Racial justice philanthropic commitments turn out to be superficial – nonprofit news

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photo by BP Miller to Unsplash

Contrary to popular belief, the 2020 uprisings did not trigger a huge spike in funding for racial justice. It would be more accurate to say that there has been an increase in pledges, corporate public relations declarations and misleading titles, none of which has resulted in significant funding for the type of organization. black-led popular that generated an unprecedented social response to racial injustice. . These are the findings of a 92-page comprehensive report by the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE), titled Mismatch: philanthropy’s response to the call for justice.

The report differs from others of its kind in three ways: it focuses on the number of actual grants awarded rather than the grants promised, analyzes trends over time by comparing the 2020 numbers with the 2011 to 2018 numbers, and makes an important distinction between the concepts of racial equity and racial justice. Each of these nuances paints a complete picture of why it is harmful to believe that philanthropy originated in 2020 and was motivated to invest in transformative change. In truth, there are major areas that philanthropists still need to improve in order to realize their full potential to support marginalized communities.

Understanding the difference between funding racial equity and funding racial justice is a good place to start. Racial equity constitutes programs and projects that focus on recognizing and responding to racial differences in social outcomes. For a visual allegory, imagine drawing water from a boat with holes. Racial justice, on the other hand, is the lasting empowerment of communities of color – essentially, the job of plugging the hole in the boat. Most grants are made to support racial equity, meeting the immediate needs of disadvantaged populations, but ignoring the systemic change required to empower them in the long run. In the context, while only six cents of every philanthropic dollar given in 2018 was spent on racial equity, only one cent was spent on racial justice.

The epidemic of inflated estimates

In the emotionally charged weeks following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop, there has been an influx of businesses and foundations pledging significant sums as part of their pledge to join the fight. against racial injustice. The media and think tanks were eager to count all pledges and subsequently report that black-led organizations were now receiving astronomical support. The the Wall Street newspaper published an article in September 2020 claiming that there was $ 6.5 billion committed to achieving racial equity that year, eclipsing the roughly $ 3.3 billion from the previous eight years combined, and further stating that most of these grants went “specifically to nonprofits with black leaders.” The PRE disputes that this amount was “grossly overestimated and misinterpreted.” Based on their analysis of the available data, there were $ 1.5 billion in grants awarded focused on racial equity in black communities, a 50% increase over previous years, but nowhere near the scale of what is widely reported.

In addition, many of these pledges were allocated in questionable ways. For example, Facebook issued a standard heartfelt statement, as well as a press release detailing a staggering $ 1.1 billion spent on racial equity. The fine print? It would actually be $ 100 million in cash grants and advertising credits for black creators, nonprofits, and small businesses. The other billion dollars was allocated to “black and miscellaneous suppliers, including facilities, construction and marketing agencies.” Likewise, although Microsoft has pledged $ 929 million for racial equity, they indicated that $ 875 million was allocated for internal commitments, such as increased spending for black-owned suppliers.

Research shows that Facebook and Microsoft’s funding priorities are far from an anomaly. The Washington post estimates that more than 90% of the $ 49.5 million in racial equity commitments made by the 50 largest companies and their foundations after the George Floyd murder were “allocated to loans or investments which they could profit, more than half in the form of mortgages. “”

The blind spots of philanthropy

Private foundations, on the other hand, have done no better than corporations in administering “racial equity” funds. More than a third of the top 20 grant recipients for this category were organizations founded by white billionaires or companies advancing their own theories of change for people of color. Among smaller-scale white-led organizations, there was a tendency to use the funding to diversify their ranks, not to build power in disadvantaged communities. A fairly small percentage of overall funding has gone to the grassroots organization, meaning that only a fraction of the billions pledged actually ended up in the hands of the leaders of black and brown movements advancing racial justice.

Wealthy white donors are also inclined to fund initiatives they deem most beneficial, ignoring areas that movement leaders have identified as priorities. Education is well funded by a handful of extremely wealthy donors, but they operate with minimal input from movement leaders, setting goals and priorities that are often counterproductive to the needs of the community. Leaders of the movement want to focus more on funding issues such as voting rights and criminal justice reform, but philanthropists have barely responded to that call. These areas fall within the scope of racial justice because they involve grassroots organizing for building sustainable movements and systemic change, but racial justice only receives 10-20% of equity funding. racial, which ends up accounting for 1% of all philanthropic funding.

The responses of donors contrasting sharply with the demands of the movement are nothing new. Several years ago in Ferguson, Missouri, black youth demonstrated against the murder of Mike Brown in the largest and most sustained protests in US history. They still haven’t received the level of support and investment they deserve. Businesses have responded to the crisis by pumping millions of development dollars into whiter, wealthier neighborhoods, with black neighborhoods being totally ignored. And, while much of the donation focused on racial equity or meeting immediate needs, the long-standing fight for racial justice has been underfunded – no municipal divestment from the brutal police system and none. support for black organizers seeking lasting change. It is a disturbing pattern that repeats itself with each new uprising. While the 1992 LA uprisings can be credited with laying the foundation for the sponsored racial equity ecosystem that exists today, the scale, focus, and consistency of funding leaves much to be desired.

The conservative reaction cycle

An inaccurate assessment of the philanthropic response to uprisings is dangerous. This is fertile ground for the Conservative backlash to flourish, unchecked. Whenever there is an increase in crisis funding by philanthropy, business and government in response to the social uprising, conservative demonization and widespread accommodation of backlash will certainly follow. They sabotage the goals of the movement, causing donors to downplay or renege on their commitments. The result is that the movement is both underfunded and even more vulnerable to attack.

The backlash takes many forms, ranging from increased domestic terrorism to an oppressive legislature. Conservatives campaign against critical race theory, shut down trainings on implicit bias, and oppose prioritization of women and minorities, to name a few. PRE notes that there is evidence linking conservative philanthropists to attacks on critical race theory. The Philanthropy Roundtable is named among them, and ironically enough, some of their major funders are the same foundations that give grants for racial equity and racial justice. In philanthropic spaces, conservatives are co-opting the language of the movement to reduce its effectiveness and ensure that their nefarious perspectives get the same leverage and funding as anti-racist efforts.

In order to tone down conservative tactics, there must be sustained pressure within the industry to fund and support racial justice. The PRE identifies comprehensive and practical solutions, and it is strongly recommended that the most dedicated funders and association leaders read them in detail. We must first understand and recognize the grassroots work of local leaders who paved the way for more funding for racial justice in the early 1990s. There must be greater precision in the classification of grants, allowing the distinction between racial equity and racial justice; and greater efficiency in the reporting of grants.

The quantity and quality of funding should be increased, taking into account multi-year grants and general support for the functioning of organizations led by people of color.

For too long, communities of color have been denied the sustainable investments they mobilize for, in favor of superficial and / or white-centric solutions. Blacks, Browns and Aboriginals must be trusted to lead and have the power to lead. Only then will a meaningful systemic transformation improve the lives of historically marginalized people on a large scale, which one might assume is the overarching mission of philanthropy.


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