Outrageous Generosity Blog
Babbie Jacobs

Strategies for Funding Racial Justice Organizations

April 16th, 2015 by Babbie Jacobs

In case you missed it, here is the link to the March 2015 conversation, a joint event with Women Donors Network & Bolder Giving featuring bold givers Connie Heller and Cathy Raphael.  I don’t know about anyone else but I find this one of the most difficult areas of funding to navigate and to determine how to be effective.

During this heartfelt conversation Connie and Cathy shared their personal journeys and funding strategies as they both continue to try to find ways to provide impactful, meaningful support to organizations addressing complex racial justice issues.  Below are some of the highlights.  Please let us know if you’d like to be part of a small group to continue this conversation.

Defining Racialization – Connie’s definition:

Similar to marginalization, racialization is a process through which different racial groups are given or denied access to society’s concern and resources.  The mechanisms and costs associated with how one’s group is racialized change with the times.

  • The legacy of racialization is intergenerational and is self-reinforcing. It dehumanizes entire groups of people and alienates us from one another

  • Proactive efforts and interventions are required to disrupt these cycles

  • Racial Justice grant-making rests on understanding how power is distributed or not—and what you can do to help shift that distribution

Three Questions Connie asks herself and put on the table for our consideration are:

  • How has the absence of a race analysis inhibited our ability to live in a democracy, work in an economy, and enjoy a society in which all people belong?

  • What would it take for you to apply a racial justice lens to your work, or to take your racial justice work to the next level?

  • What support would you need to take your next step?


Their approaches to giving

Cathy:  When asked what my theory of change is, I recall that during my experiences as a young vista volunteer in New Mexico, I realized that not only didn’t I have the answers, I didn’t know enough to have the questions!  It was then I adopted the practice to talk less and listen more, a strategy I still apply to my approach to grant-making.

I also realized I needed to become more focused on my giving and look carefully at what issues were most important to me: Women’s issues, human rights and environmental concerns. I want to ensure that the organizations I support are addressing the most important issues to the communities most affected.

Now I:

  • Try to fill in the gaps that are blank

  • Give larger amounts to fewer organizations

  • Give to operating budgets rather than restricted

  • I have found that giving through an intermediary such as through public and community foundations is a powerful way to magnify my giving

  • Trusted intermediaries have the capacity to seek out pertinent organizations and follow up with due diligence and support

Connie: I learned over time to take the time to see what is right before me, and to ask questions; race is not stagnant, so funding strategies change and evolve. 

I tend to support the following:

  • Organizing by and for the most impacted and under resourced communities
  • Grassroots leadership in year round civic engagement
  • Work that increases understanding of structural racial inequity
  • Work that connects academic and theological inquiry to organizing and movement building


How do they keep from getting overwhelmed?

Connie loves reading books about race that are intellectual and hard hitting and is constantly stunned by the depth of disparity then switches to reading about artists who create beauty and make the world a more beautiful place because, “In reality all it’s of our diversity, all of our cultures and people’s resilience that make this world a beautiful place.” 

The ways Cathy regains her optimism is through hearing the inspirational work the grantees are doing.  “Having empathy gives me connection and hearing other voices gives me hope.”  I also have to admit I read mystery novels as they almost always turn out all right!

Find a group of peers

Both Connie & Cathy said it is essential to have a group of friends, colleagues or trusted/respected individuals to talk about these difficult topics and to get support to continue exploring ways to become involved.  Keep talking!  Keep exploring.  One source for finding peers: Bolder Giving’s Giving Communities

How do I find organizations to support?

What can we all do to get involved?

Both encourage each of us to take the Racial Justice pledge where donors can commit to fund at least one additional racial justice organization or increase their giving to a racial justice organization they already support. This pledge is a collective effort by Bolder GivingGIFT (Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training)Neighborhood Funders GroupNorth Star FundProteus FundResource GenerationSolidaireThreshold Foundation, and the Women Donors Network.

Again, please let us know if you’d like to be part of a small group of individuals continuing this conversation. Email me () or give us a call 646-678-4394.


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