How We Fund
Our Collective Giving Approach
United by a shared vision of justice and equity for all, our members invest their wealth, time, and talents together to multiply their impact. Our collective giving initiatives are designed to leverage our resources and build power. We’re changing the face of American politics, bolstering Black-led movements across the country, incubating new ideas, investing in women’s leadership, and mobilizing resources to support work that builds power where it’s desperately needed.
Learning and Funding in Community
We focus on multi-issue, intersectional work, providing space to incubate new ideas, learn in community, and collaboratively fund both long-term and emerging projects. From climate justice to women’s safety from violence, we are investing in solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our time. Members serve on the steering committees of several initiatives: Jean Hardisty, Participation & Representation for All, Opportunity & Equality for All, and A Safe & Sustainable Future for All. Through regular meetings and collaboration with movement partners and frontline experts, we learn and fund together.
Responding Rapidly to Community Needs
While our grantmaking model is focused on systemic change, moving resources quickly when sudden critical needs arise is a key part of building equity. In 2016, WDN co-founded the Emergent Fund to move rapid-response resources with no strings attached to communities under attack by federal policies and priorities. Since its founding, the Emergent Fund has grown significantly. WDN continues to be involved in Emergent Fund’s work through our member representative on their Advisory Council and as a sustaining funder as part of our multi-pronged strategy for change.
Disrupting Race and Gender Norms
In 2014, we founded the Reflective Democracy Campaign which has since grown into the nation’s only comprehensive resource on the race and gender of candidates and elected officials. The Campaign conducts groundbreaking research into the systemic barriers that protect the status quo. The Campaign also provides catalytic funding for cutting-edge and risk-taking solutions that are breaking down the structural barriers to fully achieving a reflective democracy.
Our Funding Principles
Grant for structural change. We believe that the challenges we face as a society are systemic, so our solutions need to be, too.
Center women leaders, especially BIPOC women leaders. People who have historically been marginalized in society – including women, people of color, immigrants, low-income communities, and people across sexual orientations and gender identities – must be centered to achieve change. We prioritize grants to organizations that are BIPOC and women-led.
Fill critical gaps. Organizers with new and innovative solutions struggle to build the infrastructure necessary for change because they are labeled as “risky”. We listen to the needs of organizers and often act as initiating donors.
Give multiyear and unrestricted. Time and trust over multiple years are the water and sunshine funders can provide to nonprofits to grow their impact. While we cannot promise multi-year grants because of our current fundraising model, we are committed to making long-term investments in our grantees and to inspiring multi-year commitments from our membership. We regularly renew grants in order to give movement leaders time and space to deepen their work.
Do not require grant reports or tedious applications. Nonprofits are often required to provide significant amounts of information that is publicly available and easy to find. At WDN, the responsibility of tracking this information is on our team. We do the research, we seek out the details, and we build relationships with our grantees to understand the impact of their work.
Be transparent and responsive. Because of the entrenched power dynamic between funders and grantees, we work to create a more balanced relationship. As Rachel Herzig from Wellspring (formerly the Center for Political Education) said: “There is a role for funders in movement, but it’s not the frontline and it’s not direct strategy development. It is in service of movements, not directive of movements.”
Solicit and act on feedback. Our work will be inherently more successful if it is informed by grantee partners’ expertise and experience. We regularly invite our grantees to our initiatives to guide us on how we, as a donor-activist network, can best support their work and leadership. In our calls and our formal and informal surveys, we regularly ask what we can do better.
Offer support beyond a check. We work with our grantees to problem solve and connect them to resources while seeking opportunities to share and highlight our grantee partners’ work in our newsletter, social media, and webinars. Additionally, we aim to lift up our partners’ work to other thought leaders both locally and nationally, often leading to recognition and other funding opportunities.