Where should I be giving?
I’m often asked: What is the best organization to give to? And I can’t answer that question for you. Until you know what your guiding values are, and what your goals are, and where you are focusing, it’s impossible to say.
If you’re wondering where to start giving, start with social justice funds.
Public social justice foundations have been around for a while, and are doing things in a completely different way than traditional foundations. I’ve written about how many of them started and were part of the Funding Exchange years ago.
Today they are more important than ever.
Social justice funds fundraise from their community, and redistribute those dollars.
Unlike many foundations, public foundations like this don’t rely on a huge endowment from which they give a minimal 3–5% away annually. Instead, they fundraise from the community, and redistribute those dollars back out into the world. This means they are moving a much larger percentage and total amount of money into the world.
They use a democratic decision-making process, led by activists and organizers.
What does that mean? It means funding decisions are not made based on arbitrary benchmarks set up by other rich white folks with advanced degrees. It’s not just about a “return on investment” and funding organizations led by other rich white folks with advanced degrees.
Instead, funding decisions made by those most closely connected to the issue.
It’s not a new concept that those most affected by a problem know what they need. Undocumented workers know what they need to feel protected, and be treated with dignity and respect for them and their families much better than I do. Single moms living paycheck-to-paycheck know what their kids and their community need.
Social justice funds are deeply connected to those they support.
… so I don’t need to personally know every awesome organizer and organization. Let’s be honest, I am a “nice white lady” in suburbs, I am not closely connected to every single on-the-ground organizations providing services and building movements for social change. And I don’t need to be. That’s not my expertise. But by giving to social justice funds, I am trusting others in having those relationships and knowing what they need.
Perfectionism is a trap for many funders — we want to know that everything is perfect about the organizations we support. That they have been, and will continue to be, successful. That they are doing what they say they’re doing. That they are making significant progress on an issue, ideally one we can see in beautifully designed marketing materials and photos. And all that puts a huge burden of time and energy on these small organizations.
Look, I don’t need to be the expert, or be in deep relationship with every organization I support. What I need to be is someone who TRUSTS others and passes the decision making onto them. I need to shift power to others.
No organization is perfect, and that’s okay. We’re all on a path to do better and be better.
Here’s a list of some of my faves, but you should also check out what exists in your community.
Fantastic social justice funds that are redistributing wealth:
- Grassroots International
- New England Grassroots Environmental Fund
- Third Wave Fund
- Thousand Currents
Plus all the independent foundations that were once part of the Funding Exchange*: (most of these give locally, so check out the one near you!)
- Appalachian Community Fund Knoxville, TN
- Bread and Roses Community Fund Philadelphila, PA
- Chinook Fund Denver, CO
- Crossroads Fund Chicago, IL
- Foundation for Change San Diego, CA
- Fund for Idaho Boise, ID
- Fund for Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA
- Fund for Southern Communities Atlanta, GA
- Hawaii People’s Fund Honolulu, HI
- Haymarket People’s Fund Boston, MA
- Headwaters Foundation for Justice Minneapolis, MN
- Liberty Hill Foundation Los Angeles, CA
- McKenzie River Gathering Foundation Portland, OR
- North Star Fund New York, NY
- Wisconsin Community Fund of Forward Community Investments Madison, WI
- Three Rivers Community Fund Pittsburgh, PA
*list copied from the FEX report
Come across another foundation that could be on this list? See where they land on answering the questions below — and where they are looking to grow themselves.
When looking at a fund, here are some basic questions to ask:
- Who are the people in charge? Does their staff reflect the community to which they are funding?
- Who makes funding decisions? And who is receiving the grants?
- Who makes investment decisions for the foundation?
- How much money are they regranting to grassroots organizations, in relation to how much they are growing an endowment?
- How transparent are they about the above questions/how easy is it to find on their website or in a conversation with their staff?
Got more questions or foundations to add to the list? Shoot me a message