In early 2020, NCRP began exploring philanthropy’s investment in the reproductive justice movement and those providing services on the frontlines.

A new year and a new presidential administration might signal greater cooperation with federal agencies, but it doesn’t eliminate the intense anti-abortion challenges that are still coming from state legislators or in the courts.

Reproductive rights are also inexorably intertwined with economic justice, racial justice, immigrant rights and health equity. As such, it’s a natural extension of our Movement Investment Project focus on how philanthropy can serve as a better ally to frontline social justice movement activists and organizations.

What should philanthropy do?

Money certainly helps, as increased investment in abortion funds would help frontline groups and networks address the continuing uncertainty as the pandemic and anti-abortion legislation leaves abortion advocates under protected and overwhelmed.

It would also allow funds to further accommodate patients through increased partnerships with other organizations to better coordinate both logistical needs like housing and travel as well as mental health needs and services across states to better support those who live in restrictive regions.

The math is not complicated. We know that if abortion funds saw an increase equal to even 1% of all reproductive rights funding, this would mean an additional $9 million in foundation support for the frontlines. However, maximizing the impact of additional dollars would also require a shift in funding practices in the following ways:

Wielding power: Philanthropy must leverage its reputation, financial assets and capacity to destigmatize abortion, empower abortion funds and secure access for those seeking services.

Unrestricted and multi-year grants: Abortion funds rely on 5 primary funders that make up 74% of their philanthropic support. If they were to lose their top institutional funder, it would compromise half of their philanthropic support, a risk that multi-year, unrestricted grants have the potential to reduce.

Funding at the state and local level:  At the moment, the top 20 recipients of reproductive rights funding are all national organizations, while a majority of abortion services and practical support are happening at the state and local level.

Transparency from the sector: Philanthropic transparency is vital in not only building trust with a movement that is rightfully cautious, but to disrupt the harmful practice of anonymously funding such a visible issue.

Divestment from fad-funding: Short-lived funding inspired by a historic moment or the fear of abortion restrictions is a harmful practice and doesn’t allow abortion funds to build their capacity.

Read the full article about reproductive justice by Brandi Collins-Calhoun and Stephanie Peng at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.