The Funding Exchange (FEX) was a national network of social justice foundations created in 1979 by young activists with inherited wealth who had a “change, not charity” vision of how they felt their money could make a difference. The founding members pioneered a new approach to philanthropy that sought to redefine the power dynamics of giving, perhaps best represented by the policy of involving community activists in grantmaking decisions.
Their model of a new kind of philanthropy inspired a generation of progressive donors and led to the creation of alternative local foundations across the United States. Through the years, FEX helped expand the number of these public foundations and loosely linked them around its national office. This network provided critical seed support to emerging grassroots groups and social movements that other philanthropies considered too new, untested, or controversial, many of which went on to achieve significant impact. FEX played a critical role, for example, in supporting early efforts to combat violence against women, to promote disarmament and stop the proliferation of nuclear power, to advocate for workers’ rights and a living wage, to promote environmental justice and LGBT issues, to fight the rise of right-wing extremist groups, and to advance the U.S.- based Central America solidarity movement.
After nearly 35 years, the board of the Funding Exchange announced in 2013 the planned dissolution of the network and the closing of its national office. The internal and external factors that contributed to this decision are described in the history that we’re sharing.
The archives of the Funding Exchange are at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the Columbia University Libraries and are available for research.
The Funding Exchange Story
This publication tells the story of the Funding Exchange. Its purpose is to provide an honest exploration of FEX’s experience – the network’s significant influence as well as the problems and internal strains that led to its eventual dissolution.
The story offers lessons that have practical relevance for today’s social justice funders and activists, philanthropy scholars, and foundation professionals. It is intended for use, as well, by graduate programs in philanthropy and non-profit management, and anyone interested in the history and impact of social justice grantmaking.
The Funding Exchange Member Funds
The 16 independent member foundations continue their work as vibrant forces for social change in their regions:
The Funding Exchange 2018 Board
The Funding Exchange board members for 2018 are:
- Casey Cook, Board Chair
- Cathy Raphael
- Cindy Chang, Secretary
- cori schmanke parrish, Treasurer
- Darryl Cannady
- David Nicholson
- demetria s. ledbetter, Executive Committee
- Gary Clark
- George Pillsbury
- Jeanne Kracher, Executive Committee
- Karla Nicholson
- Michelle Silverthorn
- Nancy Aleck
- Nick Palazzetti
- Salli Martyniak
- Susan Remmers