In a previous blog post, we discussed social justice philanthropy and three important components of this sub-sector of philanthropy. (You can read that post here). As funders continue to align their work with greater social, economic, and environmental movements, it’s important they consider these organizations’ needs. Here are five tips for funders to effectively support social justice organizations:
1) Grant social justice organizations the freedom to pursue their mission.
Social justice organizations work closely with individuals that society marginalizes. These organizations best understand these individuals’ needs and growth potential. Allow them to direct funding in a way that best serves their beneficiaries. Trust their work, processes, and procedures, and try not to interfere. Reconsider supporting the organization if you can’t find alignment with their practices.
2) Be patient and flexible.
As social justice organizations seek to solve deeply entrenched social and economic inequalities, it’s unreasonable to expect drastic change immediately. Communicate with your partners that you understand their work’s complexity, and you respect their timelines. Be prepared for changes in their operations or programs as they uncover best practices and develop relationships with new community leaders.
3) Offer long-term support.
As indicated in #2, don’t expect results from your funding to occur quickly. If you are interested in achieving sustainable change, it’s important to offer long-term financial support. With long-term financing, these organizations have the flexibility to pursue the programs with the greatest probability of impact.
4) Align your foundation’s mission with the organizations you support.
Social justice organizations expect transparency and authenticity. It’s important that your mission, vision, and funding areas align with their mission and vision. If your work or intended impact does not fit their model, they may decline your support or ask that you make adjustments.
5) Consider diversifying your board to reflect the diversity of the individuals social justice organizations support.
If your foundation wants to more fully understand the needs of social justice organizations, consider electing individuals from diverse backgrounds to your board. Individuals from different educational backgrounds, income levels, and geographic locations may better understand the needs of the individuals you seek to serve. By incorporating diversity into your board, social justice organizations will trust your commitment to effective decision making.
Solving issues related to social, economic, and environmental inequalities is challenging and complex. However, it is worthwhile work that will allow philanthropists to focus energy and funds toward other efforts. If funders and grassroots social justice organizations communicate their unique needs and outline their steps to success, they will enjoy a fruitful partnership that will enact change everyone will appreciate.