Press Release

As Court Rules Against Fearless Foundation, Council, Independent Sector Stand by Commitment to Funders’ Right to Give in Line With Values

Fearless Foundation Grant Program for Black Women Will Remain Halted While First Amendment Case Is Heard

WASHINGTON - The Council on Foundations and Independent Sector are disappointed by the court ruling today against the Atlanta-based Fearless Foundation, an organization led by Black women that helps combat underfunding in venture capital by providing grants, tools, and mentorship to women of color. 

The foundation is facing a suit claiming its grant program for Black female entrepreneurs is racially discriminatory. In its decision today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that the American Alliance for Equal Rights has standing to sue, and that the Fearless Foundation grant program must remain halted under a preliminary injunction while the case proceeds in court. 

"Philanthropy comes from the heart, because giving is about supporting the causes and people we care about most,” said Council on Foundations President and CEO Kathleen Enright. “It’s different for all of us, and that’s a strength. The last thing we want to see is a legal environment that further restricts how private resources can be dedicated to the public good. That’s why we’ll continue to stand for the First Amendment protected right to give charitably according to our values. At the end of the day, we want to make it easier to give – not harder.” 

“The court's decision threatens the right of the charitable sector to address urgent, unmet needs and to strengthen communities nationwide in a diversity of ways,” said Independent Sector President and CEO Dr. Akilah Watkins. “In undercutting philanthropy’s basic First Amendment protection, this ruling makes it harder to support historically marginalized groups, and jeopardizes our work to promote equity and justice. Now, more than ever, our sector is called upon to advocate for equitable policies and systems that help us build a nation where all people thrive.” 

The Council and Independent Sector filed an amicus brief in December calling on the court to dismiss this lawsuit and rule in line with the First Amendment that philanthropies and individuals have a constitutional right to donate to charitable causes that align with their values. 

The Council and Independent Sector thank the over 225 philanthropic and charitable organizations standing with us in committing to making it easier for organizations and people to give, across all dimensions of society, not harder.

The Council’s legal team is working to assess the implications of the court’s ruling on grantmakers. While this decision may create new questions for foundations and other organizations, we will continue to help our members legally exercise their values through giving, including programs that support equity and diversity. The Council and Independent Sector will both be monitoring any new developments in the case, including potential appeals. In the meantime, if there are questions, you may reach out to or


About the Council on Foundations

The Council on Foundations is a nonprofit membership association that serves as a guide for philanthropies as they advance the greater good. Building on our 75-year history, the Council supports over 900 member organizations in the United States and around the world to build trust in philanthropy, expand pathways to giving, engage broader perspectives and co-create solutions that will lead to a better future for all. Learn more about the Council and become a member by visiting 

About Independent Sector 

Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse community of changemakers at nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs to ensure all people in the United States thrive. Learn more about IS and become a member by visiting 

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Nicole Bronzan

Vice President, Communications and Content