P O S T E D B Y A L B E R T
You’re one of those foundation folks who still resonates with Eugene Debs’s famous words: “While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” You haven’t lost touch with your youthful idealism. Perhaps you’re trying hard to teach your children the proper values.
But how about professionally? Are you a social justice funder? ...
|No …||The social justice framework is not one we apply or would ever consider applying to our grantmaking.|
|No …||The term “social justice” is laden with ideological baggage. It’s a fluff term that people use as it suits them, referring obliquely to multiple—often incompatible—theories of justice. Liberals use it to flatter themselves. But, okay, I might be wrong about this, so tell me more.|
|Yes, of course …||We fund organizations and projects that feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and visit those who are in prison. That’s real social justice. Everything else is rather speculative, don’t you think?|
|Yes …||Rather than (or in addition to) funding direct service organizations, we fund nonprofits that: |
As with direct service organizations, the nonprofits we fund are all about ensuring that the hungry are fed, the homeless are housed, and the sick are cared for. But their tools are not soup kitchens, cots, and health clinics. Their tools are budget hearings, coalitions, and city council meetings.*
|Yes …||Ibid. But in addition, we have a well thought out and clearly articulated funding strategy based on a thoroughgoing analysis of how we got into this mess in the first place. Before deciding what to fund, we attempted to answer these questions as best we could: What were the basic assumptions, the habits of mind, the structures, the policies and the laws that led to the creation of social inequalities? What are the mechanisms by which these inequalities are sustained? What has been the legacy of hundreds of years of slavery, colonialism, and other forms of oppression? |
Our funding strategy is based not only on a sound analysis of social inequalities and their basis, but also on a clear sense of the outcomes we can reasonably expect by funding the organizations we do at the level we do. We’ve taken the time to articulate our theory of change, and we understand we’re in this for the long haul. Because our funding is strategic, we provide general operating and multi-year support whenever possible, and we do our best to minimize the bureaucratic burden on grantees.
|Yes …||Ibid. and op. cit. But we realize that for our work to be most effective, we also need to invest in: |
We notice that the work of local advocates seldom connects with that of their national counterparts, and that organizations addressing one set of issues might not know the work of other organizations addressing these same issues. Our funding acknowledges and addresses this lack of communication and coordination within the advocacy community.
We make it a point of coordinating our funding with that of other grantmakers.
|Yes, yes, yes …||Yes to all that. But we also apply to ourselves the same standards we apply to the organizations we fund. This is reflected in our commitment to board and staff diversity; in our transparency about policies, rationales, victories and failures; and in the kinds of investments our foundation makes. |
We use all the resources at our command—our money, our knowledge, our convening power, our own voices—to advance the cause of social justice.
* Thanks to Victoria Dawson for this elegant way of describing the work of advocacy organizations.