In this deep dive discussion, we look at how funders can support frontline community organizing and activism. This discussion was part of this past spring’s 2021 Collective Impact Action Summit. In this deep dive, we explore lessons learned from communities organizing for transformational change, and how funders can cede power effectively to better support community efforts.
Participating in this discussion is Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Kiyomi Fujikawa of Third Wave Fund, Tamieka Mosley of Grantmakers for Southern Progress, and Erik Stegman of Native Americans in Philanthropy. Introducing the discussion is Sheri Brady (Children’s Defense Fund.)
Please find a transcript of this podcast lower down this page
Resources and Footnotes
- Do the Math: Foundations Can Afford to Advance the Nation’s Covid Reset
- Resonance: A Framework for Philanthropic Transformation
- Power Moves
- Movement Investment Project
The Intro music, entitled “Running,” was composed by Rafael Krux, and can be found here and is licensed under CC: By 4.0. The outro music, entitled “Deliberate Thought,” was composed by Kevin Macleod. Licensed under CC: By.
More on Collective Impact approach to collaborate for social change:
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(Intro by Tracy Timmons-Gray) Welcome to the Collective Impact Forum podcast, here to share resources to support social change makers working on cross-sector collaboration.
The Collective Impact Forum is a nonprofit field-building initiative and online community that is co-hosted in partnership by the nonprofit consulting firm FSG and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions.
In this episode, we’re sharing a deep dive discussion on the topic on how funders can support frontline community organizing and activism. This discussion was part of this past spring’s 2021 Collective Impact Action Summit. In this deep dive, we explore lessons learned from communities organizing for transformational change, and how funders can cede power effectively to better support community efforts. Participating in this discussion is Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Kiyomi Fujikawa of Third Wave Fund, Tamieka Mosley of Grantmakers for Southern Progress, and Erik Stegman of Native Americans in Philanthropy. Introducing the discussion is my colleague Sheri Brady.
Sheri Brady: Hi. I’m happy to actually introduce one of my favorite people in Washington, DC, Aaron Dorfman. He’s the president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, NCRP, which is a great organization that works to ensure America’s grantmakers and wealthy donors are responsive to the needs of those with the least wealth, opportunity, and power, who will moderate the next discussion and he’s going to moderate the next discussion on how funders can embrace the original collective impact. Aaron is going to introduce the rest of the panel. Thanks Aaron.
Aaron Dorfman: Awesome. Thank you, Sheri. Sheri, you’re one of my favorite people in DC too. It’s really a great privilege to be with you all today. Thanks for tuning in for this session. We have an amazing panel of speakers today and we’re going to explore this topic of movement building and efforts for liberation as an original conception of collective impact.
With me today we have Kiyomi Fujikawa, the co-director of Third Wave Fund, Erik Stegman, the executive director of Native Americans in Philanthropy, and Tamieka Mosely, the director of Grantmakers for Southern Progress. There is not a more thoughtful, smart group to explore this topic with so I’m really excited to dig into it.
My first question is going to be to all three of you and Erik, I’m going to call on you first to answer it. Collective impact as an idea is an old one, right? Movements for social justice have long centered trust and a shared agenda and continuous coordination and many other pillars of collective impact efforts as we know them today.
To each of you, what does collective impact mean to you and what do you think is missing from typical collective impact conversations? Erik, kick us off.
Erik Stegman: Thanks Aaron. It’s certainly a pleasure to be here today. Erik Stegman. I run Native Americans in Philanthropy and my family is from the Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation.
For me, I was actually relatively new to the collective impact idea when I actually was at Aspen several years ago. I think what I realized the collective impact is is it’s really another frame for I think where a lot of native people see what the current movement is around decolonization and trying to break down Western constructs about how we improve our communities and advocate for ourselves because quite honestly, I think collective impact is a lot of fancy words for what we should be doing to bring as many of our community stakeholders and resources together in a good way to really move our communities forward.
A lot of the ways I look at it when I look at how we’re investing in backbone organizations, coordination and all of the other elements that go into collective impact is really about thinking about what are the resources that our communities already bring to the table or from our community’s standpoint particularly the role of culture in that process. Who are our knowledge bearers? Who are the ones who have done this kind of work before, walked before us? There’s so many different kinds of stakeholders that are part of what I consider the way that we should be doing things in tribal communities that’s all part of what this collective impact discussion looks like.
The last thing I’ll say is that we’ve really tried to think a lot differently too about what do tribal communities have in their own communities as resources that could be leveraged at a regional level so there’s some great partnerships through things like the Opportunity Youth Forum at Aspen and others where we’ve seen some really amazing cross-community organizing going on oftentimes led by some of the culturally distinct kind of work that tribal communities are doing in a certain region. I think that’s sort of the way I look at collective impact from my standpoint.
Aaron Dorfman: Awesome. Thank you, Erik. Kiyomi, let’s go to you. What does collective impact mean to you and what do you think is missing from typical collective impact conversations?
Kiyomi Fujikawa: Thank you, Aaron. I’m so glad to be here with all of you today. I’m Kiyomi Fujikawa. I use she/her pronouns. I am one of the co-directors at Third Wave Fund and I’m based on unceded Duwamish land also known as Seattle, Washington.
Just getting into collective impact I think you know before coming to philanthropy I was doing community organizing work and so this idea that we need to come together, we need to find those points of unity, that we need to you know, just this piece around both as you said, Erik, what are all the resources we’re bringing together and also who’s closest to the creative solutions. The one thing I think to get to that piece of what really lets us be in collective work together I think is coordination requires a hyper awareness of the power dynamic that might be both in the structure and in the individuals that are showing up.
Coordination also requires this idea of the right folks at the table and for us at Third Wave, that really means making sure that folks who are closest to the issue, the folks who are most impacted, and drilling that down a couple of levels because I think folks might say a gender justice fund. We might be guided by women in general but at Third Wave we know that actually needs to be Black and indigenous women of color, queer and trans people, intersex people, and then also amongst those populations making sure folks that might be rurally located or might be based in the South or might be otherwise marginalized. Really looking at how racial justice, disability justice, gender justice, language justice, and economic justice are centered across the work. And getting to how conflict will come up if we’re doing this work right in terms of creating work together and working together on it. Just being prepared for how we get ready to do that and I feel so fortunate that we at Third Wave are always following the voices of movements and the leadership of movements. They have some of that work cut out for us already and we just need to find our role. I think those are the pieces that come up for me when I think about what collective impact is. Thank you, Aaron.
Aaron Dorfman: Thanks Kiyomi. Tamieka, the same question to you. What does collective impact mean to you and what’s missing?
Tamieka Mosley: As with Kiyomi and Erik, I’m from community. Born and raised in the South and all the work that I’ve been blessed to be able to do in a centered community and centered people and their liberation from systems that are unjust and unfair and have been oppressive over many years and over a century. So I think for me, really getting clear for all of us around what collective impact means. It means coming together, centering community, centering those that are the most impacted. But also allowing them to lead and give solutions that allow people that are in community understand best how to fix the issues that are at hand. And there is a level of trust that has to be given to allow communities to lead.
I think honestly, that’s what’s missing out of our formula around collective impact and that’s the thing that I’m going to encourage all throughout this conversation to really focus on and outside of that, I do feel like one of the things that we clearly talk about at Grantmakers for Southern Progress is that we all have to have the same values and have conversations consistently about what our values are, how we line up around those values, how we show up in community that really helps people to connect to those values. But also just being really clear about who we are being accountable to. If you’re centering community that means being accountable to community. Sometimes that conflicts with how we feel within our institutions.
Those are hard conversations that we have to have but if we want to see real change and real transformation and really do this thing right around collective impact then those are the things that we need to be focusing on.
Aaron Dorfman: Awesome. Thank you, Tamieka. Let me stick with you for a minute. In your time at Grantmakers for Southern Progress, you’ve worked tirelessly to build a common agenda across diverse stakeholders involving Southern foundations, national funders, and Southern communities. How did you navigate those power dynamics and encourage people to use the power that they hold?
Tamieka Mosley: It hasn’t always been easy because you have to ask folks to check themselves and check what they’re bringing in terms of their biases, in terms of their understandings and their connections to community. You have to assess all of that and that takes time and it takes energy. But what we’re finding is that as we’re moving along in this work and as we’re being really clear about what it means to authentically engage and build relationships and community, the folks are willing to dive in and do the work.
Particularly in this day and age with what we’re seeing with COVID and the racial uprisings, if you’re really going to be an ally to community and ally to movement and social justice organizations, then you no longer have the luxury of being in a space where you’re not assessing your role in what’s taking place. I think it’s just been—we’ve worked really hard around being clear around what those values are, how to center community, how to make sure people are very clear about what it takes to put community first, and giving clear recommendations on how to do that in their grantmaking and the strategies they’re developing, how to lead and what it means to actually lead. So we say it all the time, allow community to lead but really giving people clear understanding of what that means and how to do that in a way that’s going to cause change and that’s going to increase what we hope will be an opportunity for movement leaders to lead and continue to be on the frontlines of the work in the South and across the country.
There are things that we always have to do in terms of helping people see themselves in this work and see how their work institutionally is impacting or not causing change to happen. And so we make sure that we’re giving partners the opportunities to create safe spaces where they can learn from one another, where they can learn from community in ways that are not extractive but also helps them sit back and do their own internal work around assessing their mission, their vision, and their values. We always have to go back to that core piece, what is your mission? What is your vision? What are your values? How will those things align with the strategies that you’re supporting in your grant portfolios and in your relationships and community? And how do we collectively pull ourselves together and remain accountable to each other and remain accountable to how we’re moving money into the communities and into the hands of the folks that need it most to do this work?
Aaron Dorman: Thank you. That was great. Kiyomi, I have a question for you. As an activist fund, Third Wave moves money nimbly for gender justice to women of color, intersex, queer, and trans people. It’s a complex network that requires constant communication. How do you make that continuous coordination work?
Kiyomi Fujikawa: Thanks for this question, Aaron. I think for us we really think about it on two levels of coordination. There’s the coordination that we need to do with gender justice movements and the work that we need to do with other funders. Sometimes those line up. Sometimes those are the same groups especially if we’re looking at grassroots fundraising although more often than not, they’re separate groups. I think speaking of the gender justice movements, a lot of times we’re really just following their lead. We might be providing space for folks to connect with each other who might be working on different aspects of the movement. We might be doing capacity building work like Tamieka mentioned, but really, we’re able to just follow their lead.
We do this in a couple of different ways. First of all, we’re a by and for funder. Our staff is made up mostly of former organizers, mostly of folks who have direct experience in grantee organizations or with organizations that would be sort of in that ecosystem. We also use participatory grantmaking basically whenever we can. Our most hands-on version of this is with our Sex Worker Giving Circle that is a multi-month process of really developing folks who have lived experience in the sex trade to come together and make decisions about grantmaking and other times it’s folks who have been in the field for a while that might be coming to do that participatory grantmaking, field leaders and things like that.
We also think about making the work really as accessible as possible because we know in terms of the connections funders are high on the list in terms of folks that people want to be in connection with in terms of outsourcing resources but we’re not high on the list in terms of always having that strategy piece because we trust movements for it. In terms of making things accessible, one thing I want to shout out that we’re able to do is we actually pay folks if they’re going to do site visits even if we don’t fund them because we know that we get something from that. If they’re a small organization it’s probably going to be too much work to apply, go through the long process only to hear a no, only to hear there were 500 applicants and four grants made or 10 grants made. So really making sure we’re compensating these folks and know that we’re able to level that power dynamic and it’s not just a conversation that we’re getting for free but really paying folks for their work.
I think to the piece of organizing funders, when they’re maybe not also a part of those movements, I think just really getting clear on what our lane is and what our role should be. We fund in a movement ecosystem. We know that Third Wave’s role is going to be really different than a private foundation who might be able to just fund larger anchor organizations. We know that we have to provide what we can and for us it’s mostly emerging groups, mostly groups of very small budgets, mostly groups that need a lot of hands-on support, not to do their work but to sometimes navigate what might be a new role for them in terms of philanthropy. So really looking at how we make sure we’re finding our role and then we’re also politically moving other funders to be in this ecosystem with us, to stay connected through different affinity groups, to share our learnings but also share our challenges and being transparent where we made mistakes.
I think on the last panel, I believe it was Melanie was alluding to the harm that philanthropy can cause and I think the cost can be too high in terms of what it means. There can be risk in terms of participatory grantmaking or following the conflict of interest in things that might come with following movement leadership but I think the cost is too high when we look at the risk of doing things as they have been of following the work that has happened for philanthropy because we know that so-called charity models have just been so hurtful to disabled communities, to sex workers, honestly, to most non-White folks and most poor folks because those charity models are always used to leverage something else. Really looking at how we follow movements who are looking more at mutual aid or looking more at how money can be healing or repairing some of those harms. I really want to encourage us to think about that as we move funders, find our role, and find what our place is. I’ll share that in terms of coordination. Thank you so much.
Aaron Dorfman: Thank you Kiyomi and thanks for those clear examples of how you do it and the practices that you have. Chris and Ann, we see your questions in the chat. We’ll get to those in a minute.
Erik, let me go to you now. Another core aspect of collective impact is trust. You’ve got to have trust. Given the extractive history between indigenous communities and traditional philanthropy, how do you think about building collective trust, philanthropic vision and ownership in NAP’s work with Native Voices Rising?
Erik Stegman: Thanks, Aaron. I think this is probably one of the issues I care most deeply about. I really appreciated all of Kiyomi’s examples because I grew up as an organizer. I’m still an organizer at heart and I think we always come back to these issues of trust in all of our work, I think, especially once you end up in the philanthropic space.
We run a collaborative, participatory grantmaking program with the Common Counsel Foundation called Native Voices Rising, and that’s really where I explained that NAP really walks the walk when it comes to doing our own version of philanthropy. This is a panel of native community leaders who help us determine where those dollars go. They’re all invested in native power-building organizations. We’ve been really successful at renewing those organizations that are part of the cohort and then only expanding it as we can raise more funding for it which I think is really important but what’s been great about that process is that we put the trust building at the center of the relationship, and it’s not just about giving dollars out. So we have a capacity-building cohort that comes together around the issues that they feel like we have some resources to offer, skill building, relationship building.
One of the most important things I think intermediaries like us can be doing is to facilitate direct relationships with the funders who are actually investing in this. It’s one of the other ways that I think we really build trust. We actually challenge a lot of our funders back that coming to an organization like NAP is a good way to begin building relationships because there are networks in our communities but we’re going to go back and challenge you to ask if you’ve been starting to build your own relationships with those individual organizations and leaders within that network so we really try to think of as many different ways as possible to bring trust into the space.
But thinking a little more broadly beyond just philanthropy, one of the biggest challenges I have had in this digital world we’ve had to be in is that I just think as any national organization or funder, you have so much extra responsibility in how you hold yourself accountable to community partners because you need to know who these community members are, that trust is usually build on the ground. One of the things I used to fight with funders all the time when I was on more of the sort of program side of things on a regular basis was I would build in chill time on the reservation to my budgets, and I would have to justify it to them but I’d tell them, I don’t know what the outcome’s going to be for a week trip out there. I’m probably going to be hanging out with the tribal administrator and talking to some aunties in the elder lounge, and who knows. But you need to be able to provide the flexibility for any of these organizations to do what they need to do to be good relatives, and that’s really ultimately the foundation of all of our work, is really thinking about how do we relate to each other both nationally and locally, and what do we need to do to challenge particularly Western and White-led funding structures to think really differently because we often forget that it’s actually just—we think of it differently, and we take that for granted sometimes that a lot of times folks coming from Western perspectives aren’t thinking about trust and community building the same way. So there’s a lot of translation that has to happen too.
Aaron Dorfman: Awesome. Thank you, Erik. So before we go to questions from folks on the call today, I have one more topic I want us to dig into a little bit. For the last nine months or so we have seen racial justice movement and uprising unlike anything seen in this country certainly since the civil rights movement. Millions of people engaged in the struggle for racial justice. Last week Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges in his murdering of George Floyd, and yet there were more police killings in the last two weeks as well. So I guess what are the lessons of the last nine months for this collective impact conversation and about the importance of movements and directly affected communities being a part of the collective impact efforts? I’ll let any of the three of you answer that that wants to.
Tamieka Mosley: I’ll start. You know, I think the thing that I need funders, all of us in this work, to really understand is that we’ve been fighting this fight for a very long time, and change is not going to come overnight but in order for change to happen, we have—and I think this is a very critical piece of this collective impact conversation that we’re having—is we have to be in this fight for the long haul with movement organizations. These strategies that communities are lifting up, the movements that we’re seeing on the ground, masses of people that are in the streets and fighting for change, movement organizations are working with these communities, getting them organized, making sure that there are systems and people and places that are going to support them in this long-term fight for racial justice.
I would love for communities to really—funders to really understand that your strategies that you’re implementing, one, you have to fund it all. We can’t divvy up this work and fund one piece of it and not fund the other piece of it. We have to see the intersections. We have to understand the nuances. We have to fund it all, and we have to fund this work for the long term. It took generations for us to get here, and when we’re thinking about how we’re funding and putting resources to this work, five years of funding is not going to change. You’re not going to see the level of systems change that needs to happen with five years’ worth of funding. So we need to think about how we’re coming together as funders and how we can build a collective vision for how we’re going to support this work on the ground for the long term. We all play a role. All of our institutions from the places that we sit can see ourselves as organizers and how am I going to use my sphere of influence to support the level of change and support the level of work that needs to happen.
That’s what I would tell folks to be mindful of in this moment, and more importantly to remain nimble. Our community frontline organizations need you to be as nimble and as flexible as you possibly can, and that when you’re coming in communities to learn, to let there be an action point that you’re walking away with. If you’re going to come to a community and ask them to share with you, to give you information to help you devise your strategy for how they need to be supporting your work, then make sure that there’s a collective action that you’re putting right back into that community. That is the type of authentic relationships that are going to help movement organizations that are on the frontlines of racial justice win and continue to be strong and have the capacity to do this work.
Aaron Dorfman: Fantastic. Thank you, Tamieka. Erik or Kiyomi, anything to add to that?
Kiyomi Fujikawa: Yeah, Tamieka. I just want to echo the words that you said because I think they’re so powerful, and one way I heard an organizer frame it is fund us like you want us to win. I think in terms of what’s needed, we actually have the resources in philanthropy and in social justice philanthropy to be able to do this, we just don’t—we’re not able to really mobilize them in the ways that they need to be moved.
One thing that Third Wave has done is, for one, we started de-siloing our funds because we knew actually a lot of the groups we wanted to fund, they wouldn’t necessarily fall just into a reproductive justice portfolio and a racial justice portfolio. They might sort of mix in between those because they’re doing truly intersectional work and they might just be a little bit out of some of those confines so we de-siloed that work and looked at how are we funding. So on the one spectrum we have rapid response funding that goes out every month if folks have unexpected things, if there are movement moments where funding can really amplify that work, we give out that money.
We also have a mid-level capacity building and participatory action research fund which I know there was a question in the chat about data, and we’re really looking at how communities can control that data and be the ones moving that because they know data isn’t neutral on its own, right? It has the same biases that researchers might have in terms of how it’s being interpreted.
And then lastly, we fund for six years. We have a six-year fund because we know we’re funding youth-led work, we want it to be actually longer than a leader might be there, longer than perhaps a program officer is even at Third Wave, longer than an election cycle because we know that this work really needs to be funded for the long haul. I think six years is obviously not enough. We know that we’ll continue to support folks, maybe not financially, maybe seeing how they transition to larger private funders or other funders but really being able to look at that.
I think also being mindful in this moment, I think the piece you said, Tamieka, about it not being new I think is really important for us to ground in because I think I see a lot of funders finding an awakening in this moment which is beautiful. For folks who are experiencing that, thank you for coming at this moment, and also knowing that there’s such a legacy of work to build upon, and there are folks doing that work that you can connect with, that you can amplify their work rather than coming in and putting maybe your own stamp on it. And not just harp on this piece but I think being mindful of how funders have been hurtful or harmful in the past around it, and being able to interrupt.
As an organizer one of the things we always talk about is how do you call up your cousins? How do you call up your neighbors? How do you call up the people that are in your life that might be widely in a different political range than you and be able to move them to be a part of the cause, right? Because I think as funders, we also have just a really different experience of who is in our peer group and who we have access to, and if we’re not using that, then we’re selling the movement short and we’re really not hitting the mark.
The last thing I’ll just say is for a lot of us, this isn’t true of Third Wave necessarily but it is true of our donors, is that the wealth that we’re redistributing is wealth that came generationally. It is mostly generational wealth supplemented by some grassroots fundraising but the movement for Black Lives really put out this call to fund generationally actually because wealth has been generational, why can’t we be funding generationally too and making that commitment to know that—our commitment to abolishing the police or to racial justice—is something that we can put in for longer than our lives. So I’ll turn it back to Erik or Aaron there, if either of you want to add.
Erik Stegman: I can opine briefly. Just such excellent points from both of you. I think where I might just kind of underline it is just this—it’s been interesting in my sort of career moving from doing a lot more grassroots organizing work into sort of grasstops national work and now in this bizarre in-between world I am between philanthropy and all of our community partners, and I think that point that Kiyomi made about these silos that we bring, especially in philanthropy, to these organizations is so detrimental because so many of our community organizations have to be so dynamic, they’re wearing so many different hats, the reason they have trust that their community is built on cultural and faith traditions and other kinds of things in the community that don’t just fit neatly into some tax code-determined organizational structure.
I think one of the beautiful things that we saw in the response to COVID-19 and all the issues in so many communities was just this explosion in mutual aid networks and all these other things that came directly out of communities, that came out of our own community’s determined sense of philanthropy, and these structures are messy and they’re supposed to be that way. I think too often we just—I understand structurally why I think sometimes funders come to that, and it’s just complicated but I think it’s on funders to figure out how to let it be complicated in the way the community needs it to be complicated, and to not try to force changes in how community organizing is done.
So I think that’s one important part, and then the other I’d say is just that I really urge, when we’re thinking about collective impact, when we’re talking about the reason we have to fund all these kinds of organizations in a long-term way and in the ways that have been said is what are the things that funders are often going to for those wins, right? I come back because today the preliminary census results come out, and there’s a really good conversation starting to happen with California Endowment and some others right now about the importance of these census tables. The interesting thing about the census is that funders are always going to communities to say how can we actually count everyone as much as possible. In communities like the Native American and Asian and Pacific Islander communities, we have serious issues around our undercounts, our data, and the sheer diversity of communities that are part of the acronym that we’re in but it’s not like there’s just some census organization hanging out waiting to go engage people in our communities, right? These are the same folks that are dealing with COVID, that are taking to the streets around police reform. We all know these folks but we need to—if we want to invest in all these different kinds of wins that funders are going after, they’re going to be the same ones around climate change in most cases. We have to figure out how to give up that power in the sector to as many of the community-led organizations as possible that we know really are doing that work on the ground, and give them that stability and the ability to be innovative and to vision with their communities in a way that they’re never thinking about silos.
I think that success is about not having any kinds of silos at the local level that are dictated by funders. I just really appreciate the other points.
Aaron Dorfman: Fantastic. Thank you all. Let me bring Sheri back in here. I know she’s been monitoring the questions in the chat and I’m sure I’ve missed some of them. Sheri, can you lift up for us the first question or two that you’d like the panelists to answer?
Sheri Brady: Sure. Here’s a question for Tamieka that—I think for everyone but following her comments, any thoughts on the value of funders spending out their funds faster knowing that we won’t be here for the long haul but funds move faster? It means having to trust others will pick up the work but greatly increases funding that gets out the door sooner. Any thoughts on that?
Tamieka Mosley: Yeah, you know what? I’m going to answer your question but not really. It’s a valid point for thinking about how to maximize the resources and the dollars that you have at an institution. Yes, we want you to spend down and find ways to do that that’s going to make sense. There are—I think Erik is an intermediary, I think Third Wave may be an intermediary. We have these institutions that sit in the South and across the country that can help you facilitate getting resources for the long term to grassroots movement-based organizations that are frankly maybe too small for you to even support. I think these are resources that we can take advantage of when we’re having conversations about how do we spend down, and how do we build relationships with institutions that really can help do that. Intermediaries play a very important role in not only providing direct access of dollars but they also provide capacity support to many grassroots small movement-based organizations across the country.
Just as an example, Grantmakers for Southern Progress sits at a table for the Southern Power Fund which is a movement-led organization that has been able to raise money through this process to get money on the ground to peoples and community. Institutional philanthropy just can’t move fast enough to get the dollars on the ground whereas smaller grassroots intermediary and family foundations don’t have the hiccups that institutional philanthropy has. So what has been amazing about what we’ve seen in that relationship, that funders came to the table with those smaller intermediaries and with movement organizations to say, “let me take my process off of your back because my process is what’s slowing you down and not allowing resources to get to the ground as quickly as they can.” So we’ve been encouraging funders to think about how they move money into the South, into the infrastructure that is there to really facilitate redistribution of resources. It’s not about grantmaking. It’s about the equitable redistribution of resources to those organizations and communities that are on the front lines of this work.
This is not a simple answer, and this is an answer that—a conversation that I encourage you all to continue, and to have conversations with us after this call to help figure this out because I do feel like there’s a solution that’s going to benefit communities that are working on these issues every single day.
Aaron Dorfman: Let me take a stab at that payout question too. NCRP believes there is absolutely tremendous value to society in both perpetual foundations and in foundations who choose to spend out. They make great contributions to society. That notwithstanding, this is a moment for greater spending. No questions. The need, the urgency, and the opportunities to make a difference in society on the issues that funders care about are unlike any that we’ve seen any time before. I just had an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy about a month ago on this topic coauthored with Ellen Dorsey of the Wallace Global Fund. In it we point out that virtually every single foundation ended 2020 with more in their endowments than they started the year. Returns have been fantastic. Funders could pay out every dime that their endowments increased by in 2020 in 2021, and they would still be well situated for perpetuity if perpetuity is the goal of the philanthropy. So I just think we can’t miss this opportunity to really reshape society in some fundamental ways, and encourage every funder to spend absolutely as much as they are comfortable spending in the next year or two.
Tamieka Mosley: Thanks for lifting that up, Aaron. That’s a very important point.
Sheri Brady: I have a question that sort of follows up on that. Someone asked that they sort of love the idea of funding flexibility, to be good relatives and are funding site visits but what they’re having trouble with on some level is this idea of not funding people to take a seat at the collective impact table but covering their costs like travel and paying honorarium if their paycheck doesn’t cover that, but not funding because it becomes limiting? How do you afford it so that you will be able to have that many people at the table? I think it’s this idea of if you’re a funder, not just funding your grantees to be a part of the collective impact effort but how do you get broader representation at the table without being able to fund everyone at the table?
Erik Stegman: I can just give a quick example of one of the ways we’re trying to approach exactly that issue. When I was running the Center for Native American Youth, one of the things that drove me nuts is that funders would invite youth leaders to these different conversations and convenings, and we’d do everything we could to prep and support them through our leadership programming but oftentimes they’d come back feeling like they were being used, didn’t understand what everyone was talking about, and we always held most of the funders to account to pay them for their time at least in some kind of a meaningful way. But one of the other things that we started to realize is they just needed a lot more support to be at that table in a confident way where they really felt like they could speak their voice and their truth to an audience in the way that it needed to. So we’re actually going to be developing a new cohort of Native youth leaders from across the country. We’re going to train them in philanthropy. We’re going to be helping them map the power in philanthropy. We’re going to be paying them for their time, and then they’re actually going to be participating in our grantmaking process, our participatory grantmaking process to learn about what it actually means to be doing participatory grantmaking.
We’re trying to do that for a couple of reasons to address the question. One is they’re not necessarily directly receiving funds as an organization through our Native Voices Rising fund but we’re going to invest a fair amount of funding in them as leaders in our field so that young people are making decisions about where funds go for youth-serving organizations. We’re also building them into an intergenerational advisory team for the program where some of these Native nonprofit leaders are going to be working with these young people as part of this process. So that’s one approach that we have. I think especially if you’re working with intermediaries or others, there’s a lot of ways to invest in the support and leadership programming to make sure that people are coming to those tables even if they’re not getting directly funded by you but they’re being brought to those tables in really meaningful supported and important ways. That’s just one example I share with kind of how we’re trying to address that.
Sheri Brady: Anybody else want to weigh in?
Kiyomi Fujikawa: Yeah, I guess for Third Wave, we just really see a strong value in funding folks or, you know, in addition to an honorarium, really making sure folks are well fed, really making sure that folks have the access needs being met whether that means providing a tech stipend so they can have a cellphone to be able to participate in meetings or things like that because the folks that are a part of, for example, our Sex Worker Giving Circle, are folks that may or may not have access to a regular telephone or a regular internet or things like that, and so really just knowing that oftentimes getting the right folks in the room does just take more than what might be provided because in a lot of cases there might be a lot of opportunities for people but we don’t actually see the mix of folks that is truly representative or is truly diverse or truly centers a racial justice frame or a gender justice frame, and so oftentimes we’ll see folks be like, oh, we have one or two trans people in our program. Well, that makes sense. Oops, we didn’t get more, and I think just really making sure that the outreach is targeted and that there is additional support. Of course folks are going to be there also for the nonfinancial value. There’s a lot of ways that they can make money. There’s a lot of different ways they could probably make more money than we’re able to offer them but they’re going to do it because of the commitment to community, and so it’s just really never come up to us to make sure we weren’t really providing what folks needed to participate in addition to childcare or many, many other things so just wanted to add that to the mix.
Tamieka Mosley: I think what they’ve lifted up makes sense. The only thing I would offer is to also think about where you’re holding the table, and to make sure you’re holding the conversations in places that makes the most sense for those that you want and need to be at the table, and that the voices that are being lifted up also have conversation and input of terms of where those tables and conversations are being held.
I often think as my time as a program officer—there were many times when I took the inconvenience and allowed community to say this is the best place for me to have this conversation. It was oftentimes in rural communities that may not have the amenities that we’re used to having but it gave folks the opportunity to really be at the table in a way that really lifted up what we were trying to accomplish. So where you hold the actual table, where you hold the actual conversation makes a difference. You just got to pay for it like we’ve got to ante up and make sure that the resources are there so that folks can be in space in the way that we really need them to be in space, and we as funders can figure out—that’s on us to figure out, like how we partner with other funders, how we come together in our spaces to figure out how we collectively can make sure that community has what they need to be in space with us or that we’re in space with them more importantly.
Sheri Brady: To piggyback on all that, someone asked could you talk a little bit about what it means to the phrase nonextractive. I know that Kiyomi gave some examples of what would be considered nonextractive but if you guys could just talk about what that means to you to help the folks on the phone think about how they’re engaging folks in ways that aren’t extractive.
Tamieka Mosley: Learning sometimes while we have the best intentions, the actual showing up can be extractive. So coming into—funders oftentimes, not all funders, but sometimes we have—thinking about what Kiyomi is saying about not causing harm. When you come into a community and you take the time and energy that people have taken to give you to share their analysis, to share their strategies, to talk to you about what the landscape of a region is of their state or their community, and you leave and you don’t put anything back—not putting any funder on blast but there was actually a funder that said, “I need to learn all this information but I’m not going to fund you.” That’s extractive. When you’re asking communities to give of themselves and you’re telling them, “I want you to give everything, all the knowledge, all the data, all the information that I need but I’m not going to invest back into you because I just need to learn it. I just need to understand it.” That is extractive, and those types of practices is what’s causing traumatic responses from communities. People literally have trauma when it comes to philanthropy, and it’s because of practices like that. We have to acknowledge our role in causing trauma and causing harm in community and stop those practices.
Kiyomi Fujikawa: Yeah, thank you so much for that, Tamieka. That’s so spot-on in thinking about how can we have a trauma-informed philanthropy and a philanthropy that isn’t—it’s committed to knowing that like even if you have a good experience with Third Wave, that doesn’t mean Third Wave isn’t lumped with all the other funders that they might have had a bad experience with, and knowing that we actually have to spend that extra mile to know that folks can trust us, right? Because there’s inherently such a big power dynamic in such a way that folks with wealth have manipulated things so that’s been harmful for communities, right? Just in terms of the extractive-nonextractive funding, if you just want to put one resource into the chat, this is where I first learned about that term, nonextractive funding, is from Justice Funders. For folks that like to read it in a report, this might be just a good resource for folks. They have a great sort of a spectrum so you could see where your practices might land. I’ll just name that.
This comes specifically in terms of the Justice Funders framework, comes from climate justice movements, right? So it comes from this idea that there should be a just transition, and actually saying what’s the just transition out of philanthropy as we know it, and actually knowing that the systems that we have, they’re important. We’re really grateful for them. They’re providing critical, critical resources, and we can’t keep doing it like we’re doing it. We really need to be making small shifts to be able to create the new world where actually the way that Third Wave is envisioning it is really looking at how do communities have direct control over the resources and are so well resourced that they’re not needing to jump through some of the hoops or navigate some of those silos that we’ve talked about or some of the conflicts that come up when one group gets funded a lot and another group doesn’t get funded at all even though they still have to show up and work in community together. I feel like Tamieka said it so well but I know some folks like to have additional reading to come back to so I just put that in the chat for those folks.
Erik Stegman: I’ll just very quickly make the point, such great points on the extractive issue. I also want to acknowledge that it can be challenging sometimes I think for funders who are not familiar with our communities a lot of times. I work with quite a few who I think come to it with the right intentions but that’s where I do call on funders to work with organizations like ours who are here to advocate in the sector for our communities because a lot of what our job is is to help navigate that, and a lot of times the extractive part really comes from what’s your knowledge about our communities. What are your relationships because a lot of times funders will come into those communities and start doing the Indian 101, 20 questions thing, right? And it can get—it can be very traumatic, very harmful but that’s why we’re here to help do some of that level-setting, that education to help answer some of those questions in the right way so that we can think about what’s the right way for you to approach community-building space and conversations.
So I know there’s several of us who are out there in these spaces who try to play that role because we also understand how challenging it is but we really try to be sort of a guardrail to take some of that educational and other kinds of burden off our community partners so they’re not always having to do it too.
Aaron Dorfman: Awesome. Well, we are running close to time and I want to give our panelists the chance to share some closing thoughts, and I will share a closing thought as well. NCRP is here for you as a resource if you want to get better at supporting movements and at shifting power to grassroots communities and communities of color. I just put a link in the chat to our Power Moves toolkit that has been tremendously helpful to a lot of funders in thinking about these issues. Another one I will put in the chat is our Movement Investment Project, which is our initiative to help philanthropy get better at supporting movements. If you take one thing away from this session, my hope would be that you’re thinking about how am I going to get community organizing groups and movement groups more engaged in our collective impact efforts. They should have a seat at the table. They should be a part of it, and you’re the ones who can make that happen so that’s my challenge and my opportunity to you. Now let’s hear closing thoughts from our panelists. Tamieka, let’s start with you.
Tamieka Mosley: Thank you all for just taking the time to hear this information. There’s no one panel that’s going to answer all the questions for you but it’s a start, and these are conversations that we’re hoping you’re taking back to your institutions and diving into, and thinking about what it means to partner with funders, what it means to partner with community, what it means to partner with movement organizations. The key word there is partner. I think we all have to understand our role in this work, understand who we’re being held accountable to, and understanding how we’re going to move in a way that’s really going to cause transformational change. So I encourage you all to continue this conversation. Like Aaron, Grantmakers for Southern Progress is here for you as well, and we’re willing to support this conversation and continue to support our wonderful friends at NCRP in any way we can.
Aaron Dorfman: Kiyomi?
Kiyomi Fujikawa: Yeah, thanks, and actually I’m really reflecting on Tamieka’s words, particularly about that action plan that you’re leaving each meeting with. So I actually want to just use my time to give you all the opportunity to write down what—as we’re having these next few days together, what is an action plan? What is that commitment that we want to make to our movement? For me I think it’s twofold. One, I want to look at this idea of actually if we’re looking at do we keep long-term funding or short-term funding or spend down more quickly, really thinking about what would it take for us not to need to exist. So that’s one question I want to take back to my leadership team and think about, what’s the world supposed to look like and how are our actions working towards that. And, two, I really want to connect further with both Erik and Tamieka and just see how we can be supporting each other’s work. So that’s from me and I just encourage folks to take a minute now and to do that too.
Aaron Dorfman: Awesome, thanks Kiyomi. Erik, bring us home.
Erik Stegman: I just really want to thank everyone for the space here and for everyone who joined to listen to this really thoughtful conversation. I think for me I just kind of come back to again, like I said, the foundation of our work is really built around our values as native people across the country and the world for that matter, and how we connect to each other, who our relatives and our relationships are, and that’s how we think about everything we do. So I think, you know, think about in your own culture, your own communication, where you come from, I don’t think you can think enough about what it means to be a good relative. We really do mean it when we’re talking about that. I think there are so many ways you can invest in a relationship, whatever kind of funder you are, and to just think about what that means. I think too often in our Western world we don’t think about what it actually means to invest in relationships for the long term, and it’s not just about dollars. So just offer that to all of you, and I just want to share what Kiyomi had offered, that I’m just looking forward to trying to do more with our partners here on the panel because it’s a really important moment right now.
Aaron Dorfman: Great. Thank you to the Collective Impact Forum for having us, and thank you to you all for being here with us today.
(Outro by Tracy Timmons-Gray) And this closes out this episode of the Collective Impact Forum podcast. If you are interested in learning more about what was discussed, you can find links to resources in the footnotes of this podcast.
We would like to acknowledge that this episode was produced and edited on the unceded, traditional lands of the Coast Salish people, including the Duwamish, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, and Muckleshoot tribes. We honor with gratitude the land itself and the past, present, and futures of these tribes.
The Intro music for this episode was composed by Rafael Krux and our outro music is composed by Kevin Macleod.
For those who read out newsletter, you already know that our colleague Sheri who you heard in today’s episode recently transitioned to a new role as Vice President of Strategy and Program at the Children’s Defense Fund. We are very proud of Sheri, and are very grateful to have her a part of the Forum team these past 8 years.
This is the last episode with Sheri before she joined her new role, but we are hopeful we can coax her back to guest star on a future episode and share what she’s learning. And Sheri, if you’re listening, we miss you, hope you are doing well, and can’t wait to catch up in the future.
Our big news this month is that we have launched our open call for virtual session proposals for the next field-wide virtual Collective Impact Action Summit that will be held this April 26-28, 2022. If you have a session that you would like to share with over 1,000 backbone leaders, community partners, funders, and other collective impact practitioners, we hope you will submit your ideas. Our deadline for session submissions is Friday, November 12. Please check out our events section of collectiveimpactforum.org to find out more.
This is Tracy Timmons-Gray, Associate Director here at the Collective Impact Forum, and your podcast host. I want to say thank you so much for listening, and we look forward to connecting with you more in our next episode. Until next time, we hope you are safe and well.