At Borealis Philanthropy, we envision a world where life outcomes for individuals and communities of color are not predicted by race—and we know that institutional changes in policies and practices, big and small, will help close the gaps for groups facing the greatest disparities and simultaneously benefit all people.
On August 25, 2022, Borealis Philanthropy’s Racial Equity in Philanthropy (REP) Fund hosted a donor and grantee learning session, Finding Philanthropy’s Political Power with Dr. Megan Ming Francis, to explore the history and current state of funding social movements across the political spectrum and, as racial equity work becomes increasingly politicized, why funders must be willing to leverage their political power to advance the movement for racial equity.
Below, you’ll find informative clips from the learning session.
Why does philanthropy need a strategy refresh?
Watch: “Conservative funders are very explicit about politics—about ideology—from the beginning; there is a clear focus on “how do you disrupt and change systems?” For liberal funders, philanthropy becomes part of the professionalization of Liberalism….The world around us has shifted in many ways, and yet funders are approaching increasingly complex problems through the same or just kind of slightly changed strategy lens as before, and the aperture needs to expand. Not a tiny bit, but a lot.”
What is your vision of the world?
Watch: “What I think is needed right now is for a number of funding entities to be clear about ‘this is the world that we are committed to building’–instead of single-issue areas that you care about. The questions that I have started asking people as well as myself are: What does freedom mean to you? What does liberation mean to you? What does justice mean to you? Not necessarily – what are you fighting against?”
What is needed to fund racial justice?
Watch: “What is definitely needed to fund racial justice—not just this year, but for the long-term—is a multi-level systems approach; a long-term plan that focuses on at least three things: knowledge production, in terms of the development of ideas and experts, an infrastructure, in terms of creating new institutions that allow these ideas to live …and part of creating the infrastructure has to be weakening the opposition, and investing in movements to sell ideas to the masses.”
There is no possibility of racial justice if funders do not learn how to increase their political appetite. Here are four things that Dr. Ming Francis outlined that funders can do to leverage their political power:
- Grassroots Lobbying: Fund organizations focused on grassroots lobbying as a tool to advance social justice.
- Advocacy: Invest in movements by supporting litigation, public education, capacity building, networks, and leadership development.
- Knowledge Production: Develop reports and support voter education and think tank research.
- Convene Meetings: Host meetings in the community to educate stakeholders and funders, build relationships, and develop strategies across different funding institutions and nonprofit organizations.
If our goal is to build healthy, safe, and liberated communities, philanthropy must stop holding power—and instead commit to building power.
We encourage you to consider partnering with Borealis Philanthropy so that together we can advance racial equity within the philanthropic sector. To learn more, contact Maya Berkowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to dive more into this topic, here is a list of suggested books and articles recommended and referenced from our donor learning session.
- Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer
- Laboratories Against Democracy: How National Parties Transformed State Politics by Jacob Grumbach
- The Architect, WNYC Studios
- Powerless: How Top Foundations Failed to Defend their Values—And Now Risk Losing Everything
- Conservative Philanthropy And Political Coalition Building Across the U.S. States
- NCRP Report: Moving a Public Policy Agenda