Meet the foundations we will honor at the 2019 NCRP Impact Awards in Seattle
In 2002, Nicholas and Susan Pritzker, and their children, Regan, Isaac, Joby and Jacob, established The Libra Foundation, a vehicle for social change that was endowed with $33 million and a focus on women’s rights at the outset.
That focus quickly broadened to a domestic human rights lens, making modest grants to organizations working on social justice, drug policy, women’s rights and the environment.
In the years following the foundation’s formation, Libra found itself navigating its approach to philanthropy against the backdrop of seismic cultural and political shifts:
These patterns – a broken politics of division, an economy of exclusion and extraction, and a punishing civic life for so many – were accompanied by a clarion call from community leaders for Libra to undergo a profound transformation and change its approach.
Conversations with leaders the foundation supports revealed that Libra needed to do a better job supporting organizations led by and for those most impacted by injustice, who are leading the way toward solutions.
Significant changes, following the guidance and input of community leaders, began in earnest.
The first step taken by the Pritzker family board was to hire Crystal Hayling as executive director. Crystal worked closely with the family to lead Libra through a holistic process that examined:
Integrating racial justice, gender justice and community-led power building into the foundation’s DNA
The staff began inviting grantees to speak with Libra’s board about how integrating a racial and gender justice framework into the foundation’s 3 programmatic areas were essential for achieving its goals.
The foundation’s guiding principle became: Those who are closest to issues understand those issues best. They are not only the most equipped to build solutions, they are the most effective at implementing them.
This meant prioritizing organizations led by and for those most impacted by systemic injustice – largely low-income people and communities of color – building power from the ground up, inspiring significant local change that drives change nationally.
Libra also focused its programs to 3 key areas where human rights are ignored:
Now Libra intentionally brings an intersectional approach, giving preference to organizations working on more than one of its program areas. Much of this funding centers approaches that take into account the myriad challenges marginalized people face across issue areas and identities, rather than funding single issues in a vacuum.
Further, the foundation drastically overhauled how it funds, both to ease burdens on community leaders and to harmonize the foundation’s investments with its values.
Libra ended stale bureaucratic habits like never-ending paperwork, low trust and restricted funding, and pivoted to general operating support grants, multi-year support, real conversations and streamlined proposals and reports.
The foundation shifted toward an ecosystem approach, funding trust-bound clusters of organizations to strengthen social movement infrastructure, embracing movements that address the structures of our economy and democracy that have stoked and entrenched inequality.
Today, the Libra Foundation’s endowment stands at $500 million, all of which is invested for impact. The vast majority of the endowment is invested in screened funds and equities, with a minimum of 10% allocated for direct investing in companies with non-extractive practices, committed to building just and equitable businesses.
During the past decade, The Libra Foundation has granted more than $60 million to 192 grantee partners, and, in the first half of 2019 alone, the foundation moved $12.4 million to support social justice organizations.
That included two sets of responsive grants: $550,000 to support the work of organizations fighting the recent abortion bans in the South; and $475,000 to pooled funds working on 2020 census outreach in communities that may be undercounted and therefore under-resourced for a decade.
The Libra Foundation is digging in, squaring its shoulders to work in solidarity with community organizations to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.
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