Above: America Wake Up is scrawled on an I-beam in the burnt out rubble that once was Beauty Town. The store was burnt down during the protest on Nov. 24, 2014. Photo by Shawn Escoffery shawnescoffery.com & distantdreams.me
By William Cordery – March 17, 2016
Grassroots Fundraising Journal – editorial board
THE POLICE BRUTALITY AND IMPUNITY that led to the deaths of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, LaQuan McDonald, and countless others have once again highlighted the importance of community organizing for social and structural change. With growing national attention on the Movement for Black Lives, a conversation has surfaced across the field of philanthropy on its role in supporting this movement. Funders are asking themselves how best to meet immediate and urgent needs of communities under attack while also building long-term infrastructure for communities to respond in the future.
The Movement for Black Lives and Black Lives Matter have afforded philanthropy an opportunity to rethink how to be more helpful to communities in peril. Over the past few years, we’ve seen notable shifts in how donors and institutional funders move money to crises and burgeoning movements.
In 2012, the Solidaire network was established to organize donors to effectively respond to the sustainability needs of local protests connected to the Occupy Movement, as well as to deepen their analysis on vast income disparities. This network of individual donors has since broadened its frame to respond to social movements in a timely way, including worker justice, climate change, immigration, and anti-Black racism.
The uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore were game changers for Solidaire. Last year, Solidaire moved more than $300,000 to rapid response support of the Movement for Black Lives, distributing funds directly to groups in Ferguson, Baltimore, Minneapolis, and Chicago. Since officially launching in 2013, Solidaire has moved more than a half million dollars to movement building organizing, much of which went to local and state campaigns that traditional funders would not touch. It became clear to Solidaire members that standard philanthropic mechanisms to move resources in a timely and expedient way was best done by connecting conscious individuals with wealth to local community campaigns.
Last year, Resource Generation (RG)—an organization devoted to organizing young people with wealth and class privilege to utilize their resources for transformative and equitable shifts in power—successfully challenged itself and its members to deploy more than $1 million in just nine months to support Black-led organizing for Black liberation after the death of Michael Brown. RG members were guided by a collective understanding that racialized violence and wealth accumulation are inextricably linked, and that wealthy people have a responsibility to counter this with their resources and platform. Equally important, RG members who made contributions also committed to a long-term process of combating anti-Black racism, following the leadership of those in directly-impacted communities, and leveraging their family and personal networks to support change.
RG members provided direct contributions for general operating funds to groups like the BlackOut Collective, the New Jim Crow Movement, and We Can’t Breathe Political Action Committee, while forging meaningful relationships with their leadership and work.
North Star Fund also launched an initiative that moved individual donor funds directly and immediately to community groups to respond to police abuse in Black and marginalized communities. The Let Us Breathe Fund focused on New York City and distributed more than $280,000 between April and September 2015.
Women Donors Network, a network of women philanthropists committed to collectively moving monetary and human capital to support progressive change, also joined the pledge to raise more than $1 million for racial justice in the wake of the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Resource Generation Executive Director Jessie Spector shares, “Individual donors can and do move so much faster and can be more nimble than foundations…this has become a call to action