Together for justice

FY 2018 Preliminary Program Plan Assumptions: Advancing Social and Economic Equity

When we announced our commitment to equity last summer, the Weingart Foundation also launched a year of intensive listening within the communities we serve to inform our work developing strategies to advance fairness, inclusion, and opportunity for all Southern Californians. In the months since then, we’ve had in-depth individual phone calls with over 50 nonprofit leaders from across Southern California, and we’ve held a number of intensive community listening sessions. We also held two teleconferences with the nonprofit community, with nearly 200 participants each time.

Anxiety about the new presidency has dominated our listening sessions with nonprofit and community leaders. Grantee leaders are questioning how they should adapt to this new political reality. Many are expressing concern about the prospect of losing the progress that has been gained on issues such as health care and immigrant rights, as well as the possibility of significant reductions in government funding and the elimination of programs for the most vulnerable.

From our perspective, the primary issue remains equity—especially given the changes at the federal level. In March of 2017, the Foundation released a report developed jointly by PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity that documents growing disparities and what can be done to become a more equitable, sustainable regional economy. The Weingart Foundation has taken the findings of this report to heart.

When we ask nonprofit leaders what they think should be at the center of our equity-based grantmaking strategy, the overwhelming response has been, “Keep doing what you’re doing.” Grantees urged the Foundation to maintain our practice of providing multi-year unrestricted funding that allows nonprofits the flexibility to respond to unplanned circumstances and the capacity to adapt. In addition, our grantees have universally endorsed our commitment to equity and urged us to use our voice and influence to encourage others to join us in this work.

With all of this in mind, we have reaffirmed the following Program Plan Assumptions for FY 2018:

  • Underserved communities of color disproportionately bear the impact of social and economic inequity in Southern California. Focusing resources and investments on the low-income families and communities that have been left behind will produce the greatest returns.
  • Service gaps exist in the distribution of nonprofit and public resources available to low-income individuals and communities.
  • Many community-based organizations are unable to meet the continued and projected increased demand for services and programs serving low-income and underserved individuals and communities.
  • Continuing infrastructure challenges limit nonprofit effectiveness, including insufficient unrestricted funding, limited operating reserves, and the failure of government, as well as private funders to support the full cost of providing services.
  • Many organizations providing critical services in low-income communities are small and under resourced and struggle to build their capacity and infrastructure. There is a need to build the capacity of these organizations in order to address service inequities and strengthen civil society in the communities they serve.
  • Foundation leadership is needed in two key areas: I) to engage in and support policy and advocacy efforts resulting in meaningful systems change that increases fairness and inclusion today, and expands opportunities for those facing the most obstacles; and 2) to promote grantmaking policy and practice that supports and strengthens the nonprofit sector, especially in communities that currently have the most obstacles to opportunity.

In addition—given our goal to advance social and economic equity, the urgency of the current political landscape, the need to respond to and protect communities from changing federal policies, and to harness our collective efforts—we have added the following new Assumptions for FY 2018:

  • Equity-based funding means actively soliciting and providing significant support to community-based organizations and collaboratives working in marginalized communities where skin color, ethnicity, address, or economic status has prevented people from realizing the dignities and liberties everyone deserves.
  • Better data with analysis is needed to gain a shared understanding of the equity challenges, to develop solutions and joint action, and to track progress towards equity and growth over time.
  • Funding for advocacy, organizing and leadership development is more urgent and important given projected changes in policy and programs impacting social justice nonprofit organizations.
  • Targeted funding is needed to support collaborative efforts underway in Southern California to address homelessness and threats to immigrant integration.
  • Cross-sector collaboration with state and local government will become more critical in blunting the impact of regressive federal policies related to health care, human services, immigration, education and the environment.
  • In order to promote the health and economic opportunities for low-income populations, strategies are needed that advance equity and growth simultaneously.

We welcome and encourage feedback on these Assumptions. For example, are our findings consistent with your organization’s experience, or do you have a different perspective? Are there important trends or factors that we are missing? Feedback from the nonprofit sector is very important as we work to finalize our Assumptions in the next couple of months. The final Assumptions will guide our FY 2018 Program Plan, which will be released and shared on our website in July 2017, at the start of the Foundation’s upcoming fiscal year. To comment, click here.