Donors as Allies for Social Justice

WDN members recently participated in a call with Dana Kawaoka-Chen, network director of the Bay Area Justice Funders Network and Quinn Delaney, founder and president of Akonadi Foundation, a Bay Area organization that works to end structural racism and social inequity. The call, titled How Can Donors Be Effective Allies for Social Justice?, outlined strategies to help members and organizations understand their role in the causes they are most passionate about.

Dana posed important questions to consider when thinking about the role as an individual funder of social justice initiatives:

  • What informs your work?
  • Are you allied to the field?
  • What is your perspective about your role?
  • Do you intentionally build with a set of allies internal/external to your fund/foundation?

She continued with questions to help articulate an organizational philosophy:

  • What is your organization’s role in the larger eco-system?
  • How are your values reflected in what you choose to focus on?
  • How are you intentionally “taking responsibility to change patterns of injustice” as an organization?

Katherine Zavala, regional director of Latin America at the International Development Exchange (IDEX), talked about IDEX’s experience with identifying their organizational philosophy. “I think there was a need to really articulate the strategies in order to know what was the change we wanted to achieve in this world and how we were going to get towards it,” she said.

Dana rounded out her discussion with ideas of how to be an ally in more ways than just grantmaking:

  • To utilize your connections to convene and cross-pollinate ideas with other funders
  • To use your position in the field to broker relationships between field leaders and other funders
  • To be a public advocate and amplify a message or get it across more effectively
  • To actively mobilize more resources for social justice issues

Quinn underscored many of Dana’s points, emphasizing the need to leverage the relationships you have as an individual. In discussing her work with a coalition working to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in California, Quinn noted that after the governor vetoed the bill in its first iteration, she reached out to a key contact.

“I brought in my husband who has a much stronger relationship with the governor,”  Quinn said. “It was actually at the gym that the governor told my husband that he was going to find a way to get the bill signed.”

Quinn and members on the call also stressed the importance of supporting 501(c)(4) and political work in addition to philanthropy, as its strategic impact in social justice work is becoming increasingly critical.

By Rachael Vasquez

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