9 dog.

As two visitors — a white American male and an Asian American male — pull up in an automobile, an agent wearing reflective sunglasses waves the vehicle through. No need to stop and answer a few questions; no need to show identification.

Beyond the checkpoint, however, a man with dark hair is standing in the grass just off the highway. In a matter of minutes, a U.S. Border Patrol van with flashing emergency lights arrives. Soon, two more government vans show up.

Weeks later, news breaks of crowded, unsanitary conditions at federal detention facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border, of asylum seekers and migrants confined behind chain-link fencing, of migrant children remaining separated from their parents.

Sanchez, the LUPE organizing coordinator, says these types of stories and experiences underscore how important it is for communities to work together for human rights, equity, justice, and the alleviation of poverty.

"All of this reminds us of our humanity," she says. "We bring things in our heart to keep us human. For people here, it's not an option to give up."

Brad Wong is communications manager for the Marguerite Casey Foundation. This post was originally published on the Casey Foundation website.

5 Questions for...Chera Reid, Director of Strategic Learning, Research and Evaluation, Kresge Foundation

September 16, 2019

As director of strategic learning, research, and evaluation for the Kresge Foundation, Chera Reid leads Kresge's efforts to use data to inform its grantmaking and social investing strategies, partner with grantees to ensure that the foundation's evaluation efforts support organizational and community needs, and shape how the foundation advances the fields in which it works. Previously an officer in Kresge's Education program, Reid has long focused professionally on issues of access and equity in institutions and systems and in her current role is leading the foundation's efforts to apply an equity lens to its evaluation activities, place-based practice, and collaborations across different fields and sectors.

After earning a bachelor's degree in English and African American Studies at the University of Virginia and a master's from the University of Michigan, Reid served in leadership positions at the New York branch of America Needs You and the Phillips Academy Andover Institute for Recruitment of Teachers while earning a PhD in higher education from New York University.

PND spoke to Reid about Kresge's transition from a foundation known primarily for making capital challenge grants to one focused on using a variety of tools to help grantees build stronger communities, the challenges of equity work, and how she stays upbeat and positive in challenging times.

Headshot_chera_reidPhilanthropy News Digest: You were named Kresge's first director of strategic learning, research, and evaluation in 2015, when Kresge was just a few years into its transition from being a foundation known primarily for making capital challenge grants to one focused on helping grantees build stronger communities. What role did the Strategic Learning Research, and Evaluation program play in that transition?

Chera Reid: When the foundation was primarily a capital challenge grantmaker, and we'd ask whether a project had been completed, a grantee would send in a photo of the completed physical structure. The other piece of it was financial. Kresge only released capital challenge grant funds when campaigns were nearing their finish line, which went a long way to ensuring the success of the grant.

The work I've been doing since I've been in my current role is about creating an intentional, learning organization. By virtue of that charge, the work I'm engaged in is about organizational culture change and about learning not just for the sake of feeling good about ourselves and to say we're doing it — it's about action and informing our decision making going forward. And accountability now is more about holding ourselves accountable to people in the communities in which we work and holding one another accountable to our mission.

What has changed at the foundation as we moved to a more strategic approach over the last decade or so is that we have expanded our view of our role. Kresge as a capital challenge grantmaker was an excellent thing. We were brilliant at doing one thing: helping to build libraries, hospitals, and educational institutions. But today we're using a more complete toolkit of philanthropic resources. And that means we are table-setting, we're bringing actors together from disparate fields, from the edges of practice and at the neighborhood level, and saying, "How about it? What do you think you can create together?"

We're also bringing different forms of capital to the table and saying, "How can we remove some of the risk associated with this work? Can we blend different forms of capital to get to the root of what people and communities are saying are their most pressing challenges? And how can we put learning, evaluation, and research to better use?" They’re all tools in our toolkit. By being intentional about using learning and evaluation to inform a more strategic approach to philanthropy, we are committing to doing all the things that philanthropy can and should be doing to drive change.

When Sebastian S. Kresge started the Kresge Foundation in 1924, his directive as to what it should do was really broad: promote human progress. Today, it is about expanding opportunity for low-income people in cities and doing it with an equity lens. And in 2024, the year of our centennial, we'll be asking ourselves, "How did we do? What can we point to that shows the distance we have traveled as an organization in expanding opportunity for low-income people in America's cities? Have we really done it with an equity lens? What is the path we want to chart institutionally as we look beyond 2024." Learning and evaluation are a really important part of that conversation, in that they help us hear the story, give us space to be more reflective, and enable us to look across different bodies of work and imagine the future we are trying to shape and contribute to.

PND: From an evaluation and learning perspective, what are the primary challenges of the foundation's equity work?

CR: Positing that we need to do that work through an equity lens has not been the issue, though that most certainly is not the case across the philanthropic sector. But for Kresge, bringing an equity lens to our practice has been a bridge. It resonates with other grantmakers and helps us come together and say, "Okay, what is it that we really need to learn?"

We try to incorporate the principles of equitable evaluation in whatever we’re working on. Evaluation in service of equity is about asking questions that get to root causes. It's about participant orientation and ownership, and also about ensuring that the work is multiculturally valid.

We do not have it all figured out. It's a challenge. As a sector, philanthropy has been able to work in ways that are not about evaluation in service of a bigger goal; we've been allowed to make evaluation about ourselves. But that is changing. And one thing adopting an equity frame means is that the many consultants we work with as evaluators have a long way to go to meet our goals and aspirations. What do I mean by that? We need more people who bring an equity lens to evaluative thinking, work, and consulting. In some ways, we've created that challenge for ourselves because in the past we did not ask for that kind of skill set. But we need more examples, and we need more of our peers to come forward and say, "This is what we’re trying to do and model." There is definitely a sense of urgency around the challenge within the foundation.

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5 Questions for...Kashif Shaikh, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Pillars Fund

August 27, 2019

Kashif Shaikh is co-founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Pillars Fund, a grantmaking organization that invests in American Muslim organizations, leaders, and storytellers in order to advance equity and inclusion. Established in 2010 as a donor-advised fund at the Chicago Community Trust with investments of $25,000 each from five Muslim-American philanthropists, the fund became an independent organization in 2016 with seed funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. To date, the fund has awarded $4 million in grants to small and midsize nonprofits to help ensure that American Muslims are able to thrive and live with dignity — and continue to have opportunities to contribute to civil society and public discourse.

PND asked Shaikh about the role of Muslim philanthropy in American society, the importance of supporting "culture work," and the fund’s current priorities.

Kashif_Shaikh_pillars_fundPhilanthropy News Digest: Your website states that the fund’s grantmaking "is inspired by Muslim tradition, which includes respect, conviction, sacrifice, action, and generosity." Why don't Muslim philanthropies and charities have a higher profile in the United States?

Kashif Shaikh: Giving of one's wealth, time, or effort is deeply embedded in the Muslim tradition. And in the United States, the earliest recorded example of Muslim giving was by enslaved Muslims, who in the nineteenth century distributed saraka in the form of small cakes to children on plantations off the coast of Georgia, continuing a tradition from West Africa. The word saraka is closely related to the word sadaqah, the Arabic word for "charity." This is important to acknowledge as we try to build on what generations of Muslims have already done in this land.

Three-quarters of Muslims in the United States today are immigrants or children of immigrants, and half of all U.S. Muslims arrived after 1970. Over the last fifty years Muslim communities put a lot of resources into building mosques and other communal spaces as they put down new roots here. A significant portion of this giving happened through informal networks rather than through established foundations and funds.

More recently, Muslim giving has been gaining greater visibility for a number of reasons. Many of our philanthropic and nonprofit institutions are relatively new to the scene. Among our grant applicants, 20 percent of the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian-led organizations were founded before September 11 and 80 percent were established on or after September 12, 2001. This tells us that many charitable efforts in our communities have been launched in response to the crises we faced. And, we've seen another burst of need  — as well as innovation — since the 2016 general election, which signaled another moment of crisis and "profiling" of our communities.

Unfortunately, many philanthropic efforts led by people of color have been historically overlooked and undervalued in this country. "Our issues" have not been seen as relevant to American society overall. More recently, however, attacks on the civil and human rights of Muslims in the U.S. have signaled a broader erosion of rights across communities. It has become increasingly clear to us that Muslim communities are going to have to coordinate our efforts to defend ourselves against these threats and work more closely with other impacted communities to protect ourselves.

At Pillars, we've recognized the need to target our resources, which includes funding those who are at the forefront of some of these challenges. As Muslims have entered more civic spaces and joined more networks and coalitions — and have been recognized for our work in doing so — our profile has been rising. We are intentional about raising our visibility because it is important for everyone to understand the role Muslims have played, and continue to play, in bettering society, whether through our philanthropic, cultural, or civic contributions.

PND: The fund works to achieve its goals through three program areas — grantmaking in support of "rights, wellness, and understanding"; empowering American Muslims to tell their own stories and ensure more accurate and authentic representations of Muslims in the media and culture; and providing thought leadership to foundations, think tanks, media, and civic leaders. Why is culture-focused work — for example, the multiyear public arts and oral history project you funded at Brooklyn Historical Society — so central to your efforts?

KS: Culture plays a tremendous role in shaping our beliefs about ourselves and others. Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. still hold a low opinion of Muslims, and much of that is rooted in the damaging narratives we’ve all been exposed to through popular culture, especially film and television, over many decades. If we want to shift how people perceive Muslims, we can't afford to ignore culture. Brooklyn Historical Society’s Muslims in Brooklyn oral history project, led by historian Zaheer Ali, empowers the borough’s Muslim communities to narrate a piece of New York City history. By listening to their stories, told in their own words, anyone can learn how Muslims have helped shape one of the world's most influential metropolises.

There is so much power in crafting and sharing your own story, which is why we are inspired by the oral history project. There is also a vast untapped reservoir of Muslim storytellers that we want to help organize and nurture. Muslims are one of the most racially and ethnically diverse faith communities in the U.S., and only when we appreciate the many perspectives within our community will we begin to understand what it means to be a Muslim in America. For example, the perspective of a newly arrived Syrian refugee could not be more different from the perspective of a fourth-generation African-American Muslim. We want to help create space to honor and share all of these stories.

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5 Questions for...Tanya Coke, Director, Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice, Ford Foundation

June 05, 2019

Tanya Coke has been involved in issues of criminal justice, mass incarceration, and immigration for more than thirty years. First as a researcher at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, then as a trial attorney in the Legal Aid Society‘s Federal Defender Division, and now as director of Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice at the Ford Foundation, Coke has been actively engaged in public interest law and social justice issues and, at Ford, leads a team focused on harnessing the resources and commitment needed to combat inequality based on gender, race, class, disability, and ethnicity.

PND spoke with Coke about the foundation’s efforts to reduce the U.S. prison population, decouple the criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems, and protect a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

Headshot_tanya_cokePhilanthropy News Digest: Your work with the Legal Aid Society, the Open Society Institute, and the U.S. Human Rights Fund has given you the kind of frontline exposure to the criminal justice system that few people ever get. You've said you hope to use your platform at the Ford Foundation to help reduce the U.S. prison population by 20 percent by 2022. What makes you believe that goal is achievable? And what kinds of things can the foundation do over the next few years to make that goal a reality?

Tanya Coke: When I began researching criminal justice issues in the late 1980s, politicians from both parties were falling over themselves to out-tough the other on crime. It is widely believed that Michael Dukakis lost the 1988 election over a flubbed debate answer over whether he would consider the death penalty if his wife were raped. It would have been hard to imagine back then that presidential candidates in 2020 would be competing to see who has the most progressive criminal justice reform platform.

That gives me hope and makes me believe we can make significant progress in taming the beast that is mass incarceration in America. Bipartisan momentum for reform is happening because of a confluence of several factors: low crime rates, tight state budgets, and a much greater understanding of how mass incarceration has decimated families and communities and made us all less safe. It is not a window that will remain open forever, however, so while it is open we have to work harder and more effectively to change not just minds about what we're doing but also hearts. That requires narrative change. It requires smart policy advocacy. And it requires more organizing in communities that are most impacted by mass incarceration.

The other thing that makes me feel optimistic is that we have seen prison populations in states like California, New York, and New Jersey drop by more than 30 percent in recent years, and in the past two years we've seen incarceration rates drop by more than 10 percent in very conservative states like Louisiana and Oklahoma. That gives me confidence we can achieve significant reductions in the incarceration rate in other states as well.

But it's not enough to focus on state prison populations. We also have to look at what’s happening in local jails, where people typically serve sentences of less than a year. While state prison populations are coming down, jail populations in many places are rising. To address the situation, we've been focusing on bail reform. Bail needlessly leads to the incarceration of people who shouldn’t be in jail, particularly poor people who don't have the wherewithal to pay cash bail. We're seeing growing awareness of that fact and momentum building across the country to do something about it. Another example is our work to effect broader change in the usual narratives about crime and criminal justice. That work takes the form of support for journalism projects, partnerships with Hollywood, and efforts to leverage other kinds of storytelling platforms, with a focus on trying to re-humanize people who are in the system and imagining a different approach to public safety.

PND: Many people have come to see the criminal justice system in the U.S. as an institutional manifestation of white supremacy. Is that an accurate characterization? And where are we as a society in terms of identifying and dismantling structural barriers to real racial equity and justice?

TC: That is the real work. There is no question that mass incarceration is driven by structural racism. To some degree it was set off by rising crime rates in the 1980s, but more than anything it has been powered by racial fear and a deep-seated instinct toward racial control of surplus labor. In my opinion, mass incarceration would not have been possible during the era of slavery because black bodies were too valuable as property in the South to let them sit idle in jail. Mass incarceration also was not possible in the 1940s or 1950s, the heyday of American manufacturing, again because black labor was needed to keep the auto factories and steel mills humming. But mass incarceration does become possible in the 1980s, after many of those manufacturing jobs had been shipped overseas and, suddenly, lots of people in black communities were forced into the underground economy of drug selling, which in turn led to a heightened, racialized fear of crime. Mass incarceration was a response not only to the advances of the civil rights movement, but also to the hollowing out of industries that employed blacks, and the racial fears that both spawned. In general, police are not comfortable with idle black men on street corners, and that fact accelerated the instinct to warehouse them in prison.

You have only to look at the difference in per capita incarceration rates in heavily black states like Louisiana, where eight hundred people per hundred thousand are incarcerated, and a homogeneous, largely white state like Vermont, where the rate is three hundred people per hundred thousand. Vermont is a state heavily affected by the opioid abuse epidemic, and yet it has made the choice not to incarcerate drug users or sellers at anything like the rate that prevails in states with large black populations such as Louisiana or Mississippi. Vermont is more inclined to treat opiod abuse as a public health problem.

In general, I think our field has not thought enough about the relationship between criminal justice, the control of labor, and the many ways in which black people in the United States have, in effect, become surplus labor. This has implications for social control as well as the rise of corporate interests that are profiting from mass incarceration. It's an under-studied area, and one where we need more research and advocacy to ensure that vulnerable people are reintegrated in a meaningful way into the economy.

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A Conversation With Angelique Power, President, Field Foundation

May 20, 2019

A Chicago native, Angelique Power started her career in philanthropy in the public affairs department of Marshall Field's Department Stores, where she learned about corporate social responsibility and what effective civic engagement in the business world looks like. She went on to serve as program director at the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation and as director of community engagement and communications at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, before being named president of the Field Foundation of Illinois in the summer of 2016.

Since stepping into that role, Power has helped catalyze new ways of thinking about racial equity and social justice at a foundation that has engaged in that kind of work for decades. Under her leadership, the foundation has expanded its relationships with the community-based nonprofits it historically has supported as well as a range of philanthropic partners in Chicago.

Philanthropy News Digest spoke with Power about how the foundation is rethinking its approach to racial equity, its new partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and why she is optimistic about the future.

Heasdhot_angelique_powerPhilanthropy News Digest: The Field Foundation was established in 1940 by Marshall Field III, grandson of the man who founded the Marshall Field’s department store chain. Although the younger Marshall Field worked on Wall Street, he was also a committed New Dealer. What did Field think he could accomplish through the foundation, and what happened to the foundation after his death in 1956?

Angelique Power: As someone who in the day practiced what we refer to today as racial equity and social justice grantmaking, Marshall Field III was a leading financial supporter of Saul Alinsky, the godfather of community organizing. And the Field Foundation in the early '60s was a significant supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, especially around some of the voter registration campaigns that Dr. King led. It’s always interesting to me to reflect on Field's trajectory, a person who was born into great wealth but who saw the racial inequality in Chicago and nationally and decided to use his resources and his platform as a white man of privilege to effect change in the system.

Marshall Field V is on our board, and I often tell him, "You know, I never met your grandfather, but I have such a crush on him." Marshall Field III was a visionary in the way he thought about democracy and the institutions that hold power accountable in a democracy and how you can support individuals who are working to create change at a systems level. And I'm pretty sure he had all of that in mind when he set up the foundation.

After he passed away in 1956, the foundation was broken up. His widow moved to New York and created the Field Foundation of New York, and his son, Marshall Field IV, stayed in Chicago and created the Field Foundation of Illinois. The Field Foundation of New York spent itself down after twenty years, while the Field Foundation of Illinois is what we today refer to as the Field Foundation. In many ways, I feel like the path we've been on since I arrived three years ago — and going back beyond that to the tenures of the foundation's last few presidents — has been to try to put into action the ideals of Marshall Field III.

PND: You're the third consecutive African American to serve as head of the foundation, and individuals of color comprise a majority of your board. Whom do you credit for ensuring that the leadership of the foundation reflects the community it aims to serve?

AP: In the late 1980s, the Field Foundation made a couple of very interesting and unusual moves for the time. One was adding Milton Davis, an African-American man, to the board. The other was hiring Handy Lindsey, Jr. as president. Handy, who recently retired as president of the Ruth Mott Foundation, is so well respected in the field, both locally and nationally, that for years there was a lecture series named in his honor.

There are a couple of other things about the Field Foundation that make it unique. One, we are not a family foundation, although we do have some family members on our ten-person board, including Marshall Field V, who is a director for life, and two other family members; everyone else is a person of color. And the board has a keen interest in having the foundation operate as a private independent foundation, rather than as a family foundation. Family foundations are great and allocate capital in really interesting ways. But there was a decision early on here at the Field Foundation to put the resources and influence of the foundation in the hands of civic leaders, as opposed to solely family members.

Marshall Field V was instrumental in that decision, and he has never served as board chair. He is also very careful about how he participates in board meetings. I'm talking about a brilliant human being who serves on many boards, who has raised a tremendous amount of money for conservation and arts organizations and other causes, and who understands that his voice carries a lot of weight. He is very intentional in the context of his Field Foundation duties about sharing power, and always has been.

The decision to diversify the center of power at the foundation began in the 1980s, and that's also something I attribute to Marshall Field V. It's because of Marshall that our last two board chairs — including Lyle Logan, who recently stepped down as chair after serving more than ten years in that role — have been persons of color.

According to the D5 coalition, nationally, 14 percent of foundation board members are people of color, while the population of Chicago is 60 percent people of color. Our new board chair, Gloria Castillo, who also serves as CEO of Chicago United, a robust organization of CEOs of color that is working to create a more inclusive business ecosystem in Chicago, is very thoughtful about how leadership should look and operate, and she is absolutely committed to making sure that our organizational culture reflects equity in every sense of the word.

I would also mention Marshall's daughter, Stephanie Field-Harris, who chaired the search committee that selected me and was fiercely committed to speaking to candidates for the job who could come into a situation and not do what most people expected them to do but would be willing to lead an inclusive process that tried to radically re-imagine philanthropy. I credit all those folks, and each of our board and staff members, for making the Field Foundation the special institution it is today.

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Philanthropy Has Changed How It Talks — But Not Its Grantmaking — in the Decade Since NCRP's 'Criteria' Was Released

May 10, 2019

Ncrp-image-1-234x300It's been ten years since NCRP released Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best. As I reflect on the animated response to the report, I'm struck by how far the sector has come since 2009 — and, paradoxically, by how little has changed.

Our decision to publish Criteria was, shall we say, controversial. That NCRP had the temerity to assert that any set of criteria be applied to the field of philanthropy, let alone criteria grounded in our belief that grantmakers needed to prioritize marginalized communities and support grassroots-led problem solving to address the systemic inequities and injustices confronting communities in America every day, had more than a few people aghast.

Here's a sampling of the some of the pushback:

"[NCRP's] hierarchy of ends is breathtakingly arrogant." — Paul Brest, former president, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, in the Huffington Post, 2009

"We reject the use of a single template to promote effective philanthropy." — Steve Gunderson, former president, Council on Foundations, 2009

"In the NCRP worldview, philanthropic freedom is not only at risk, it's an oxymoron." — Heather Higgins, former VP, Philanthropy Roundtable, in Forbes, 2009

Criteria earned NCRP new fans and more than a few critics. But when I consider the many books published in the last few years that have been critical of the field, I'm pretty sure that if we released the report today, few would bat an eyelash.

What's changed?

Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: At A Glance

Criteria offered the following aspirational goals for grantmakers looking to maximize their impact in the world:

Criterion I: Values

...contributes to a strong, participatory democracy that engages all communities.

a) Provides at least 50% of its grant dollars to benefit lower-income communities, communities of color, and other marginalized groups, broadly defined.

b) Provides at least 25% of its grant dollars for advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement to promote equity, opportunity, and justice in our society.

Criterion II: Effectiveness

...invests in the health, growth, and effectiveness of its nonprofit partners.

a) Provides at least 50% of its grant dollars for general operating support.

b) Provides at least 50% of its grant dollars as multiyear grants.

c) Ensures that the time to apply for and report on the grant is commensurate with grant size.

Criterion III: Ethics

...demonstrates accountability and transparency to the public, its grantees, and constituents.

a) Maintains an engaged board of at least five people who include among them a diversity of perspectives — including those of the communities it serves — and who serve without compensation.

b) Maintains policies and practices that support ethical behavior.

c) Discloses information freely.

Criterion IV: Commitment

...engages a substantial portion of its financial assets in pursuit of its mission.

a) Pays out at least 6% of its assets annually in grants.

b) Invests at least 25% of its assets in ways that support its mission.

 

Philanthropic sector discourse has come a long way in the last decade

It has become commonplace for foundation staff to talk publicly about trusting grantees with long-term general support, investing in marginalized communities, and funding structural change.

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7 Things One Family Foundation Is Doing to End Poverty

March 29, 2019

End_povertyThe Skees Family Foundation (SFF) is just one of the more than 86,000 private foundations in the United States, and with a corpus of just over $2 million, we're consistently the smallest foundation in the room at any peer gathering. Undeterred by the magnitude of the challenge, however, we've invested $1.7 million over fifteen years in efforts to end poverty. Along the way, we've learned a few things about how to leverage our funding:

1. Philanthropy of the hands. We named SFF after the grandparents (my parents) who struggled to feed their seven children but always added a dollar to the church basket and could find an hour when needed for community volunteering. Hugh and Jasmine believed in giving whatever they had: Hugh donated blood to the American Red Cross and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and the Dayton International Peace Museum, while Jasmine sang in the church choir, crocheted prayer shawls, and visited with surgery and hospice patients. They taught us that so many of things we take for granted — abundant food, clean water, shelter, good health, security — were not ours because we deserved them but because of a combination of luck (being born in a stable, prosperous country) and hard work. They also taught us that all humans are created equal, deserve equal access to respect and opportunities, and are part of one big family. Their legacy — of humility, gratitude, and belonging — may seem idealistic in today's polarized world, but it's the core value on which all of our own families and careers, as well as our philanthropic collaborations, are based.

2. Diversity of viewpoints. SFF unites more than forty family members ranging in age from nine to ninety-one. We are Republicans, Democrats, and Socialists, occupy different places along the gender spectrum, are of many different ethnicities and nationalities, and work at a range of occupations, from nurse and nanny to soldier, salesman, accountant, Web developer, and writer. Each family member is invited to collaborate on an annual grant to an organization that reflects his or her passion for a cause — whether it's self-esteem training for at-risk young girls in California, tutoring and job skills development for young men in Chicago looking to make a new start after time spent in a gang or jail, or business skills training for a beekeeping women’s co-op in Haiti. As well, members of each of our three generations convene biannually to select grant partners with expertise in a specific area — whether it's mental health, veterans' issues, or survivors of trafficking — that are near and dear to their heart. When it comes to our major multiyear grants, we encourage loving debate by members of our all-family volunteer board, with a focus on programs that have the potential to reach the greatest number of people and to create a holistic ecosystem of respect and care.

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5 Questions for...James Cadogan, Vice President of Criminal Justice, Arnold Ventures

March 27, 2019

Arnold Ventures (formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation) has been a leading supporter of criminal justice reform since 2011. Under the leadership of James Cadogan, vice president of criminal justice, the organization recently launched the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice, a community of practice involving more than two dozen Arnold Ventures grantees working to eliminate unnecessary and unjust detention practices, with new investments totaling $39 million.

Cadogan joined the organization after serving as the inaugural director of the Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and as a counselor to the attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he helped design comprehensive federal reentry reforms; served as a lead staffer on an initiative to reduce the use of solitary confinement at the Federal Bureau of Prisons; developed national community policing initiatives; and supported access to justice programs.

PND asked Cadogan about the initiative's goals, the emerging field of pretrial justice reform, and the role of pretrial justice reform in advancing racial equity.

James Cadogan_PhilanTopic_squarePhilanthropy News Digest: Your organization is on record as saying "money bail obscures legally required risk analyses, traps people in jail, and contributes to unconscionable racial and economic disparities in our justice system." How does the cash bail system exacerbate the mass incarceration of people of color? And how central to the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice is the goal of advancing racial and economic equity?

James Cadogan: A fundamental principle of our justice system is the presumption of innocence: the idea that, when accused of a crime, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. But across the country — right now — there are hundreds of thousands of people sitting in jail who haven't been convicted of any crime, nearly half a million at any given moment. They haven't even been tried. That's because of our current system of money bail.

Generally, after an individual is arrested they go before a judge who reads the charges and sets bail — an amount of money that the arrestee must pay in order to be set free. If you can pay that money, you go free; if you can't afford it, you go to jail. In other words, the size of your bank account determines your freedom. Simply put: that is unjust.

To avoid jail, those who can't afford to pay the bail amount directly might turn to a bail bondsman who can post the amount with the court while charging the individual a fee, often 10 percent of the bail amount. But if bail is set at $2,000, many people are equally unable to afford the $200 fee a bondsman would charge as the $2,000 bail imposed by the court. The money bail system discriminates against the poor — and people of color are disproportionately poor. Research has also shown that people of color are treated more harshly within the money bail system: for example, African-American men on average receive 35 percent higher bail amounts than white men who are arrested for the exact same crime.

PND: Arnold Ventures, formerly the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, has supported pretrial justice reform since 2011 — support that has included efforts to increase transparency around and the use of validated, evidence-based risk assessments in judges' decisions to release or detain defendants. Beyond strengthening implementation of the Public Safety Assessment— which was created from a database of more than 1.5 million cases in over three hundred jurisdictions — what is the partnership planning to do to reduce "unnecessary and unjust detention"?

JC: Pretrial detention rates are driven by a number of decisions and processes under the control of judges, prosecutors, public defenders, court administrators, and other system actors and stakeholders. The National Partnership intentionally connects and elevates partners with different types of expertise — for example, research, policy development, or litigation — and supports them in taking on projects that span a range of pretrial justice challenges such as evaluating the impact of bail practices, working to expand the use of prosecutorial diversion that moves people out of the criminal just system, or undertaking advocacy related to the impossible caseloads many public defenders face.

Pretrial justice practices and operations vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so the breadth of the work we support to reduce unjust pretrial detention is important: National Partnership initiatives span four hundred counties across thirty-five states. At this pivotal time in the pretrial justice reform movement, it's important to understand that even though experts nationwide may have different approaches and don't agree on everything, they're all committed to the same end goal: reducing our unconscionable rates of pretrial detention. By supporting a diversity of efforts, we can help harness that momentum in a variety of places and spaces across the country and give ourselves the best chance of bringing about lasting policy change in pretrial justice. That's where see the biggest value of the partnership.

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Newsmaker: Cathy Cha, President, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

February 07, 2019

Cathy Cha, who officially stepped into the role of president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in January, has long worked to advance new models for how foundations can collaborate with advocates, communities, and government to achieve greater impact. Cha joined the Haas, Jr. Fund in 2003 as a program officer. From 2009 to 2016, she managed its immigrant rights >portfolio, leading efforts to bring together funders and local leaders to strengthen the immigration movement in California. For the past two years, Cha served as vice president of programs at the Fund.

Cha co-created and led the California Civic Participation Funders, an innovative funder collaborative that is supporting grassroots efforts across California to increase civic participation and voting among immigrants, African Americans, and other underrepresented populations. She also worked with legal service providers and funder partners to launch the New Americans Campaign, which has helped more than 370,000 legal permanent residents in eighteen cities become U.S. citizens, and helped jumpstart efforts to create the African American Civic Engagement Project, an alliance of community leaders, funders, and local groups working to empower African-American communities.

PND asked Cha about new efforts at the fund, its priorities for 2019, and the evolving role of philanthropy in bringing about a more just and equal society.

Headshot_Cathy_ChaPhilanthropy News Digest: Your appointment to the top job at the fund was announced in January 2017, and you're stepping into the shoes of Ira S. Hirschfield, who led the fund for twenty-eight years. What did you do to prepare during the two-year transition period? And what was the most important thing you learned from Ira?

Cathy Cha: One of Ira's greatest contributions was the way he encouraged the fund's board, staff, and grantees to really dream about how to have more impact in the world. That dare-to-dream philosophy has allowed us and our partners to reach ambitious goals — from achieving marriage equality to making California the most immigrant-affirming state in the country.

Today, the fund remains committed to supporting people's best aspirations of what's possible for their communities. In 2018, we co-launched the California Campus Catalyst Fund with a group of undocumented student advocates and community experts. With investment from thirteen funders, we're now supporting thirty-two urban, suburban, and rural public college and university campuses across the state to significantly expand legal and other support services for undocumented students and their families at a time of incredible need. It's a great example of how philanthropy can work with community partners to catalyze and support solutions that make a real difference.

PND: Over the last two years, the fund managed an organizational transition that included the expansion of the board to include members of the next generation of the Haas family and the hiring of new staff at both the program and senior leadership levels. What was the overarching strategy behind those moves, and what kind of changes do you hope they lead to?

CC: During this transition, we were intentional about addressing a couple of key questions. How can we keep this organization relevant and responsive in a volatile and changing environment? And how can we set ourselves up to write a bold new chapter in the Haas, Jr. Fund's work? We want to be positioned for bigger impact to meet today's and tomorrow's challenges. We're building a leadership and staff team that represents and affirms the fund's enduring values. Our new board members are committed to building on their grandparents' legacy, and they bring new and valuable perspectives to the fund's work. We have staff members who have lived the immigrant experience, people who are LGBT, and individuals who are the first in their families to go to college. Whether I'm working with our board or the staff, I see a team with deep connections to the communities and the issues we care about, a profound belief in civil rights values and leveling the playing field, and an abiding commitment to excellence and progress. That gives me real hope and confidence for the future.

PND: In January you said you would "be launching a process in the weeks ahead to explore how the fund and our partners can strengthen our impact." What can you tell us about that process?

CC: These are extremely trying times for our country. Many communities we care about are feeling threatened and vulnerable. Given the challenges of this moment, as well as the opportunities that come with the changes we've experienced at the fund, it's an opportune time for us to think creatively about how we can have more impact.

Like any other foundation, we are always evaluating how we can do a better job. But in the coming months, we want to take some time to think in new ways about how to make sure we're doing everything we can to make a positive difference and up our game. That's going to mean reflecting on some of the lessons from our recent work, weighing where we've made mistakes and why, and understanding how we can maximize the huge potential of our staff and our nonprofit, government, and business partners to make the world a better, fairer place.

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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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