A Stronger National Network

My connections with leaders throughout the Funding Exchange network give me a chance to see how each of the 16 member funds are engaging more people with emerging social justice movements. And it gives me a chance to bring people together to share what’s working best as funds face similar struggles in funding social justice work in their communities.

It’s more than grantmaking to support grassroots activism. It’s about engaging people as partners in social change work both politically and financially. It’s about broadening the conversation about what it means to resource justice work. Not just investing money, people, and time but also investing in people and communities.

Youth-led Grantmaking – it’s growing!

At Fund for Santa Barbara and Three Rivers Community Foundation (Pittsburgh, PA), teens are coming together for youth-led grantmaking bodies that fund youth organizing work. These young leaders are building relationships with each other and with their communities. They are also becoming decision-makers about moving funds (grantmaking) in their local community.

Change begins at home and it begins with these young people, and this is a form of grantmaking that’s continuing to spread among the funds in our network. (And a shout to Crossroads Fund in Chicago, who has had a young adult panel for years, with grantmakers who are in their late teens and early 20s.)

Springtime is fundraising time

In spring, most of the member funds have fundraising event – some raising $20,000, others raising half-a-million dollars. We’ve dropped in on many of these events to contribute and see all the different ways that local funds celebrate victories and build communities.

For example, Appalachian Community Fund’s Bluegrass and BBQ celebrates the heart and soul of Appalachia uniting people, music, and, of course, good eats.

Haymarket People’s Fund in Boston hosts a comedy event that features women of color comediennes, reminding us that there must be laughter in our movements, and that laughing together strengthens our movements.

Fund for Santa Barbara’s green, zero-waste spring party celebrates their latest grantees, even as it builds their community and raises a little bit of “green” for the organization.

Those are just two of the many spring events, but we recently brought together executive directors on a call to explore maximizing the benefit of these events – not just as fundraisers but as community-building opportunities. We shared concrete ideas for engaging new people while still having a good time and raising the bar so that these events are leading us to grow in strength and size.

There are opportunities to learn from each other and to share our challenges with one another. From Hawaii to the New England, from the Southeast to the Midwest, we are stronger as a movement because we reach out to and connect with others, building long-lasting relationships across differences.

The work of social justice movements begins with every one of us. Now. Here. Everywhere.