Funding under-resourced communities to build power and be their own agents of change: Novo Foundation

Three successful strategies in support of movement building.

Written by: Lisa Ranghelli

Date: February 28, 2019

Editor’s note: The following is a Power Moves toolkit Power in Practice example.

“Racial disparities in philanthropic giving are fundamentally about whom we trust to lead us to change, whom we think of as strategic, and how we measure the capacity to do great work. Grantmakers must take conscious action to challenge our deepest, and sometimes unconscious, assumptions – assumptions that pose as common sense – if we are ever going to make true progress in significantly shifting funding to transformative work led by people of color.” – Pamela Shifman, Executive Director, NoVo Foundation

The NoVo Foundation, a 2013 NCRP Impact Award Winner, is a large independent foundation founded by Peter and Jennifer Buffet. NoVo invests in systemic change and engages millions of people worldwide in creative efforts to end violence against women and girls. Much of NoVo’s funding is in support of movement building – because the foundation understands that solving the most intractable problems in the world requires mass mobilization. Novo’s successful strategies include:

  • Organizing strategic initiatives that are linked and complementary. The Initiative to Empower Adolescent Girls emphasizes building the capacity of girls to reach their full potential and shifting social and cultural norms so that girls are valued; and the Initiative to End Violence against Girls and Women seeks to achieve long-term policy and cultural change, while building the leadership of the most impacted communities. NoVo’s Initiative for Social and Emotional Learning promotes a teaching approach that helps girls and boys develop skills to work well together for success in academics and life.
  • Contributing to organizations that work to change public policies that affect millions of people. One recent example is the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act by the U.S. Congress. NoVo gives sizable grants to advocacy groups like the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and others that help build public will for policies that work to end violence against girls and women.
  • Investing in thriving local economies. NoVo invests in strong local-first movements through its Local Living Economies Initiative (LLE). NoVo’s LLE work connects “consumers with farmers, local investors with local entrepreneurs and business owners with their employees, neighbors and local eco-systems.”

Lisa Ranghelli is senior director of assessment and special projects at NCRP and primary author of Power Moves: Your essential philanthropy assessment guide for equity and justiceFollow @NCRP and @lisa_rang on Twitter, and join the conversation using #PowerMovesEquity!

This post is part of a series of case examples on building, sharing and wielding power for NCRP’s Power Moves toolkit