Giving Compass' Take:

• Vu Le shares 10 strategies employed by conservative funders that progressive funders should consider adopting to increase their impact. 

• How can funders and foundations pivot away from problematic practices that hinder their impact? 

• Read honest answers on grant proposals from Vu Le and other grantseekers. 

I know that foundation funding is just one element in the fight for social justice. But it is a critical element, and foundations must own the power they have and the responsibility that it entails. If we as a sector are to be effective in addressing injustice and creating a diverse and inclusive society, progressive funders must be willing to examine and learn from what conservative funders are doing so well, and more importantly, act on it. Here are the main points, compiled from the various articles and books I’ve read and the leaders I’ve talked to:

1. The funding relationship must be grounded in trust and partnership: Conservative funders treat their grantees as actual partners and base their relationships on trust and mutual goals. Unfortunately, despite claims otherwise, progressive funders base relationships on suspicion and the belief that nonprofits are freeloaders. This manifests in things such as restricted funding, excessively burdensome applications, requirements for 5-year plans and budgets, short-term grants, and the belief that nonprofits need to become self-sustaining and not dependent on foundations.

2. Grants should be significant and unrestricted.

3. Grants should be minimum 10-years in duration: As the article above pointed out, conservative funders fund not just across several years, but several DECADES. This allows their partners the stability and security to work on issues, not just survival.

4. Payouts should be at minimum 10% of endowments annually and should not include expenses that foundations are spending on their own operations: If there is ever a time for philanthropy to mobilize its full force to fight injustice, this is it.

5. At least 75% of all grant funding should go to organizations led by and serving communities of color and other marginalized communities, as reflected by their staff and board: Conservative funders put funding into the areas where they see the most need: fighting gun control, climate science, immigration, etc. Progressive funders, under the erroneous premise of meritocracy, funds whoever writes the best grant proposals and have the best relationships, not which issues are most critical. This is a reason why more than 90% of philanthropic dollars go to mainstream white-led organizations, despite the fact that a significant majority of people affected by injustice are people of color, and it has been like this for decades.

Read the full article about funding strategies progressive funders should adopt by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.