Change Isn’t Just for Everyone Else


Even though it’s hot outBarbara Heisler and New York City is fairly empty, there’s still a lot going on over here at the Funding Exchange — but the flurry of activity may not be obvious, so I’m writing this blog to keep our allies, friends and supporters in the loop.

There are big talks going on within Funding Exchange right now, as our board discusses what role we should take as an organization in the future. In the late 70’s, the leaders who started Funding Exchange were interested in funding racial justice, feminist organizing as well as funding newly forming LGBTQ communities, and work against war. Back then, this was not what a “nice” foundation did. But we did it, and we did it well, seeding work that has changed the society we live in, and the context for political struggle.

Now, here we are, and it’s nearly 35 years later. Philanthropy has changed. Our band of foundations has grown and grown, and some of the funds in it have grown, well, to be powerhouses, giving away millions of dollars a year and making a significant difference in their local geographies.

And how the network needs to come together has changed. When FEX was started, people who were working to change philanthropy were so hungry – almost desperately hungry – for a place to convene, to meet, and to strategize on how to change a big system that was not going to change itself. And for decades, Funding Exchange has fulfilled that role. But now in 2012, people interested in our brand of  justice philanthropy have multiple institutions to choose from to connect with peers. Our board has representatives from foundations that make grants in almost 20 states, and in many cases they have local peers they work with. The field has changed, and our role in it needs to changes as well.

The Funding Exchange board has been in conversation about determining a new role for the Funding Exchange with plans to engage the larger FEX community in dialogue this fall. The Board is in the lead while the staff is providing support and also continuing to carry out our current commitments. But overall Funding Exchange’s role that was called for in our early decades may no longer fit. So what’s next for Funding Exchange?  That’s the question we’re working on answering.

At some point I anticipate that there will be a role for you, all the community members who have invested heart, thought, time, money and effort in this organization — all the people who have invested in a movement to turn philanthropy from just charity into a force for change.

If you have thoughts at any point, I welcome your input as an ally in this work. You can either comment on this post, or send me a message.

There’s more to come.  And we will work to keep you informed.