Ultimately, NCRP’s analysis of these data and the recommendations that have followed have brought us back to our roots at a time of troubling change for our country.
NCRP’s founding in 1976 was the response to a movement of grantees and activists who felt the philanthropic sector had not listened deeply enough and had not cooperated fully enough with them and with others doing the work of progressive social change. Forty years later, the nation finds itself in a movement moment – movement in both positive and dangerously negative directions. The election of a president who campaigned on racist, misogynist and anti-immigrant rhetoric presents a serious challenge to the nonprofit sector and to the decades of progress we’ve made around human rights, racial justice, environmental protection and other causes.
Each day, NCRP hears from grantees across the country of exceptional vision and capacity who are ready and willing to partner with foundations and donors prepared to listen. These data show that, from 2003 to 2013, the philanthropic sector still had a long way to go when it came to listening to, learning from and following the lead of nonprofits on the frontlines.
In the wake of the Great Recession, in the midst of a global war, in the shadow of centuries of racial violence, in light of ascendant regressive political and social forces at home and abroad, vibrant movements for social justice have grown. Their leaders understand what their communities need. They know what must be done next to achieve their goals. They are ready to stand in solidarity with their vulnerable neighbors.
What they too often lack are the financial means to put their vision into action. It is obvious in the decade’s stagnant funding for social justice strategies and slow-moving support for underserved communities that foundations have not yet heard the invitation from community leaders to work together.
NCRP has watched this gap between movement leaders and foundation dollars over the last 40 years, and we understand that, sector-wide, it has not closed. This must change, and the time is now.
In 2016, NCRP announced a new strategic framework that will guide our work over the next decade, much of it informed by these data. In the coming 10 years we will do what we have always strived to do: connect foundations and their plentiful resources with people who know best how to allocate them. Now, we will focus especially on connecting philanthropic dollars to movements to benefit underserved communities – movements that will likely employ advocacy, community organizing, civic engagement, policy change and other systemic change tactics to achieve their goals and resist forces of exclusion and alienation.
The next decade will be a time of great trial for our country. Our national economy will need to be remade. The relationship between communities and police will need to be renegotiated. Our education, health care and transportation systems will need to be reformed. All this will take place in an environment that will likely be hostile to progressive social change.
The philanthropic sector can live up to its full potential and work in authentic, enriching partnerships with movements for equity and justice. It can play a key role in the change that is coming – change that benefits all. Or it can continue to fund as it has over the last 10 years and stand in opposition to it.