Pathways to Progress: Focusing Philanthropy on Racial Equity and Social Justice

Follow these pathways to success

This paper is the culmination of several years’ work evaluating a portfolio of grants concerning Community Philanthropy and Racial Equity in the American South, created by the Ford Foundation.  Its goal was to discover and present “benchmarks of progress” in moving philanthropy towards more productive solutions. It presents these benchmarks, arrayed along six “pathways to progress,” along with a set of promising practices with examples from the field.  Other publications came out of this work, also on this website.

Many lessons and productive avenues for a more informed and productive nonprofit sector are presented:

For Grantmakers:  This paper presents a framework – six “pathways to progress” – that you can build a grantmaking program on, ally with a variety of productive partners, and see rapid improvement in racial equity and social justice.  These pathways were constructed from wisdom gleaned from dozens of productive efforts on the ground.  The more these pathways are engaged and productive, the greater the likelihood of justice and equity.  Producing the most meaningful progress requires combining all the pathways while keeping a focus on closing the gaps.  No one foundation, no one nonprofit organization, no one effort can work many of these different strands of effort; it requires combined action.

For Nonprofits: Typically it’s nonprofit organizations that are the ones doing the work, with support given or arranged by grantmakers.  The work, if the goal is to reduce racial inequities, requires progress along these pathways, individually and together.  The more you can demonstrate your ability to make progress, the more your nonprofit should be favored with funding.  The chapters in this publication follow this structure.

Pathway 1: Preparing the organization.

Pathway 2: Discussing social justice and racial equity safely.

Pathway 3: Crafting and advancing solutions.

Pathway 4: Strengthening relationships, networks and leadership.

Pathway 5: Increasing philanthropic resources – time, talent and treasure.

Pathway 6: Focusing on reducing barriers and changing conditions.

For Activists: The organizations featured in this publication are doing heroic work for little pay.  You could help fix that.

For Evaluators: This publication reveals the power of “appreciative inquiry” as an evaluation strategy.  No one effort holds the key to success, but combined, a framework that allows progress to be made can be discerned.

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And click here for three very useful tools for moving philanthropy down these pathways.

Originally appeared: Website of Effective Communities Project

Number of pages: 44

Original date: January 2010

Author: Steven E. Mayer, Ph.D., Betty Emarita, Vanessa McKendall-Stephens, Ph.D.

Effective Communities Project
Minneapolis, MN