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"Fund Us Like You Want Us to Win": Actions Philanthropy Can Take to Support Black Communities and Black Leadership

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

While systemic racism has suddenly risen to the national spotlight, it has long been embedded within our economic, political, and social institutions and felt profoundly by Black and brown people. The uprisings we see today are the inevitable consequence of the three historical crises that have acutely impacted communities of color in 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic (which is disproportionately affecting Black people who are dying at twice the rate of white people), the economic consequences of COVID-19 (which have exacerbated existing inequities), and the continued movement to end police brutality. 

In this critical moment, philanthropy needs to define its role in ending institutional and systemic injustice. SCG convened Nike Irvin, Trustee of Riordan Foundation and SCG Board Vice-Chair, Rev. Sam Casey, Executive Director, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), San Bernardino, Christine Margiotta, Executive Director, Social Venture Partners LA, Kaci Patterson, Owner, Social Good Solutions and Chief Strategist, Black Equity Initiative, and Gloria Walton, President & CEO, Strategic Concepts in Organizing Policy & Education (SCOPE). These visionary leaders discussed how philanthropy has fallen short in confronting its anti-Blackness and has disinvested in Black communities. To move forward, our panelists outlined the following concrete actions and investments the philanthropic sector can take to support Black organization and leadership as they mobilize to address this racial justice movement.



There are many immediate actions funders can take to support the movement against police brutality and anti-blackness. Funders can financially support the class action lawsuits Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and Los Angeles Community Action network filed against the LAPD, contribute to the Los Angeles Action Bailout Fund, and help offset any other costs people have incurred due to the protests. Funders can also take steps to support their grantees who run Black-led organizations by rescheduling any non-urgent check-in calls and accelerating renewal funding with little to no paperwork. In the upcoming weeks, funders should work to bolster their grantee’s infrastructure and staffing capacity by investing in areas such as media capacity/training, supplementary administrative costs, hazard pay, long-term wellness and mental health resources, and any other urgent needs that arise as their grantees respond to the current moment. Funders can also support local efforts such as the Rethink Public Safety Coalition in San Bernardino, which is working to declare racism a public health crisis and divest from law enforcement, 



Philanthropy has an opportunity to hold a mirror up to itself and ask: Do we want white supremacy to win? If not, philanthropy needs to reckon with its historic lack of investment in Black communities. In 2017, the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity published a report and found that the proportion of annual grant money for African-American organizations decreased by 4.3% between 2005 to 2014, the highest decrease among any people of color-led groups. The Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) also published a report in 2017 that discovered that the nation’s largest foundations were directing less than 2% of their funding to the African-American community. Lastly, a report conducted by UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs found that 40% of all the nonprofits that closed between 2002 and 2011 served communities that were predominantly African-American and predominantly poor. 

Philanthropy must acknowledge this routine defunding and squeezing out Black organizations and ask itself: What is it that we genuinely want to win? Do we want liberty and justice for all—really for all—to win? If so, the philanthropic sector needs to start funding liberation. Funders can begin by examining their portfolio and identifying how many Black-focused organizations they are currently funding or will commit to funding moving forward. 



Fund the goal, not the tactics. Long-term infrastructure funding is one of the best and most needed ways philanthropy can center equity into its efforts. Black communities don’t need a quick infusion of money; they need long-term investment to allow Black organizations and Black leaders to develop a power building agenda, a shared strategy, and a set of demands that address multiple strategic goals. 

Funders need to advocate for multi-year, unrestricted funding that allows Black-led organizations to build the infrastructure necessary to make a system-level change. For example, funders can make six-or-seven figure, multi-year commitments to Black organizations for a minimum of five years. Funders can also support Black empowering organizations such as the Black Equity Collective, which is fiscally sponsored by SCG, or the Village Fund, sponsored by the LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment. Lastly, funders can also consider adding 10-20% “Sustainability Allocation” to grant awards to help Black organizations build their reserves. 



Shifting power is required at all levels, including the Boardroom. Not only should organizations invest in the leadership development of current Black Board members, but they also should work to diversify their boards to have a plurality of Black people. Those organizations looking for new Board members should consider filling those positions with Black leaders. Current Board members can also resign from their Board position (like Alexis Ohanian) and urge their replacements to be Black. Another consideration is for organizations to create a paid Advisory Board of Black and other POC community leaders to help guide an organization’s efforts. 



White people and non-black people of color need to prioritize humility and recognize how they’ve been complicit in anti-Blackness. Now is the time to step back and trust Black people, Black leaders, and Black institutions. Funders should not assume what’s best for Black communities and helicopter in with resources and solutions. Often, money is made contingent on compliance, which is always a means of control enforced by White Supremacy. Allies need to be unafraid of honoring Black people, Black issues, and Black experiences and allowing those with lived expertise to drive decisions. A way funders can do this is by declaring “lived experience” as one of their core grantmaking values and using it as a crucial part of their selection process. Additionally, funders can play a pivotal role in creating spaces for nonprofit leaders to assemble to discuss ways to collectively center Black liberation and advance their work through an anti-racist lens.




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