When Witness Radio in Kampala, Uganda, faced a government crackdown on groups protesting the World Bank-funded Lubigi Drainage Channel, the organization had to dedicate all its capacity to ensuring its team’s safety. This was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when funding was urgently needed to continue its mission—in this case, stopping a development project that could force the eviction of dozens of local families. In response, Accountability Counsel, Witness Radio’s San Francisco-based partner, provided support by making introductions to key funders, which enabled Witness Radio to secure both emergency funds and long-term support for their work.

We refer to this joint effort—through a relationship that extends beyond our substantive work together—as “solidarity fundraising.” Solidarity fundraising is the act of leveraging funding relationships for the benefit of peer and partner organizations. By making high-value introductions to aligned funders, we can apply an equity-driven framework to philanthropy, starting at the grassroots level.

Solidarity fundraising presents an opportunity to subvert the traditional funding model that often excludes marginalized individuals and communities. It enables those of us with greater access to capital and resources to be more effective partners to civil society organizations and frontline communities. By leveraging our connections and resources, we can build a philanthropy ecosystem based on mutual cooperation and provide better support to those who have been traditionally denied a seat at the table.

Typically, funders look to other funders for introductions to grantees, creating an exclusionary precedent within the fundraising world that exacerbates existing power disparities. The fundraising sector has a long documented history of allowing unconscious and conscious bias to skew funding decisions toward white-led NGOs. This legacy, compounded by the fact that many civil society groups and activists do not have the capacity or time needed to make introductions to funders, further bars frontline communities from accessing critical resources. The discriminatory practices embedded within the current model, and the industry’s failure to address them, also discourage Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) fundraisers from accessing necessary funds.

Solidarity fundraising offers an alternative to this model. Organizations with well-resourced connections and capital can make direct introductions to funders, enabling partner organizations to forge connections over common missions and  access  critical resources.

Bridging the gap between funders and organizations founded by and working in BIPOC communities also expedites the fundraising process when flexible and emergency funding is desperately needed–especially in frontline communities where activism often incurs security risks.

Read the full article about solidarity fundraising by Jeff Wokulira Ssebaggala and Annie Lascoe at Philanthropy News Digest.