Membership Programs

Benefits and Responsibilities of Membership

The Benefits of membership in the Funding Exchange (FEX) are derived from network meetings and events, special projects, and relationships with a national network of foundations and individuals who share values, goals and methodologies for community-based social justice philanthropy.

Education, Training, Consultation

The FEX network provides a wide range of opportunities for political education, information and training in the operation of a foundation, mutual consultation about grantmaking, development programs, administrative functions, and general networking among the member funds.

A) Network events are opportunities for formal and informal activities, and the building of peer relationships which can support the growth and effectiveness of a member fund’s program. In most cases, all costs for a minimum number of participants are provided by the national office membership program.

The FEX annual network conference (sometimes called the “Skills Conference”) is a 2- to 3-day event to which each fund brings a small delegation. The conference includes political education and discussions of current social issues, as well as workshops on a range of topics related to the program and operations of our funds.

In addition, the network holds occasional peer group meetings where staff with similar responsibilities meet for training and to discuss issues related to their responsibilities. Executive directors meet about once a year; grants, development and administrative staff meet less frequently, but some groups have developed a pattern of meeting every two years. Peer group meetings are sometimes held in conjunction with a FEX board meeting.

B) Consultation: member funds call upon other members and the national office to help with specific questions of policy or practice that may arise at our individual funds. For example, we share by-laws, personnel and investment policies, information on the various models we have for donor-advised funds or how we handle special donor requests. We share information on how some of us provide technical assistance to grantees, or fund in special areas.

This consultation is usually not in the form of official reports or formal documents, but rather through the access we have to each other through FEX network relationships and communications systems. The national office maintains a network staff directory and Internet listservs for executive directors and all other staff.


The FEX network has sponsored a series of special projects to assist the growth and development of member funds. They address the felt needs of the network at different points in time. These projects are largely determined by the member funds, coordinated and funded by the national office.

Examples of recent network projects include:

A) One of the largest joint projects was the establishment of a network endowment fund to provide unrestricted support for each member fund. Charter members of the Network Endowment receive a quarterly payout based on a formula established when the fund began. Those funds are currently receiving approximately $50,000 per year from this endowment.

New member funds may participate in the endowment by contributing to the invested principal. As a way of sharing in the original endowment, the network grants a payout to new participants based on 125% of their contribution. The national office also provides access to a pooled investment fund for funds that have small local endowments or special reserve funds.

B) On three occasions the national office was able to raise funds for special network-wide grantmaking initiatives. Through matching grants and underwriting the costs of local events, these projects supported member fund activity at the time of i) the Columbus quincentennial; ii) in a two-year “Allies for Justice” initiative to help build local progressive coalitions and movements; and iii) in a national “Peace and Racial Justice” grantmaking initiative during the first year of the war in Iraq.

C) Over several years in the 1990s the network encouraged the use of websites and outreach through the Internet. Later, as funds built their own sites, the network provided training through regional workshops on the use of the Internet, particularly for fundraising and donor outreach. The network assisted several smaller funds in building their first web sites.

D) In March 2000, the network published a new version of Robin Hood Was Right.

This book presents a compelling case for social justice philanthropy as well as advice to donors for planning a giving program. The original version was produced by the Vanguard Public Foundation. This new version was produced by the Haymarket People’s Fund, with financial assistance and promotion through the FEX network. During calendar 2000, the national office coordinated a national book promotion campaign and provided several hundred free books, the services of the authors, and $5,000 to each member fund for local fund promotion using this new book.

E) In 1999, the network provided training, sample brochures and year-round consultation to member funds to encourage the development of planned giving. In 2005, a development staff peer meeting provided further training on planned giving and added outreach to financial advisors.

F) From 2003-2006, the network was able to obtain a network grant from the Ford Foundation to support outreach to new donors. The grant provided each fund with $39,000 over three years for improving development programs, infrastructure, research and new outreach initiatives. Most funds used this opportunity to make new efforts to reach donors from communities of color.

G) In 2002, the network adopted a new expression of our shared political principles, called “Principles of Unity.” Included in those principles was a renewed commitment to be anti-racist organizations and work for racial justice in our programs. These issues and goals have been the subject of several network events and several member funds have learned from each other in establishing specific programs related to anti-racism and racial justice work.

H) In 2006, the network is considering a new paradigm for our work together that would expand our work by adding to the question “What can the network do for our individual funds?” a second question, “What can we do together as a network?” in order to have more impact in the larger world of philanthropy and in furthering social justice movements.

I) In 2006, a national office project to address structural issues affecting media was expanded to a network-wide Media Justice Initiative. This new project will be initiated in the spring of 2006.

J) Currently, the national office is seeking funding to support expanded efforts to increase the number of persons of color among donors in the network, and to enlarge the leadership of people of color in philanthropy.

In general, member funds have found that membership in FEX is a source of mutual guidance and support, and that being part of a national network of funds has enhanced our grantmaking, foundation management skills, our appeal to new donors, and has resulted in a strong national impact for social justice.



The Responsibilities of Funding Exchange member funds begin with the Membership Criteria. These criteria reflect our shared commitments:

  • to involving community activists in grantmaking and in the control of our organizations;
  • to supporting social change and social justice efforts;
  • to operating in a way that not only respects but also engages our diverse populations in leadership.

Member funds commit to a periodic “Self-Study and Peer Review” process. The network provides a guide for self-study which the member fund uses on its own. When that study is completed, the fund is visited by a small peer group from other member funds to discuss their strengths, challenges, and goals. This is an opportunity to share ‘what’s working’ locally with the network and to assess the benefits and responsibilities of FEX membership.

Member funds also share in the responsibilities for maintaining the FEX network itself. We have committed:

  • to participate in the governance and program planning, boards and committees of the network according to opportunities afforded in the FEX by-laws and the ability of the member fund.
  • To contribute a “tithe” of cash support for the network program, scaled according to member funds’ income. The national office raises funds independently to complete funding of network programs and of the national office.

Our membership criteria and obligations are set against a backdrop of a general sense of responsibility we have to each other. These responsibilities can be summarized as a willingness:

  • to work collaboratively to fulfill our purposes as a network of progressive foundations and maintain the standards, and reach the goals we have set for ourselves;
  • to be accountable for the policies and practices of our fund to the network, especially as related to the measurable criteria we have set for ourselves, and to remain open and responsive to the attention and assistance offered by the network;
  • to make good faith efforts to participate in and support network programs, meetings and special events, including participation in collaborative projects, and to be available to each other for mutual assistance.