for our beautiful communities and visionary leaders
about what it takes to make transformational change
about how we must shift – ourselves, our organization, our sector – to be in true partnership with movements
While we’ve been public about what we believe it takes to fund transformational change, Borealis has shared less about the internal work we’re doing to align with these beliefs. In a field that has long been grounded in white dominant norms, culture, and systems, Borealis was established as a BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving philanthropic intermediary.
We share these reflections because we understand our role as – not just funders of and partners to grassroots groups and donors, but also – necessary contributors in building a philanthropic sector that abundantly funds power-shifting organizations and freedom movements.
And we’ve been meditating on what must shift in order for us to resource the future we’re committed to co-creating with grassroots movements, leaders, and donor partners, while moving closer to our North Star.
BOREALIS PHILANTHROPY, AS A PHILANTHROPIC INTERMEDIARY, IS ONE ORGANIZATION, with nine collaborative funds, working to build systems and structures supporting deep partnership.
As one organization engaging in systems level thinking and problem solving, Borealis Philanthropy combines and leverages our
resources, energy, attention, and expertise to enhance our collective impact within movement ecosystems across the country.
CARE can be defined as being interested or concerned–especially in individual or
communal health and wellbeing. And as Audre Lorde reminds us, “Caring for [ourselves] is not self-indulgence, it is self- preservation—and that is an act of political warfare.”
Deepening our commitments to cultivating a community of care while supporting and resourcing others is a moral imperative
and radical act necessary for our organizational sustenance, as well as the livelihood of the communities we serve.
At Borealis Philanthropy, we understand that we cannot achieve true liberation or freedom with the communities we serve unless we intentionally and persistently
work to mitigate and dismantle our own internalized colonization and oppression at all levels.
Creating and iterating on our systems and practices from an ever-developing
sense of LIBERATORY CONSCIOUSNESS allows us to adopt and embody restorative, community-driven, transparent, people-focused “… values, attitudes, and response patterns” as we resource grassroots leaders and social justice movements for transformative change.
RESOURCING OUR FUTURE
Rarely are intermediaries like ours set up for long term success and sustainability.
For years, we under-resourced our own infrastructure – because we were sometimes asked to by funders, and because we felt compelled to in order to best resource movements. The last few years have reflected back the essential nature of our work, and how we need to resource it to meet the needs of the current moment while planning for the future we believe is possible. To live into this, earlier this year we kicked off a process to update Borealis Philanthropy’s financial model.
After closer and careful analysis, we are developing a new revenue allocation model, which acknowledges—and covers—the true costs of effectively resourcing long term movement building.
Borealis’ work to resource grassroots movements requires investment in three buckets:
MONEY TO MOVEMENTS
(grants provided to movement partners)
MOVEMENT SUPPORT SERVICES
(capacity building support; grantmaking costs—including participatory grantmaking; communications that support movement partners and challenge dominant narratives and build shared understanding; and program design, management, and delivery)
CORE SUPPORT SERVICES
(systems and infrastructure—development, finance and administration, people and culture, and executive leadership and governance—that support organizational work)
REEVALUATING INTERNAL CAPACITY
Over the last few years, Borealis’ Programs staff have helped to facilitate department specific and organization-wide increase in collaboration and learning.
As we all know, this kind of organizational repositioning – this increase in touchpoints and outputs – does not come without various impacts. Over the next three years, Borealis Philanthropy will continue to build more and better infrastructure for our Programs staff.
As we prepare to hire new programmatic leadership – to steer our Programs department and better bridge our larger organizational efforts with the wealth of experience, knowledge, and resources cultivated within our rapidly-developing Programs team – we are committed to implementing our learnings from the past to ensure the team’s continued success—not just now, but well into the future.
for our beautiful communities and visionary leaders
There is no Borealis without our grantee partners and the bold,
brave work they are leading.
Communities Transforming Policing Fund is co-leading essential work to build awareness and support around the work of grantee partners in Atlanta facing political prosecutions and repression in their fight for democracy and resistance to the building of Cop City.
Disability Inclusion Fund grantee partner Sound Theatre’s 2023 season has launched! In June, their show Cost of Living followed the intertwining of parallel lives with honesty and heart in the rarely-seen world of disabled individuals and caregivers.
The Emerging LGBTQ* Leaders of Color Fund has always operated from a place of intersectionality, understanding that issues and lived experiences do not exist in silos. Their collaboration continues with trans-led organizations and trans women of color movement leaders fighting the onslaught of anti-trans legislation across the country – supported by their Reproductive Justice Rapid Response Fund, launched prior to the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022
Spark Justice Fund celebrates the release of Cyrus Gray in late 2022, after being detained pretrial for almost five years. Grantee partner Mano Amigo worked alongside Cyrus to secure his release after two bond reduction hearings and the mobilization of community members and advocates.
The Racial Equity to Accelerate Change Fund grantees believe that racial equity capacity building is more than just individual and organizational development. They are shepherding a long-term effort to achieve deep and transformative change. We must challenge conventional philanthropic assumptions that operationalizing racial equity can be achieved with a one-time training. Prioritizing short term productivity over long-term vision is short sighted. True racial equity work requires relational, non-linear engagements to counter the tides of white supremacy and build a just society where joyful people can share power and resources equitably.
about what it takes to make transformational change
We will never get free on our own. Our grantee partners remind us that Borealis’ work and tools must always be intersectional and accountable as we resource a future rooted in equity and collective care:
Black Disabled Liberation
The Disability Inclusion Fund and Black-Led Movement Fund launched the Black Disabled Liberation Project this year, bringing together shared commitments to centering racial and disability justice. The two funds created cross-team political education sessions in preparation to move $1 million in grantmaking to Black-led disability justice organizing groups with a track record of working at the intersection of systems change.
Narrative Power Building
Communities Transforming Policing Fund and Black-Led Movement Fund grantee partners developed a new Movement Defined Learning & Evaluation Tool, with Social Insights Research–a liberatory research and evaluation organization–to help reimagine the impact and evaluation process. This tool will allow grantee partners to collaborate with communities and share successes and challenges in movement work.
Spark Justice Fund and Communities Transforming Policing Fund grantees continue their work to end the correctional control of people of color and shift power and resources from police to communities. Grantee partners are coming together to tell a new story about communities and families who are impacted by the criminal legal system through a new Narrative Power Building Cohort, in partnership with the Resonance Team
Participatory grantmaking continues to grow and strengthen across Borealis Funds.
The Fund for Trans Generations and Black Led Movement Fund, Communities Transforming Policing Fund, and Disability Inclusion Fund will be sharing learnings from their participatory grantmaking processes with funders – to include, democratizing grantmaking, and the benefits of funding community through shared power.
about how we must shift — ourselves, our organization, our sector — to be in true partnership with movements
Borealis funds are constantly learning from our grantee partners about how we can better serve movements and remain at the forefront of funding equity and justice.
Informed Capacity Building
Borealis funds are working to better serve grantee partners through responsive capacity building opportunities, informed by grantee partner needs:
The Spark Justice Fund is deeply committed to enhancing its support for grantee partners by offering responsive capacity building opportunities tailored to their specific needs. As part of this commitment, the fund organized a comprehensive series titled “Developing and Leading a Community of Care” to empower grantee partners to center their organizations around critical values and provide them with the tools required to sustain their fight for pretrial justice in the years ahead. Recognizing the imperative to bolster emerging organizations at the forefront of transformative change, this series covered a spectrum of crucial topics, including best practices in HR, team building, effective management, impactful reporting, succession planning, and board development.
The Disability Inclusion Fund is tailoring capacity building to community needs. Earlier this year, they disseminated a capacity building survey to get a clearer understanding of the areas and topics grantees are interested in trengthening.
Communities Transforming Policing Fund and the Black-Led Movement Fund will share new data from a cross-fund grantee survey piloted as part of the Movement Defined Learning project, conducted by Social Insights Research.
Borealis Philanthropy continues to grow our organization-wide capacity building programs, providing cross-movement support around conflict navigation, finance and fundraising, communications strategy, management skills, and more.
The Fund for Trans Generations is refreshing their capacity building program with a new meet-and-greet for coaches and grantees to foster sustained community building.
The Racial Equity to Accelerate Change Fund has partnered with Research Action Design to examine the life cycle of racial equity organizational development work from the perspective of grantee partners, and the nonprofit leaders that they support. This project aims to build a foundation of data—including collective and distinct stories—to highlight the liberatory practices racial equity practitioners are embodying to shift the existing paradigm in both individual organizations and broader movement ecosystems.
Learning Out Loud
Borealis funds are learning from and with grantee partners and sharing what we learn with the wider field.
Communities Transforming Policing Fund is participating in the piloting of the Advancing Participation in Philanthropy Tool– one of 30 funding institutions to participate.
The Disability Inclusion Fund is bringing about a more just world through policy – and beyond. Affirming the interconnectedness of issues and practice, the DIF is launching work that will support arts, culture, and narrative change led by BIPOC disabled groups, with an emphasis on groups still in the emergent phase of organizational establishment. They’ve set aside $500k in general operating grants for up to five new groups in this area.
The Spark Justice Fund is collaborating with seven grantee partners to create a transformative fellowship program for Black, first time executive directors. This participatory design process is rooted in learning from and with justice-impacted grantee partners on how to meet their needs, emphasizing trauma-informed and culturally sensitive approaches that integrate decolonized healing practices. With a strong emphasis on care, accessibility, and regenerative techniques, this fellowship is being designed to support emerging leaders with executive coaching, inclusive leadership, self-care, and networking.
The Racial Equity in Journalism Fund’s upcoming BIPOC Media and Civic Participation Report will process map BIPOC media’s ongoing contributions to civic participation, historically, currently, and into the future.
After 6 years, Borealis Philanthropy has made the difficult, but necessary, decision to sunset the Racial Equity in Philanthropy Fund in 2025. We remain committed to the integrity of partnership and principled struggle, which — as N’Tanya Lee reminds us — offers the possibility of radical honesty, deeper unity, and creation of the conditions for liberation. Over the next year, the fund will be thoughtfully stewarding the simultaneous closing of a generous body of Borealis work while sharing its lessons learned and the continued urgency of supporting racial equity infrastructure within the philanthropic sector.
Centering Joy, Care and Healing is Part of Movement Work
We are constantly learning from our movement partners about the essential role of care and rest in achieving justice and true liberation.
The Communities Transforming Policing Fund is grounding their work in healing justice and collective liberation. CTPF, BLMF, SJF, and FTG supported the Healing Justice Lineages Tour and CTPF, BLMF, DIF, SJF, and FTG supported the cross-fund book giveaway of Healing Justice Lineages by Cara Page and Erica Woodland. They are also co-funding the Healing Justice Lineages Tour, and launched a Healing Justice Community Care Fund for grantees this summer.
This fall, the Disability Inclusion Fund will conclude its first “Infinite Disabled Joy” donor book club, which involves five funders in the disability justice, rights, and inclusion ecosystem. Together this learning cohort read Leah Lakhsmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s The Future is Disabled, and discussed the role of funders in a thriving disability justice future.
The Spark Justice Fund launched a Healing for Liberation series rooted in a Black, Queer, Feminist, and abolitionist perspective. This series is designed to foster structural and social change by strategically applying healing justice within grassroots organizing efforts to preserve our collective well-being. Grantees participating in the series are exposed to essential healing justice principles, guided in the development of organizational healing norms, provided a nurturing space to craft rituals that sustain their spirits amid their demanding work, and empowered to incorporate healing justice seamlessly into their organizing strategies, effectively harnessing it as a powerful tool for liberation.
Leading With Philanthropic Peers
As a middle space between funders and movements, Borealis uses our unique position as an intermediary to bring the wisdom, values, and vision of movements to philanthropy–changing both how things work and what is possible.
CTPF is working in close partnership with the Democratizing Justice Initiative and Funders for Justice to raise awareness on eroding the power of police unions through the development of an Eroding the Power of Police Unions Workbook for funders.
The Racial Equity in Journalism Fund engages in practices that involve experimentation, innovation, and utilization of effective systems and infrastructures–actively keeping their ears to the ground, and listening to the needs and perspectives of individuals and communities. With a long-term investment in deeply understanding and broadly resourcing what it actually takes to sustain a thriving BIPOC-led and serving journalism ecosystem over the next 10-15 years, REJ is mobilizing essential gatherings of donors, BIPOC publishers, journalists, field builders, and friends to center discussion around community-rooted journalism initiatives and strategies, as well as the most impactful, inclusive, and humanizing ways to “strengthen American democracy” through a more radical and democratic shaping of “the public’s understanding of the facts.”
REJ lives into what is possible as funders and journalists, with a core priority of modeling and realizing what may initially appear impossible.
As Borealis moves into our 10th year of resourcing social justice movements, where we next focus our work, resources, and attention is critical.
We understand the lasting societal harm caused by generations-long underfunding of BIPOC communities and grassroots movements, and as our communities continue to face attack, and resources for racial justice continue to fluctuate unsustainably, we invite you to join us in sustainably resourcing long term movement building through the provision of general operating grants, multi-year commitments, intersectional grantmaking, and partnering with intermediaries centering equity and justice.
Partner with us as we continue dreaming, aligning, and moving efficiently toward community-led, values-aligned resourcing of a liberated future.
May we all be more curious about exactly what it takes to get there.
Let’s reflect on how we got here. Let’s dream about, align around, and move efficiently toward what comes next.
May we all be more curious about exactly what it takes to get there.