Now or Never: Frontline Leaders Urge Philanthropy to Invest In Safeguarding Democracy

Summer 2022 Power issue of NCRP’s online journal, Responsive Philanthropy, features insights and
recommendations from funders and nonprofits at the
local frontlines of & social change


the cover page of the Summer 2022 Power Issue of NCRP's online journal, Responsive PhilanthropyWashington DC.- At a time when over 60% of Americans believe that American democracy is at risk of failing, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders featured in the latest issue of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s online journal are urging grantmakers to boldly invest in strengthening our civic institutions.

From youth engagement to voting rights to reproductive justice, frontline groups have been building lasting community power in a hostile climate for years. The Summer 2022 Power issue features insights and recommendations from leaders from some of these groups, such as re;power, the Alliance for Youth Organizing, the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) and Puerto Rico’s Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción (MPA). Staff at the Open Society Foundation and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits also contribute pieces, urging their colleagues to boldly fund the kind of efforts that will make an inclusive, equitable world a reality in our lifetime and not just a catchy phrase for a social media post or donor appeal.

“These nonprofit groups show that the challenges the U.S. face are far from unprecedented – and that they can be overcome,” said NCRP President & CEO Aaron Dorfman. “Perhaps more importantly, they give philanthropy the urgent and unique opportunity to do more than just keep current systems from crumbling. If we can follow their bold leadership, we can all be part of transforming our society for the better.”


The following articles and all past issues of Responsive Philanthropy are available at no cost on NCRP’s website

Beyond voting: Building power in BIPOC communities
Re:power’s Karundi Williams and Kavita Khandekar Chopra Karundi argue for philanthropic investments in civic spaces that go beyond transactional outcomes like voter turnout and engagement rates. Voting is not an end in and of itself, but “the lever by we see transformational change for our people.”

Nonprofits as agents of democracy
Nonoko Sato of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits writes that frontline groups doing civic engagement are hampered when funders don’t audaciously support the work. Yet, she writes, how can we expect community members to be activists and agents of democracy when they do not have safety and security for themselves and their families?

On engagement and building power
Carolina Mejías Rivera (Executive Director at Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción (MPA) and Alejandro Silva Díaz (Operations Director at philanthropic cause amplifier Integro Foundation) describe their own ladder of civic engagement from volunteering to leadership. They map how marginalized young adults in Puerto Rican and on the mainland can become centered activist leaders when they begin to ask, ‘Who are we building power for?’

The case for bold c4 funding
Alliance for Youth Organizing Executive Director Dakota Hall challenges funders to boldly support youth-led 501(c)(4) organizations beyond traditional election cycles as way of moving the political process closer to the people. Sustaining innovative and impactful organizing work at the local level is the first step in building a more engaged electorate that can have “the full, robust conversations our communities deserve.”

Binary thinking, category mistakes, and building power
Tim Wallace, Development Director of the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) in Charlottesville, Virginia, pushes back against funders’ arbitrary categorization of direct service and advocacy organizations, arguing that the nonprofits advocating most effectively can do so because of deep relationships to communities through their direct service.

Give more, save more: the new calculus
The Open Society Foundations’ Laleh Ispahani shares how the foundation’s civic engagement work has evolved to now emphasize funding that builds the power of impacted communities to shape the policies that shape their lives.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) has served as philanthropy’s critical friend and independent watchdog since 1976. We work with foundations, nonprofits, social justice movements and other leaders to ensure that the sector is transparent with, and accountable to, those with the least wealth, power, and opportunity in American society.

Our storytelling, advocacy and research efforts, in partnership with grantees, help funders fulfill their moral and practical duty to build, share and wield economic resources and power to serve public purposes in pursuit of justice.

Together, we can create a just and equitable world where all communities get the resources they need to thrive.