Broadly speaking, racial justice in philanthropy and grantmaking seeks to intentionally invest resources in practices and policies that result in equitable and restorative outcomes for historically marginalized communities. While we continue to live through increasingly tumultuous times, it is also important to remember that we can access a rich network of resources to draw on for support and to sustain each other as we do this work. From grassroots-based mutual aid networks to national philanthropic collaboratives, there is no shortage of tools with which we can equip ourselves.

To equip yourself with the most effective tools, you must first understand where your own organization is at in terms of its grasp and operationalization of racial justice. In this, you must consider the positionality of your organization. Have you walked through an honest power mapping analysis of your organization with your staff, for example? How are you taking lessons from these exercises and applying them to the work of operationalizing racial justice? After all, if these tools are not used strategically, they may fail in terms of efficacy.

Let’s examine what the strategic use of racial justice tools looks like in practice.

For the remainder of this article, I will provide some examples of how the United Way of Greater Los Angeles (UWGLA) is using racial justice to inform our grantmaking efforts.

UWGLA: A Case Study in Strategizing the Tools of Racial Justice

At UWGLA, our work focuses on two areas: identifying short-term solutions that can help to address immediate needs (like emergency financial assistance and food support), as well as identifying solutions to the more long-term, systems-level challenges facing people experiencing homelessness, affordable housing production, and community wealth building. In order to truly design useful solutions, however, we need to listen to our community members.

As part of our celebration of a century of service to the Greater Los Angeles community, for example, we engaged other regional organizations in community conversations about the issues and challenges facing LA County. These conversations helped us understand the role we can play going forward to bring together public, private, and nonprofit groups to improve the quality of life for all Angelenos. In particular, one of the key takeaways from these conversations focused on the importance of retaining and returning wealth to BIPOC communities by providing flexible funding — that is, funding which is self-directed by the communities themselves.

Read the full article about the United Way of Greater Los Angeles by Ed Braxton at Blue Avocado.