4.21 EPIP Conference Report Back

By Ryan Li Dahlstrom & Ash Hammond

We just returned from the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP) National Conference in Philadelphia. The conference brought together the next generation of grantmakers and organizers within philanthropy from across the country who are interested in advancing social justice philanthropy.

We’re excited to share some of what we learned there and what it got us thinking about.

FIERCE, GIFT, and New World Foundation co-presented a workshop called “Money for Movements: Grantmaking and Grassroots Fundraising”, thanks to our session designer Braeden Lentz (Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock). We’ve been working together through the 3-D (Donor Development and Diversification) Initiative, a national cohort supported by four progressive foundations. The cohort consists of 8 membership-based organizations doing innovative things with grassroots fundraising.

In our session, we led small group discussions about how we see ourselves and other groups developing grassroots fundraising programs and/or leveraging grassroots and grantmaking resources to build more powerful and sustainable movements for racial, social, gender, and economic justice.

We know that progressive foundations do not have the resources or capacity needed to fund all the transformative social change work that needs to happen. Indeed, many in the social justice movement have raised critical questions about the overreliance of grassroots organizations’ on foundation support.

GIFT and visionaries like INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence (editors of The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex) have helped ignite dialogue, shift paradigms, and ground membership groups like FIERCE in adopting grassroots fundraising strategies that build the power of our communities and reflect our missions to remain accountable to our bases. It was interesting to continue the conversation with grantmakers.

Some powerful discussion happened around the following questions:
• Where do funding institutions get their money and who are they most accountable to? Where do grantee organizations get their money and who are they most accountable to?
• What role can foundations play in supporting their grant-partners’ in developing or expanding their grassroots fundraising programs?
• How can grantmakers better support organizational sustainability and autonomy by providing general operating support so that organizations don’t have to “chase funds” or have “mission drift?”

These conversations were revealing and important, and we want to continue the discussion with grassroots fundraisers like you who couldn’t be there. What do you think?

• Are there ways funding institutions can be more responsive to the identified needs of their grantees? Do you feel supported by your foundations to further develop sustainable grassroots fundraising programs?
• How can grassroots organizations have conversations with foundations about what we need?
• Does getting foundation support to develop infrastructure for grassroots fundraising defeat the purpose/intention of grassroots fundraising?

As people of color, we recognize that grassroots fundraising and resource organizing are part of long legacies of community organizing by communities of color, queer folks, and low-income communities. For generations our peoples have shared and reclaimed resources like money, knowledge, space, medicine, food, land, and services. We come from a long line of communities that have thrived against all odds because of our interdependence, generosity, and our commitment to collective liberation and justice.

Let’s continue to honor and learn from this legacy of giving and resource sharing by:

• Prioritizing the leadership of those most impacted to direct how we mobilize resources to support our movements
• Recognizing resource mobilization as political and liberating work by reflecting our anti-oppression values and ideals in all our fundraising efforts
• Building power and doing movement building within and across our communities
• Creating more interconnectedness and interdependence within and across our communities, organizations, and movements