Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Social Change Philanthropy

What is social change philanthropy?

"Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the economic injustice that makes philanthropy necessary."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For this post, we will explore Social Change Philanthropy. Dr. King's quote is spot on. Honest advocates for social justice must cut to the chase and help move our society beyond superficially addressing the many significant challenges we face. What is needed is an inclusive and effective engagement of the diversity of our nation for self-empowerment and economic justice. We will explore some of the trends and resources in the emerging field of Social Philanthropy which seeks to fund authentic social change from the grass roots up.

Resource Generation

Resource Generation
is a national organization that works with young people with financial wealth who are supporting and challenging each other to effect progressive social change through the creative, responsible and strategic use of financial and other resources.

Our purpose is to promote innovative ways for young people with wealth to align their personal values and political vision with their financial resources to deepen their social and civic engagement. Resource Generation supports the ability of these young people to better understand themselves as philanthropists, their place in the socio-economic system, and their capacities to contribute to social change. Resource Generation builds cross-class alliances with people and organizations working for social, racial and economic justice.


What is social change philanthropy?
"Social change philanthropy focuses on the root causes of social, economic and environmental injustices. It strives to include the people who are impacted by those injustices as decision-makers. It also aims to make the field of philanthropy more accessible and diverse. In social change philanthropy, foundations are accountable, transparent and responsive in their grantmaking. Donors and foundations act as allies to social justice movements by contributing not only monetary resources but their time, knowledge, skills and access. Social change philanthropy is also sometimes called social justice philanthropy, social movement philanthropy, and community-based philanthropy.

Funders’ Network
The Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that exists to inspire, strengthen and expand philanthropic leadership and funders’ abilities to support organizations working to improve communities through better development decisions and growth policies. It brings together foundations, nonprofit organizations and other partners to address the range of environmental, social, and economic problems caused by development strategies that fail to consider the big picture.

Poor planning and decision making at every level – national, state, regional and local – has resulted in sprawling metropolitan growth patterns that are rapidly consuming open space and farmland to provide housing and services for new suburban populations. At the same time, these decisions have encouraged the draining of population, jobs and other resources out of cities and older suburbs, contributing to a concentration of poverty in many urban neighborhoods. Rapidly developing suburbs also face their own set of problems as they grapple with the costs of growth—congestion, loss of open space, school overcrowding—without adequate resources.

Social Change Philanthropy and How It's Done

HANDS ON: There are many paths to social change. Here's how funders dedicated to that concept go about supporting it.
by Alison D. Goldberg

"Social change philanthropy" is the term used to describe grantmaking that aims to address the root causes of social and economic inequalities.

A number of social change foundations were created in the last three decades to support community organizing, social activism and political advocacy. These foundations continue to adopt new methods for gathering and integrating the input, experience and leadership of community leaders and disenfranchised populations to make informed grant decisions.

Despite their growth in numbers, the ranks of social change foundations are still relatively small in the world of philanthropy. The National Network of Grantmakers estimates that less than 3 percent of all domestic, private, institutional grantmaking is distributed to social change causes. The numbers show that foundation resources have been overwhelmingly distributed to direct service programs providing important support in a climate of eroding safety nets but not effecting policy changes to solve social problems.

Economic disparity in the United States has worsened significantly during the past two decades, so that today the wealthiest 1 percent of the population controls 40 percent of household wealth. In the contemporary political environment, organizations working for social and economic justice have an immediate need for resources to support their work.

The Means Matters as Much as the Ends

What distinguishes social change philanthropy (also called "social movement," "social justice" or "community-based" philanthropy) from other forms of grantmaking is the central tenet that philanthropy's success is measured not only by where money is given, but also the process by which it is given.

Social change philanthropy strives to incorporate giving principles that provide access to those left out of grantmaking in order to support their campaigns for social and economic justice.

The following are core principles of social change philanthropy:

It focuses on marginalized and disenfranchised communities. Social change philanthropy focuses on social and economic justice issues that affect marginalized and disenfranchised communities. This includes protecting the rights of communities of color, low-income populations, women, immigrants, international communities, disabled people, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The issues and campaigns that social change philanthropy supports include civil and human rights, political access, peace and nonviolence, worker's rights, anti-poverty strategies, environmental justice, corporate reform, prison reform, education and healthcare access, as well as challenges to international trade and privatization.

It addresses root causes. Social change foundations support work by community leaders that creates systemic or policy change to address the root causes of problems. Rather than applying Band-Aid solutions to problems, it aims to prevent the problems in the first place. Such work requires shifting the power dynamics in communities through grassroots organizing, advocacy, policy-related work, research and activism.

It strives to be accountable to marginalized and disenfranchised communities. Grantmakers are accountable to a board of trustees. Social change foundations recognize a second, equally (if not more) important level of accountability the communities where they make grants.

That's why social change foundations invite community leaders and the people affected by the foundation's programs to participate in the needs assessments and related decision making. Participation might range from establishing advisory groups to inviting members of the affected communities to serve as board members. Also, social change foundations investigate the demographics of grantees' leadership to determine whether the organizations are community-led.

It establishes inclusive processes. Social change foundations pay particular attention to the accessibility of their grantmaking processes for grassroots organizations, recognizing that generally these groups operate with very few staff members who have little time to spend writing proposals. They are concerned with grantees' access to information and whether their processes are respectful of grantees' time. Foundation staff often will take part in workshops or other training programs to evaluate their assumptions especially, those that guide their perspectives on social issues, and therefore, their grantmaking. Evaluating the power issues that inform the experiences of grantmakers will help them become more effective and improve their communications with grantees who are likely to have race and class backgrounds different then their own.

While traditional philanthropy also works to benefit marginalized and disenfranchised communities and to support the root causes of issues, the process, players and analysis of politics and power are what distinguish social change philanthropy from other forms of grantmaking. Peace Development Fund Executive Director John Vaughn puts it this way: "It is more than teaching people to fish. It's supporting their efforts to get a company to stop polluting the lake they're trying to fish in."

"Change Not Charity"

Social change philanthropy is not new. It dates back to the early twentieth century and has grown steadily since the 1950s. Support in the 1950s and 1960s went mainly to the civil rights and peace movements.

In the 1970s, the alternative funds that eventually became the Funding Exchange network were created. These public charities, established by wealthy inheritors, created funding boards that included or were made up entirely of local activists under the banner "change, not charity."

Since 1979 the Funding Exchange network (www.fex.org) has had a major influence in shaping social change philanthropy. The http://www.nng.org/ (www.nng.org), which was created 20 years ago, serves as a professional network for practitioners of social change philanthropy and currently is affiliated with more than 200 grantmaking organizations (see the profile of NNG on page 10 of this issue).

More recently, an infrastructure has emerged that supports social change philanthropy among specific demographic groups. The rapid growth of funds to support and promote philanthropy among women, African Americans, Asian/Pacific Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and progressive religious communities are important components of social change philanthropy, providing learning and support networks. In addition, a "young donor organizing movement" has emerged with the development of a number of organizations and networks through which young people are using their financial resources for social change (see "Young donors support social change," page 36).

Varying Degrees of Intensity

Several foundations have incorporated components of social change philanthropy, in varying degrees of intensity, to address a wide range of issues. Examples of methods include: continue here.

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