The Funding Exchange

The Funding Exchange was legally dissolved effective November 21, 2018.

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.

FEX 35 year report cover

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 was legally dissolved effective November 21, 2018.

The Funding Exchange Member Funds

The 16 independent member foundations continue their work as vibrant forces for social change in their regions:

Appalachian Community Fund

Bread and Roses Community Fund

Chinook Fund

Crossroads Fund

Foundation for Change

Fund for Idaho

Fund for Santa Barbara

Fund for Southern Communities

Hawaii People’s Fund

Haymarket People’s Fund

Headwaters Foundation for Justice

Liberty Hill Foundation

McKenzie River Gathering Foundation

North Star Fund

Wisconsin Community Fund of Forward Community Investments

Three Rivers Community Fund