Tools For Moving Philanthropy

Philanthropy, Justice, and Evaluation
Follow these pathways...

Philanthropy has much to offer in contributing to progress in areas where it’s committed.  Making progress in “racial equity” or “social justice” is possible, but difficult.  An Effective Communities Project team visited 71 foundations and nonprofits, largely in the American South but also elsewhere, to discover benchmarks of progress.  Our full report, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, gives plentiful examples of moving philanthropy forward along discovered pathways to progress, is found here.   

In addition to more fully articulating “what progress looks like,” we identified three major barriers that philanthropy faces in making progress in these difficult arenas.  For each, we developed a tool to facilitate further progress.  Below, we introduce three tools for moving philanthropy.

Barrier 1) Racial equity and social justice are not easily discussed.

We have learned that in many places, the terms “racial equity” and “social justice” are so laden with heavy historical and emotional baggage that the terms themselves get in the way of making progress. All our respondents expressed dismay with this situation.  Moving philanthropy past this barrier is the intention of this first tool.

“Moving Past the Silence: A Tool for Negotiating Reflective Conversations About Race,” developed by Vanessa M. Stephens, offers a framework for beginning these conversations inside a philanthropic organization and then broadening these conversations to engage constituents and partners.  September 1, 2006, 9 pages.  Download PDF

Barrier 2) Becoming effective in change philanthropy requires organizational preparation.

For a board of directors, some themes for grantmaking are easier to make a priority than others.  For example, education or social services is much easier to make a priority than improving racial equity or social justice. Until the board chooses to prioritize this arena, however, staff leadership is limited in its impact.  This tool intends to move philanthropy by sharpening focus and priority inside a philanthropic or nonprofit organization:

“Becoming a Catalyst for Social Justice: A Tool for Aligning Internal Operations to Produce Progress,” developed by Betty Emarita, encourages board and staff to align values, intentions, and internal processes in order to expand the impact of social justice activities.   September 1, 2006, 8 pages.  Download PDF

Barrier 3) Philanthropic efforts are meaningful dispersed, diluted or fragmented.

To advance the pace of progress in the field of racial equity and social justice, the best ideas and proposals that promise to yield progress in closing gaps must rise to the top.  Good proposals show they can change  the mechanisms that maintain disparities.  Moving philanthropy means improving the portfolio of grants they support.

“Choosing Promising Ideas and Proposals: A Tool for Giving That Closes The Gaps,” by Steven E. Mayer, can be used to choose among competing proposals for funding; monitor the progress of a project or organization over time; assess the readiness or capacity of an organization to address racial equity; and identify areas of an idea or organization that need strengthening.  September 1, 2006, 11 pages.  Download PDF


This cover article revised 7/8/2019