Leveraging Equity to Defund Hate: Values-Aligned Philanthropy in Practice

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 9:44 am
Eric J. Jolly

Many of us know that the philanthropic community has a critical role to play in addressing the increase in hate and hate crimes, but it’s not easy to figure out how to tackle this work.

The Council on Foundations’ white paper, Values-Aligned Philanthropy: Foundations Resisting Hate and Extremism, provides an important and insightful look at our sector’s common challenges in preventing the funding of hate. I applaud the white paper’s eight meaningful and concrete recommendations that will help us coordinate and align our practices—a powerful proposition.

Like many of our community foundation peers, at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, we have already begun to implement these recommendations and similarly aligned actions, recognizing that the presence of hate in our community is in direct opposition to our aspiration to create an equitable, just and vibrant Minnesota where all communities and people thrive.

Included in our efforts was a retrospective review of our grantmaking, to understand our past exposure to funding hate groups, and the implementation of a screening tool, which, as the resource points out, is not a clear-cut solution. We are working with several partners to broaden our tool to be more nuanced and complete.

However, I’d like to take a step back.

With this publication in hand as a helpful framework,I submit that we must also work together to eradicate the conditions that have allowed for hate groups to thrive in the first place.

In this vein, the white paper surfaced an important question: “At a time when many foundations have made commitments to become more inclusive and equitable, how does this work connect with that of preventing hate funding?”

Equity and inclusion work is perhaps our greatest lever to dismantle hate; with reflection, investment, and change, we can strive to establish a society where everyone is valued, respected, and afforded the same opportunities to thrive economically and socially. There are numerous ways we can go about this work, and I’d like to offer a few.

First, central to our progress as a sector is our ability to give away power. To speak bluntly, it is easy to give away money; it is much harder to give away power.

The Council’s new strategic direction asserts that “the more we let go of control and power, the more others can lead. The more we let others in, the better ideas and relationships become. That’s how we create trusted partnerships, and a world where all people and the environment can thrive.” I agree. We must ensure that our communities are setting our agendas, that those who stand to benefit from any intervention are the ones who also form the interventions and inform the priorities on which we are focused.

Secondly, we must do our best to bring everyone along. The paper stated that “bringing board, staff, donors, and stakeholders into alignment can be a challenge. Each group has different priorities and considerations and adding a wide spectrum of political beliefs can complicate things further.”

Many of our Foundation’s fundholders support social change, but they don’t always feel equipped for today’s conversations. Phrases such as BIPOC, LGBTQIA, and the use of non-gendered terms are unfamiliar to some of them. And so, we created a forum for our donors to ask questions and to learn. We have also engaged all of our staff and board in the same DEI training, giving us a shared experience from which to communicate. These actions might sound basic, but sometimes our societal disconnects are rooted in the questions not asked.

Lastly, we can’t do this alone. As foundations, we can’t be insular with our work, we must create bridges for our partners across all sectors to join us in advocating for equity and dismantling hate, in whatever forms it shows up.

I am hopeful that by adopting the recommendations in the Council’s Values-Aligned Philanthropy white paper, we can eradicate the spread of hate while we work together to create a society where it can’t take root in the first place.

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