Author Archives: Faiza

  1. Cultivating Trust with BIPOC Changemakers

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    Black Joy StoryWindows | Emory Douglas | Photo by: Ashara Ekundayo


    In the wake of the 2020 killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people, the staff and trustees of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund wondered how, as grantmakers, we might contribute to meaningful societal change and help dismantle systemic racism.

    Our allyship with community partners — those already working on ways to address anti-Blackness and white supremacy — informed our path. We launched a Racial Justice cohort of 11 grantees, with each organization receiving ongoing general operating support grants. We chose community-based organizations that inspire social transformation variously through civic education, community organizing, and participation in the democratic process.

    A Meaningful Expansion

    In 2021, the Racial Justice cohort expanded to include four more organizations (Chinese Progressive Association, AAPI Force, Asian Pacific Fund, and LUNAR). Committed to building cross-racial solidarity and power by uplifting the unique experiences of Asian American, Black and Indigenous communities, these groups highlight the allyship that has existed over decades.

    Further, as a symbol of the Fund’s commitment to shared responsibility and belonging, we began a learning journey with Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, welcoming them as the sixteenth member of the Racial Justice cohort. Through this partnership, we aspire to deepen our understanding of their work to rematriate Indigenous land to Indigenous people, and to acknowledge and honor ancestral histories.

    Learnings from the Racial Justice Cohort

    BIPOC-led organizations have been and continue to be underfunded. They consistently experience financial challenges related to cash reserves, grants, and property and other assets. Yet, BIPOC leaders have also proven talented at reimagining what is necessary and what is possible for the organizations they run.

    Verbal reports collected from the 2020 Racial Justice cohort illustrate both the resiliency of leaders of color and the magnitude of the challenges they face. From these reports, we learned:

    • BIPOC leaders have been leading, innovating, and galvanizing in powerful ways since the start of the pandemic … and they are exhausted. COVID-19 exacerbated preexisting needs, vulnerabilities, and inequities caused by systemic racism. During this pandemic, leaders of color rolled up their sleeves to build cross-racial solidarity, activism, and organizing within their communities to push for systemic change. Notably, many continue to do this while also dealing with the personal impacts and traumas of racism.
    • BIPOC leaders are concerned about the future of their communities. Many leaders of color are concerned about the growing barriers to participation in American democracy and have responded by promoting civic engagement and community mobilization efforts. Some shared a fear that the window of opportunity created by the 2020 protests for Black lives might close, turning the current focus on racial justice and racial equity into a passing trend rather than a sustained focus.
    • BIPOC leaders need philanthropic support beyond crisis funding. Prior to the recent increase in funding for Black-led organizations, philanthropic support for Black communities accounted for only 1.8% of total U.S. grantmaking. Funding designated for AAPI and Native communities still only accounts for 0.2% and 0.4% respectively — a meager percentage that has remained unchanged over three decades. Many Black-led groups reported that foundation support decreased beyond the immediate response to the pandemic, indicating a misalignment between the priorities of BIPOC-led organizations and those of institutional philanthropy.

    How W&EHF is Responding to Racial Justice Cohort Learnings

    Taken together, and considered alongside our collective experience as a longstanding Bay Area family foundation, we are making the following changes, and invite you to join us in doing so.

    • Champion BIPOC-led organizations. Leaders of color report smaller organizational budgets than their non-BIPOC counterparts. They also face challenges securing financial support from foundations, individual donors, and governments. We will counter this by trusting BIPOC leaders to know what their communities need, and by investing in their organizations with unrestricted support over the longterm.
    • Lift up the wisdom, knowledge, and lived experiences of BIPOC leaders. Leaders of color report receiving fewer, smaller, and more restricted grants than their white peers. This leaves very little room (if any) in their schedules or budgets to tend to their own well-being. We will help by offering BIPOC leaders partnership and support beyond grant dollars. We will hold space for BIPOC leaders to come together, so they can dream, design, and create the conditions that prioritize their ability to thrive.
    • Adopt trust-based practices. Our first priority in designing the Racial Justice cohort was developing a grantmaking practice grounded in learning, relationship building, and mutual respect. Grantees were not asked to submit a proposal. At the end of the first year’s grant, we invited grantees to speak with us about their accomplishments, challenges, and aspirations in lieu of a written report. Grantees’ joy and relief upon learning this was powerful! We will continue this practice.

    Next Steps

    The Walter & Elise Haas Fund will continue on this learning journey. We are excited to integrate the above learnings and practices across our other program areas, and to help create a more equitable funding environment for BIPOC-led organizations. We look forward to sharing more of what we learn, invite you to join us in adding to the discussion, and hope you’ll also put these ideas into practice.

  2. On a Path of Self-Reckoning

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    In 2020, we all did our utmost to navigate and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. That the inequitable impacts of this health crisis came on the heels of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people by police, and that the pandemic spurred an increase in racist attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders was infuriating — and activating for us.

    In response, Fund staff accelerated and amplified our discussions of how we could more effectively approach justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). We have long been working to address racial justice through our grantmaking, but now we need to do so more explicitly and vigorously. The place to begin, we understand, is within our own (temporarily virtual) offices. We need to align our personal and institutional values, beliefs, and attitudes as we renew our commitment to racial justice.

    Over the past year, we have advanced our JEDI efforts in three key ways:

    1. Creating a new Strategist, Justice, Equity, and Learning position;
    2. Funding a new Racial Justice Cohort of Bay Area Black-led nonprofits; and
    3. Assessing the Fund’s recent grantmaking through a JEDI lens.

    Strategist, Justice, Equity, and Learning

    In July 2021, we created a Strategist, Justice, Equity, and Learning role. This position is dedicated to implementing our organizational JEDI improvements. Our goal with this position is to become an equitable learning organization, and one that approaches its mission and grantmaking through a JEDI lens. We envision that our early work will be to assess the Fund’s current status on JEDI-related knowledge and practices and we recognize that this work will require focus and effort. A dedicated staff position ensures that JEDI is a top priority within the organization.

    Racial Justice Cohort

    We know BIPOC-led nonprofits are underfunded compared to white-led ones. This keeps them smaller, and ironically causes funders to withhold investment because they are too small — a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape.

    The Fund aims to reform our own grantmaking practices to specifically break this unjust pattern. We want to work in solidarity with our community partners towards a shared goal of dismantling anti-Blackness and defeating white supremacy.

    The Fund deepens its commitment to eradicating racial, social, and economic injustice by supporting Bay Area organizations working to further those aims. We launched our first Racial Justice Cohort in 2020, providing multiyear, general operating support grants to 11 Black-led, community-based organizations and coalitions. These nonprofits inspire social transformation through civic education and community organizing and build BIPOC political power by encouraging participation in democratic processes.

    The Fund’s investment will continue to support organizational growth and agency for leaders serving communities directly impacted by systemic racism. We will build long-term relationships with racial justice organizations to extend mutual learning and action and to inform our continued work.

    JEDI Snapshot

    Of the approximately $5.6 billion awarded by Bay Area foundations in 2019:

    • 19% focused on low-income people,
    • 12% went to policy and systems change strategies,
    • 14% focused on children and youth,
    • 11% focused on women and girls,
    • 2% focused on BIPOC communities,
    • 1% focused on people with disabilities, and
    • 0.8% focused on seniors.

    To compare the Fund’s grantmaking to these statistics, and to understand what we need to change, we first need clarity into our own giving statistics. The Fund conducted a JEDI snapshot to evaluate our recent grantmaking through a JEDI lens.

    We collected and analyzed data on the following indicators to create a JEDI snapshot:

    1. JEDI approach;
    2. Grant subject matter;
    3. Grant strategy;
    4. Population served by age, race/ethnicity, gender, faith, and ability;
    5. Grantee leader demographics;
    6. Organizational budget size;
    7. Organizational funding history with W&EHF; and
    8. Grant duration.

    The results of this analysis will be shared in a subsequent blog post.

    We hope that these updates provide you with both a better understanding of how the Fund is thinking about JEDI and supply some practical ideas you might put into play at your own organization. This is just the first in a new series of blog posts – “JEDI Journals” –  where you will hear from various Fund staff members about our work to achieve justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

    Please reach out to us with any questions and ideas. We hope to learn about your work as well.

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