Year over year, between 2003 and 2013 support for social justice strategies came almost exclusively from independent foundations. And independent foundations have consistently maintained a higher level of social justice grantmaking support as a share of their total grantmaking. Of the top 50 funders by total social justice grantmaking between 2003 and 2013, only four were not independent foundations. When their share of total grantmaking devoted to social justice is considered, the number is still only six.
What about systemic change grantmaking spooks community and corporate foundations? For corporate grantmakers, a misperception of social justice grantmaking as inherently political or controversial may be to blame (though many corporations do not hesitate to spend millions on lobbying and campaign contributions).
The lack of support for community organizing, state and local advocacy, and public policy change on the part of community foundations is more perplexing. There are community foundations that have broken through this barrier and begun energetically funding social justice strategies – the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation and the New York Community Trust, for example.
What will it take for other community funders to begin empowering and listening to the communities they serve by investing in grassroots change?