2017 wasn’t all bad … some reasons for optimism

Written by: Lisa Ranghelli

Date: January 24, 2018

Before we get too far into 2018, I’d like to take this opportunity to remember some of the bright spots of 2017 related to philanthropy that advances equity and justice. 2017 was NCRP’s first full year of implementing its new strategic framework, enabling me to delve more deeply into health equity issues and the world of individual donors.

Here’s my chance to give a shout out to activities and organizations I learned about and wanted to blog about but couldn’t find the time:

Public Health Heroes. While I was familiar with highly impactful health access advocacy and organizing groups, the role of public health professionals specifically in advancing equity was eye-opening for me. I was blown away by the women I met who are using their backgrounds in public health to do critically important and cutting edge systems change:

Speaking Truth to Power. A number of innovative strategies that challenge philanthropy to be more responsive and accountable to their constituents, and especially to those advancing justice and equity, are taking off:

  • Thanks to Linda Campbell of Building Movement Project for meeting with me to learn about how small, people of color-led organizations have banded together in Detroit to push foundations to invest more in their grassroots efforts. The Detroit People’s Platform and Allied Media Project released detailed recommendations, then organized several learning sessions for funders conducted by community leaders in neighborhood settings. Learning tours in other regions are in the works to inform local efforts to create a community-led participatory grantmaking program that would fund community organizing in Detroit. The Ford Foundation funded the report.
  • Grantadvisor.org offers a platform for nonprofits to rate funders and give feedback on their performance, and for grantmakers to respond to the feedback. The creators of this website may finally be succeeding where others have failed, including Inside Philanthropy, which scuttled a little-used interface for rating program officers, and our own Philamplify initiative.
  • Old Money New System is an evolving community of social justice leaders and donors seeking to elevate and promote equitable and participatory approaches to grantmaking in social movements. Additionally, this community aims to challenge the status quo in philanthropy to end extractive practices. Initially convened by Movement Net Lab, this group is gearing up to grow its influence and presence in the sector in 2018.
  • Jara Dean-Coffey, principal of the Luminare Group, and colleagues at the Center for Evaluation Innovation and the Johnson Center are taking on the sacred cows of research and evaluation to challenge how foundations measure performance and impact. They argue that many of the presumed best practices in evaluation actually work against equity and inclusion. Equitable evaluation is necessary to ensure funders don’t undermine their equity goals when assessing their effectiveness. 
  • The Movement Voter Project has grown from a year-to-year operation to an ongoing organization, one that is proving highly successful at helping donors identify effective grassroots organizations mobilizing and organizing voters. MVP offers state-by-state and issue-focused web search features as well as high-touch one-on-one advice. MVP helped drive donor giving to local groups that successfully educated and turned out voters in the recent Alabama senate election.

Kudos to the foundations and donors supporting these initiatives. Also, a shout out to the state of Michigan – four of the women I met are Michiganders!

Because of these individuals and organizations, as well as others I learned about in 2017, I’m hopeful about what social movements can accomplish in 2018 and beyond – with strong funder support.

Lisa Ranghelli is the senior director of assessment and special projects at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Follow @lisa_rang and @NCRP on Twitter.