A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
The murder of George Floyd and the week of protests across the country in response have focused people’s attention as never before on issues of racial justice and police brutality. These events have coincided with a pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color through deaths, hospitalizations, health care costs, job losses and business closures.
These events weigh heavily on all of us. But they have also sparked a profound conversation on our nation’s long and painful history of systemic racial inequity, injustice, bigotry and discrimination. This conversation is long overdue – we cannot allow it to fade or dissipate, only to restart when another act of injustice commands our attention. Southern foundations should leverage their reputational capital and convening power to bring people together, bridge divides and ensure this dialogue not only continues, but also results in transformative changes.
As a network of Southern philanthropic organizations, we are acutely aware of our region’s own history. The names are etched into our memory: Emmett Till, Addie May Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Rosamond Robertson, Johnny Robinson, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Jimmie Lee Jackson, John Geer, William Chapman, Henry Glover, Kathryn Johnston, Anthony Hill, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Jamarion Robinson, Alton Sterling, Keith Lamont Scott, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee – they are only some of the people on a list that includes millions of enslaved Africans, thousands of victims of lynching and countless others whose deaths, whether at the hands of racist law enforcement, mob violence, or bigoted individuals, have continually been minimized, justified, ignored or even encouraged and carried out by those in power.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an Atlanta native and a victim of racial violence himself, spent years leading a movement based on the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience – principles he never abandoned even as he and his supporters were often met with firehoses, attack dogs, tear gas and vicious beatings. While denouncing violence, he also understood the context in which it took place, saying “I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.”
We urge everyone in Southern philanthropy, as well as our political and civic leaders in the region, to keep these words in mind. Focusing on the actions of a few bad actors distracts us from the cause that has sparked this week’s protests. It also distracts us from discussing a far greater evil: hundreds of years of racial violence, discrimination and exclusion that continues today and is a direct cause of disparities in health, wealth, education, and other key measurements of prosperity.
In recent years, the Southeastern Council of Foundations has sought to highlight and improve understanding of these inequities and others. In our Equity Framework, we call on philanthropy in our region to acknowledge the historical roots of inequity and the present-day systems that perpetuate it, and to then use its resources to spark transformation that allows all people to reach their full potential, unhindered by hatred, bigotry, exclusion or discrimination.
Foundations have many tools at their disposal to create unity, promote peace and support justice for the people in their communities. Beyond financial resources, our social, moral, intellectual and reputational capital must be expended if we are to achieve real change, advance equity and embody the very meaning of philanthropy: love of humankind.
The past week not only shows just how important this work is, but also strengthens our commitment to it. We ask all people who share this goal to join us so that we, together, may build a region where all people can participate and prosper.
Announcing the First Selection of the Chair's Book Club: The Sun Does Shine
Author: Regan Gruber Moffitt and Robert Dortch
We are excited to invite you to join the new SECF Chair’s Book Club. Our hope is that the books we read and the discussions we have will inspire us to find common ground, build meaningful relationships, and deepen our understanding of equity.
The first book, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life, Freedom, and Justice by Anthony Ray Hinton, builds on the deeply moving and passionate keynote by Bryan Stevenson at the SECF’s 50th Annual Meeting last November. Stevenson, who spent his career helping those who were unjustly accused or wrongfully convicted, called upon philanthropy to be proximate to the places, people and problems that our organizations support, to change existing narratives, to remain hopeful and, most importantly, to do things that are uncomfortable and inconvenient. Anthony Ray Hinton was one of those who was represented by Stevenson.
The Sun Does Shine is Hinton’s memoir of peace, purpose, and eventually freedom after serving 30 years on Alabama’s death row after being wrongfully convicted. The brilliantly written personal narrative instructs, inspires, and creates an imperative for action.
SECF is providing access to the eBook version of the title through our recently launched Lending Library, or you can obtain a copy through your local bookseller or public library. Sign up here to participate in the Chair’s Book Club and we’ll soon share more information on how to get started and how to engage in discussion groups with your fellow SECF members.
Regan Gruber Moffitt is chief strategy officer at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and chair of the SECF Board of Trustees. Robert Dortch is vice president of program and community innovation at the Robins Foundation and chair-elect of the SECF Board.
Responding to COVID-19 in... Asheville, North Carolina
Author: Marsha Davis
This post continues a series highlighting the responses of SECF members to the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities. We will use this series to highlight partnerships, coalitions and innovative examples of giving that help those affected by this crisis. This installment was provided to SECF by Marsha Davis, co-director of organizational strategy and practice at The Tzedek Social Justice Fund, formerly known as the Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund.
If your foundation is involved in a program you would like to see highlighted here, contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at email@example.com.
Accelerating Change – A Model for a Funding Response to COVID-19
Like many of you, our fund has been rocked by this global pandemic. At the Tzedek Social Justice Fund (formerly known as the Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund), our staff are juggling the lack of childcare and the time-consuming, sometimes traumatizing, preparation to protect the lives of the vulnerable individuals in our families. But, organizationally, what we hold is small in comparison to our grantees.
Given our commitment to funding organizations that are working in the areas of LGBTQ justice, racial justice, and combatting anti-Semitism, particularly in Asheville, North Carolina, many of the leaders and organizations that we support are also suffering from the same injustices they work to combat.
As an immediate response to our current grantees in Asheville, we diverted funds from future projects to provide these organizations much needed financial relief. The crisis has disrupted the operations of most of our grantees and many sources of funding have disappeared overnight.
However, we are now months into the shutdown of North Carolina and emerging public data indicates that we need to shift our response to prepare for a year-long experience of instability and uncertainty in our community. How does a small family fund like ours build a nimble and strategic response?
Responding to COVID-19 in... Birmingham, Alabama
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations
This post continues a series highlighting the responses of SECF members to the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities. We will use this series to highlight partnerships, coalitions and innovative examples of giving that help those affected by this crisis. If you are involved in a program you would like to see highlighted here, contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even as essential workers have put their health at risk and endured long hours during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the supports that allow them to work under normal circumstances are no longer available – including child care.
In Alabama, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham is working to fill a critical gap created by the closure of schools and day care centers. Their response will be fueled by money raised through the new ROAR for Women Fund.
“ROAR aims to provide direct relief and recovery for an industry that is one of the most critical infrastructures in our state: child care,” said Melanie Bridgeforth, president and CEO of The Women’s Fund, a grantmaking public charity. “The funds will largely support women-owned businesses powered by women employees. ROAR is also giving essential workers – the majority of whom are women – the ability to continue their vital work as the crisis stretches on.”
The need for ROAR came into focus quickly once the severity of the pandemic became clear, Bridgeforth said.
Tapping Into the Communities We Serve
Note: This post is an excerpt from an article posted last month at North Carolina State University's Philanthropy Journal and is published here with permission.
When I joined the Robins Foundation in 2014 – which aims to advance the greater Richmond community through strategic partnerships, collaborations and education – the role of director of inclusion and community impact didn’t exist. As the foundation became proactive in the region, our role evolved in responding to our partners’ needs.
In 2017, my position was created to address fairness and equitable access to quality resources. We have a strong interest in investing in programs that enrich whole families and whole neighborhoods, with a particular interest in children and their academic opportunities and success. We have three main principals – partnership, innovation and fairness. It became clear that to achieve this, we needed to take a more intentional approach toward equity and inclusion. One of the ways we do this is by embracing the idea that communities know what they need.
Here’s an example of how this has worked within our foundation. Each year, we hold a $500,000 Community Innovation Grant (CIG) competition. Organizations from all over the Richmond region apply for the grant and propose actionable solutions that have a meaningful and measurable impact. The proposals address complex issues that our region has been wrestling with for generations, including trauma-informed care, the school-to-prison pipeline, housing instability, education, workforce development and health.
Philanthropic Networks Have a Powerful Role to Play in Advancing Equity
Author: David Maurrasse
Racial inequities have persisted over generations. Social movements have challenged structural racism and encouraged the societal and policy changes required to alter various dimensions of deep-seated inequities. Whatever progress has transpired over the last several decades, recent developments have reminded us of the depth and breadth of contemporary racism. From incidents of police brutality, to the continued criminalization of people of color, to the normalizing of anti-immigrant sentiments and white supremacist thinking that were exacerbated during the 2016 elections, we have received many reminders how much work is to be done. And it is difficult to grapple with, what feels much more like movement backward in an area where so many had hoped we were on a faster track to progress with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
In this context, conversations about race and racial equity and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) have increased in the field of philanthropy. As philanthropic contributions are often designated to address many of the issues (education, health, etc.) in which racial disparities are highly apparent, it is no wonder more voices inside and outside of the field are wondering about the role of foundations in advancing racial equity. While there is much to be done in society at large, there is also a great deal of work required if philanthropy is going to become a reliable catalyst toward racial equity and inclusion.