38 posts categorized "LGBTQ"

Stop false narratives that sow division and bias: A commentary by Fred Blackwell

September 06, 2022

Diversity_GettyImages_gmast3rThe last few weeks, as monkeypox cases continue to rise, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend start to resurface. The fearmongering we’ve seen targeted at the LGBTQIA+ community around this virus—I have to say, it feels like Groundhog Day. I’m back in the ’80s, when gay men were vilified during the AIDS crisis. I’m back in 2001, when Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Americans were blamed for the attacks of September 11. I’m back in 2020, when the president called a global pandemic the “China virus,” and violence against Asian Americans skyrocketed.

We cannot—we will not—do this yet again. We’ve got to stop these false narratives that sow division and bias.

I wish everyone suffering from monkeypox a full and speedy recovery. Like many others, I’m angered by the slow public health response to this outbreak and disappointed that—in addition to a painful illness—many affected by this virus are also facing fearmongering and stigmatization...

Read the full commentary by Fred Blackwell, CEO of San Francisco Foundation.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/gmast3r)

Ensuring movements are thriving and abundantly resourced: A commentary by Meenakshi Menon

July 06, 2022

Pride_flag_LGBTQ_CristinaMoliner_GettyImages-1313349355I began this Pride month in mourning for one of my most beloved movement idols. Against a backdrop of emboldened white supremacy, continued gun violence, attacks on bodily autonomy, rising inflation, and economic inequity, Urvashi Vaid passed away last month. Urvashi was many things: lawyer, activist, LGBTQ+ advocate, philanthropic organizer, and advisor. In her more than 40 years of activism, she worked tirelessly on behalf of racial, gender, and economic justice, centering collective liberation and intersectional organizing in all her efforts....

This year, Pride has felt particularly important, as communities of color, queer, trans, and gender-expansive communities, and our country faces some of the toughest attacks we’ve ever seen on trans youth, bodily autonomy, abortion access, and voting rights. As Pride has become adopted in more mainstream settings, it’s important to remember that no amount of corporate “rainbow washing” can obfuscate the legacy or importance of this month. The first Pride was a riot, led by trans and queer women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Their courage and bravery during the Stonewall riots fundamentally shifted and transformed the fight for queer and trans liberation in our country, and cemented the struggle of LGBTQ+ people as one of the most important intersectional fights of our time.

Throughout this Pride month, I’ve often thought about Urvashi’s wisdom. In reflecting on her powerful legacy and those of so many other queer and trans leaders, given everything at stake, I’ve wondered about what else we can be doing. What can we do to better support our movement leaders and organizations who put their bodies on the line every day so that we can be more free? How can we ensure our movements are not just surviving, but thriving and abundantly resourced?...

Read the full commentary by Meenakshi Menon, interim co-executive director of Groundswell Fund and Groundswell Action Fund.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Cristina Moliner)

An urgent call to invest in trans futures: A commentary by Kris Hayashi

June 24, 2022

Pride_flag_LGBTQ_CristinaMoliner_GettyImages-1313349355Recent data show that only 4¢ of every $100 of foundation funding goes to trans organizations and causes. Only four cents.What does this historic disinvestment in our communities mean for how we envision our future? And what can we do about it?

This Pride, I am not just honoring past resistance and celebrating ourselves now. I am reflecting on the importance of joining together to shape our future. In the face of escalating attacks against so many of our communities, Pride is all of it: It is about showing up for trans youth, defending Black lives, fighting for reproductive justice, and demanding an end to the detention of trans immigrants....

In 2015 there were 15 anti-trans bills enacted into law. This year, at last count, there were 140 anti-trans bills introduced in 34 states. What we are seeing now in the United States is an unprecedented level of attack....Why is this happening? These anti-trans laws and policies have long been a strategy of the conservative right to motivate their base constituents during election cycles, especially in states with governors and other state legislators who are aspiring candidates for national office—and they are deeply investing in this strategy. These efforts are part of a well-worn playbook used by political conservatives that include attacks on voting rights, racial justice, and reproductive rights....

Read the full commentary by Kris Hayashi, executive director at the Transgender Law Center.

(Photo credit: Getty Images/Cristina Moliner)

Remembering Urvashi

May 17, 2022

Headshot_Urvashi_Vaid_The_Laura_Flanders_Show_2014_CCOn Monday, May 16, I woke up to the devastating news that Urvashi Vaid had died. A pioneering LGBTQ+ civil rights activist, she leaves behind organizations, books, networks, movements, and ideas that will continue to inspire for decades to come. At a time when so many of the things Urvashi fought for are under attack it seems unfair that she should be taken from us. Instead, I choose to be grateful for how difficult she has made it for those would seek to walk back all the hard-won rights she dedicated her life to defending.

I knew Urvashi first as a colleague and then a friend. She served as deputy director of the Governance and Civil Society unit of the Ford Foundation from 2001 to 2005, during my tenure there as vice president for peace and social justice. By that time, she had already served as staff attorney at the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, led the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (now National LGBTQ Task Force) and authored Virtual Equality. At that moment in her life, coming to Ford was a choice to step back, if only a bit, from the front lines of activism and multiply herself, her values, and aspirations through the work of others. Urvashi fully appreciated the centrality of power and somehow managed to make space, outside of her more-than-full-time job at Ford, to study political philosopher Hannah Arendt at The New School. Her own life experience and activism had taught her that power concedes nothing without struggle, and she used her time at Ford to support nonprofits, movements, and researchers working to achieve human rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, and how they intersect to create identity.

Following her time at Ford, Urvashi went on to become the first executive director of the Arcus Foundation, devoted to LGBTQ+ social justice around the world, launched LPAC (the first lesbian super PAC), and co-founded the Donors of Color Network, the National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network, the National LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Working Group, and the Equality, Federation, the National Religious Leadership Roundtable. Any one of these accomplishments would be the crowning achievement of a single lifetime, but for Urvashi they were building blocks for a vision of equality stronger than a single person or organization. Somehow, in the midst of it all, she managed to find abundant time for friends, for the family she dearly loved, and her wife and soulmate Kate Clinton. Even her long struggle with cancer was something Urvashi turned into an organizing opportunity, creating a support group for female cancer survivors, affectionately nicknamed “The Breasties,” of which my wife was a loyal participant through the years.

Urvashi is the only person I have ever known who was radical to the very core of her being. Everything she did, said, and lived for was informed by her values and ideals. But she was also a mensch in the most expansive sense of the word. Her undying commitment to equality was blended with kindness, generosity, and unfailing good humor (it is no accident that Urvashi is caught smiling in so many photos). Though as part of the Ford Foundation hierarchy, I was technically Urvashi’s supervisor, she went out of her way to reach out, listen, and talk at a time when the foundation was being heavily criticized from all sides for its work in Israel and Palestine. She did so out of friendship, solidarity, and a desire to ensure that we would all end up on the right side of history by realizing the long-term implications of decisions made under pressure.

Urvashi’s life and work lives on through everyone she touched.  She taught us that social justice is something for which struggle is necessary, day in, day out, 365 days a year. Changing the world takes power, resources, vision, organizing, even humor, but above all, and this was Urvashi’s true superpower, it takes unlimited love.

(Photo credit: The Laura Flanders Show, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

Headshot_brad_smith_for_PhilanTopicBradford K. Smith is former president of Candid.

An international community for LGBTQ youth: A Q&A with Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director, Trevor Project

April 21, 2022

Headshot_Amit Paley_Trevor_ProejctAmit Paley is the CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. Before diving into the world of philanthropy, Paley was an associate partner at McKinsey & Company, where he led the global consulting firm’s LGBTQ group and spearheaded its efforts on inclusion for transgender and nonbinary people. Before his work at McKinsey, Paley was a reporter at the Washington Post, where he covered numerous beats, including as a foreign correspondent based in the paper’s Baghdad bureau. His coverage earned him a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. 

Paley began his work with the Trevor Project as a counselor on the 24/7 TrevorLifeline in 2011, where he continues to take calls. Paley is the first volunteer in the organization’s history to become CEO and has served in the position since 2017. Under his leadership, the organization has built and launched an integrated crisis services platform, expanded its chat and text services to 24/7, and more than quadrupled the number of youth served each month. 

Earlier this year, the Trevor Project announced plans to launch its crisis services in Mexico. PND asked Paley about his expectations for the international expansion and what it means for the organization in the long run. 

Philanthropy News Digest: As a former counselor, what do you think is the most important trait to look for in the first crop of volunteers in Mexico?  

Amit Paley: While the geography will be different, the goal will be the same: The Trevor Project’s crisis services volunteers are trained to support LGBTQ young people who reach out to us when they are feeling suicidal or need a safe, non-judgmental place to talk. Outside of being passionate about our mission to end LGBTQ youth suicide, we look for volunteers who embody empathy and understanding and are committed to this life-saving work.

For the last 10 years, I have been a crisis counselor for TrevorLifeline, which has kept me grounded and centered on our mission, even as Trevor continues to grow and expand. This is a pivotal moment for our organization, and the first group of counselors that we train in Mexico will play a crucial role in helping establish Trevor as a trusted resource for LGBTQ youth around the world....

Read the full Q&A with Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project.

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

April 13, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make America whole: how to heal our divided society

January 08, 2021

America_dividedOn Wednesday, a white man strolled into an office, settled down in a leather chair, and casually put his dirty boots on the desk in front of him. I saw this, and I wept.

For this was not his office, but that of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. She had been evacuated by armed police for her own protection, and the man, Richard Barnett, was part of a pro-Trump mob of domestic terrorists who had smashed their way into the U.S. Capitol building. It had been a long and traumatic day at the end of a long and traumatic four years, and this is what reduced me to tears — a photograph of a white man with his feet up.

How very easily he and his fellow extremists had strolled, virtually unchallenged by police, through the halls of power. How comfortably he committed the crime of sedition, disgracing our country while the whole world watched in amazement. How warmly he was praised for his thuggery by a president who called him a "very special person" and a "patriot."

I wept for our national humiliation and for the violation of our precious, fragile democracy. I wept for all the Black protesters who just six months previously had knelt on the hard, hot streets outside that very building to peacefully proclaim that their lives matter and who had been beaten, pepper-sprayed, and arrested for their pains.

Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol in the dying days of Donald Trump's nightmarish presidency had tattoos linking them to White supremacist groups with their roots in some of the darkest — or perhaps whitest — chapters of U.S. history. Racism and its dreadful consequences are deeply engrained in our past and have never been fully resolved. Our present is tainted by the ongoing devaluation of those with Black and brown bodies: we can still hear their blood crying from the ground.

I truly believe that the struggle for justice for all will succeed one day, but not before we, as a nation, own the sin of racism. Its horrors cannot be negated; they must be examined honestly and repented, and the pernicious myth of race dismantled for good.

But rather than seek retaliation against those who are taken in by racist lies and madcap conspiracy theories, we should reach out to them. We should strive for reconciliation, for with God's blessings of forgiveness and grace, even the worst of us can be turned away from evil in repentance and redirected toward good. And if it proves beyond us to change the minds of these people, then we must hope to teach their children the true values of democracy. We must show them how to love those who don't look or sound like their parents, so that this hatred does not poison the hearts of another generation of Americans.

Sadly, the divisions we face today are wounds that go well beyond a few extremist groups; they permeate our society. President-elect Biden is now fighting to mend the soul of America. He cannot do it alone or quickly — a cure will take decades — but he can lead us all in taking bold steps toward healing.

Wounds must be allowed to breathe: first, we must talk openly to one another about our discontent and our anger, our fears and our hopes. And we must listen. This will require love, civility, and courage, but we should not rest until we find common ground. We may be surprised by how much unites us. We all have a soul. We all dream of a better future for ourselves and our children. We are all patriots. We all long for justice. We are all God's children.

Having acknowledged our shared humanity, the next step will be to repair our broken nation. Politicians, faith and community leaders, and educators all have their roles to play, but each of us has the capacity to offer our own unique solution: look into your heart and ask yourself, What can I do to make the world better? How can I overcome my suspicion of the "other" and truly attempt to engage with, understand, and even love someone whose ideology is utterly different from my own? How can I redirect our energies toward the common good?

If I could, I would sit down in a neutral space somewhere with that man who put his feet up on Speaker Pelosi's desk. I would ask him what he was hoping to achieve that day, what he was so angry about and why. I would try to really listen to his answers, however abhorrent I mighr find his beliefs. I suspect he would tell me he thought he was fighting to save democracy, because he saw it as the very soul of America, the source of all hope. That, surely, is one thing we would be able to agree on. And perhaps it would be a start...

Headshot_keith_mageeKeith Magee, author of the forthcoming Prophet Justice: Essays and Reflections on Race, Religion and Politics, is a theologian, public intellectual, and social justice scholar. He is also chair and professor of social justice at Newcastle University and a senior fellow in culture and justice at University College London.

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.

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

April 02, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memo to Foundation CEOs: Get a Youth Council

September 30, 2019

Calendow_presidents_youth_councilSeven years ago, we launched a President's Youth Council (PYC) at the California Endowment, and it seems like a good time to tell you that the young people who've served on the council over those seven years have significantly influenced our programming as a private foundation, been a source of reality-checking and ground-truthing on how our work "shows up" at the community level, and have substantially increased my own "woke-ness" as a foundation executive.

Before I get into the details, I'd like to briefly share why we decided we needed a President's Youth Council and how it works: In 2011, our foundation embarked on a ten-year, statewide Building Healthy Communities campaign that was designed to work in partnership with community leaders and advocates to improve wellness and health equity for young people in California. We had already been using a variation of a place-based approach in our work, and so we selected fourteen economically distressed communities to participate in the campaign — some urban, some rural, and all, taken together, representing the complex diversity of the state.

At the time, I was aware not only of the privileged position I occupied outside my organization, but also of how sheltered I was as a chief executive within my organization. More often than not, I received information about the effectiveness and impact of our work in the form of thoughtfully crafted memos from staff, PowerPoint presentations, and glossy evaluation reports filled with professionally designed charts and graphics. Even when feedback in the form of recommendations from consultants or comments from the community came my way, it was all carefully curated and edited. As I had learned — and this is especially true at large foundations — when members of the community get "face time" with the CEO, it is a carefully managed and considered process.

Being at least vaguely conscious of these issues early on in our Building Healthy Communities work, I wanted to ensure I would have some regularly calendared opportunities to meet face-to-face with young leaders from the communities we were serving. So, we solicited nominations from grantee-leaders in each of the fourteen program sites, and a President's Youth Council, featuring mostly young people of color between the ages of 17 and 21 and of varying sexual/gender orientations, was born.

Seven years later, here's what it looks like.

Continue reading »

Native Wisdom: A Review of Edgar Villanueva’s 'Decolonizing Wealth'

July 26, 2019

Cover_decolonizing_wealthIn his book, The Wretched of the Earth, published in 1961, Frantz Fanon noted what he considered to be the necessary conditions for the overthrow of colonialism: "To tell the truth, the proof of success lies in a whole social structure being changed from the bottom up." He added that "establishing a social movement for the decolonization of a person and of a people" was critical in disrupting the legacy of colonialism.

Almost sixty years later, Edgar Villanueva picks up on Fanon's call to action in his book Decolonizing Wealth. In the book, Villanueva places a spotlight on how colonialism has been perpetuated and stresses the importance of eliminating it from circles of wealth and, in particular, philanthropy, making it perhaps the most refreshing and insightful of the recent spate of books on foundations.

Villanueva is a rare combination: both a grantmaker and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, one of eight state-recognized Native American tribes in North Carolina. Drawing on Native American wisdom, he presents an eye-opening prescription for how foundations can dismantle the unequal power dynamic that historically has separated funders from the nonprofit organizations they support. Invoking the understanding common among indigenous people of medicine as "a way of achieving balance," he outlines what he terms "Seven Steps to Healing" — Grieve, Apologize, Listen, Relate, Represent, Invest, and Repair — with the caveat that the steps are less a checklist for funders to complete than an invitation to them to embark on a journey of "decolonization."

Differentiating himself from many of philanthropy's contemporary critics, Villanueva does readers a great service by focusing their attention on the grantmaking process. It's hardly a secret that change in the ways foundations operate is long overdue. What's so refreshing about Villanueva's approach is his application of a decolonization lens to that call to action, drawing on his own experience as a member of the Lumbee, the very first people on the North American continent to experience directly the arrival of and subsequent colonization by Europeans. In the process, he reminds readers that white supremacy on the North American continent has its origins in the 1400s and establishes the connection between that long, shameful legacy to current organized philanthropic practices. His blueprint for addressing that legacy offers a powerful set of arguments as to why those most impacted by the activities of foundations should be more involved in foundations' decision-making processes and why foundation officials have to go beyond their current practices and take steps to bridge the divide between grantmakers and grantees.

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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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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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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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Liberty Hill Foundation Pushes for Higher Social Justice Standards

December 05, 2018

Liberty Hill Foundation's approach over the last forty years has been to ask grassroots community organizing leaders, "How can we help?"

NCRP-2013logo-color-no-taglineStaff would do what communities asked of them, providing general operating support and multiyear funding, when possible, and stepping back so that community organizers could take the lead.

This is why Liberty Hill won an NCRP Impact Award in 2013; its grantee partners have won important policy and social victories, including passage of the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

But, recently, the foundation has acknowledged the extent of its power and influence and made a conscious decision to leverage it more aggressively.

In the wake of the 2016 election, Liberty Hill staff observed that many of their allies were overwhelmed and feeling pressure to respond to the onslaught of policy and social threats to their communities. They knew that defending the gains made by progressive social movements was important, but they also knew that being in Los Angeles made it easier to secure gains that weren't possible in other parts of the country.

Liberty Hill staff engaged board members, donors, grantees, and other allies to discuss how, beyond, funding, it could strategically support the work of progressive nonprofits in Los Angeles.

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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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