Pink House Foundation Details How to Systematically Shift Power

Written by: Eleni Refu

Date: February 03, 2022

The staff at the Pink House Foundation (PHF) have really done their colleagues an invaluable service by detailing their racial justice efforts on the editorial pages of Inside Philanthropy.  

In Answering the Call: One Foundation’s Approach to Shifting Power and Funding Racial Justice,” Hanna Mahon and Luke Newton discuss how the foundation positioned themselves to shift power and equitably fund racial justice.  

Why is this important? Theories and related models of change often stay on the pages of proposals and in the minds of experts and academics if they can’t find a way from people’s imaginations to the real world. People may aspire to do good, but unless they see it in action, even the most passionate of leaders will find themselves thinking that a better world is beyond their reach.  

So what better way to make these lessons learned more real than by breaking down some of the important steps they took to do this using our Power Moves lens.  

Equitable power relationships are a key to social justice

NCRP created Power Moves to provide funders a self-assessment guide for how to build, share, and wield their power to advance equity and social justice. Our hope is that by self-identifying gaps in how organizations shift power as funders, grantmakers will be able to identify the ways that they can transform their programs and operations for lasting, equitable impact.

 

Power Moves invites you to explore three dimensions of power.

Power Moves is the only self-assessment guide that helps grantmakers examine how well they are building, sharing and wielding power to achieve goals on equity and justice.

The first clue that the Pink House Foundation’s strategies are aligned with the principles we describe in Power Moves is that they base the changes they make on the fundamental understanding that shifting power to achieve racial equity and social justice can only be accomplished by making systemic-level changes.  

Here is what that looks like in practice.  

Shifting Power Starts with Building the Power of Others 

To start, funders can’t shift power without first building the power of those most marginalized. As such, we define “building power” as supporting systemic change by funding civic engagement, advocacy, and community organizing among marginalized communities.  

The Pink House Foundation repositioned their organization to better build power by taking the following steps:  

• They began to provide unrestricted, multi-year funding thereby ensuring their grant partners have more secure funding for the long-term

• They identified Black, Indigenous, People of color-led movement groups and grassroots organizers as recipients of their grantmaking and tailored their strategies to be responsive to the needs of this group. By doing so, the Pink House Foundation is explicit about how they advance systemic equity in their goals, strategies, and operation

• They focused on movement building “across [different] geographies and issue areas” thereby funding cross-cutting approaches and applying an intersectional lens in their grantmaking strategies 

Secondly, in order to achieve a healthy balance of power in funding relationships, grantmakers have to strive for equitable partnership amongst all the entities that play a role in advancing social justice work. In very practical terms, that likely means working towards sharing power that is often not accessible to non-funders.  

We define “sharing power,” to mean that funders form nurturing, transparent, trusting relationships and co-creating strategies with their grant partners and the communities they serve. The Pink House Foundation practices this definition of sharing power by: 

• Soliciting feedback about their practices from their grantee and community partners while providing compensation to these partners. In doing so, they recognize that those doing the work on the ground and in the frontlines have the wisdom and knowledge to help them direct their grantmaking effectively and equitably.

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• Funneling their funding through values-aligned and accountable intermediaries who have existing relationships with Movements. By using this grantmaking strategy, they cede control and trust in the knowledge and expertise of their grant partners. In this way, they also seek to complement the existing work of their grant partners instead of displacing them.  

 Finally, the roles of funders must expand beyond grantmaking in order to effectively shift power. That‘s why funders should also be “wielding power,” which we define as funders exercising public leadership beyond grantmaking to create equitable, catalytic change.  

The Pink House Foundation does this a few ways, including:  

• Proactively engaging with other funders to inform, raise awareness and amplify the voices of marginalized communities in funder spaces. 

• Seeking to collaborate with their funder peers in social justice philanthropy thereby heightening their impact and preventing the duplication of existing efforts

• Publicly sharing their practices with other funders in the hopes of influencing change amongst their peers 

Leadership Requires Learning from What Others Have Achieved 

All these examples are meaningful steps that any funder committed to social justice and racial equity can take to enact long-lasting, systemic change. In the spirit of Black History Month and in honor of the social justice advances that Black leaders have made and continue to make today we lift up the words of Former Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm, and ask grantmakers to consider that ” You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas” 

To see what your foundation can do to better build, share, and wield power, complete our Power Moves readiness assessment today. Read more about the Pink House Foundation’s strategies at Inside Philanthropy or by visiting their website at pinkhousefoundation.org/ 


Eleni Refu is the NCRP”s Senior Engagement Associate, responsible for leading the engagement strategies of NCRP’s Power Moves project.