In his article, “The Case for Using a Social Justice Lens in Grantmaking,” Michael Seltzer describes the characteristics of an effective social justice grantmaking framework as including the following:

  • a focus on root causes of inequity rather than symptoms;
  • a striving for lasting systemic and institutional change;
  • the use of a combination of tactics such as policy advocacy, grassroots organizing, litigation, and communications that together are more likely to yield enduring results;
  • the strengthening and empowering of disadvantaged and vulnerable populations to advocate on their own behalf.

Furthermore, Seltzer says that effective practice includes a sound analysis of the “forces that contribute to injustice, the effects of membership in oppressed classes of people, institutional structures, and the distribution of power.” Sound analysis must then be translated into both “an effective formulation of goals and objectives, and a smart choice of strategies and tactics.” Next is solidarity, which refers to a meaningful partnership with the communities they aim to serve. And finally, “effective grantmakers take calculated risks.”

As someone who previously managed grantmaking at a social justice foundation, I would add to Seltzer’s thoughtful and valuable comments that social justice grantmaking cannot be done effectively without long-term, multiyear general operating support. Nearly all efforts at structural, systemic, or institutional change are long-term endeavors that require nonprofits to invest in substantial and ever-broadening community support and engagement efforts. These efforts demonstrate to policy leaders the substantial and sustained importance of certain changes to community members.

Equally important is the ability of nonprofit organizations to be as flexible and responsive as conditions demand.

Read the full article about social justice grantmaking by Miles Wilson at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.