THE POLICE BRUTALITY AND IMPUNITY that led to the deaths of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, LaQuan McDonald, and countless others have once again highlighted the importance of community organizing for social and structural change. With growing national attention on the Movement for Black Lives, a conversation has surfaced across the field of philanthropy on its role in supporting this movement. Funders are asking themselves how best to meet immediate and urgent needs of communities under attack while also building long-term infrastructure for communities to respond in the future.
Read more of William Cordery's essay in the current issue of Grassroots Fundraising Journal
Across the country, chronic underinvestment has left roads, bridges, water systems, and other critical infrastructure in need of replacement or costly repair. Public financing is the least expensive way to meet these needs. But to fund the gap, some states and cities are turning to contracting arrangements called “public-private partnerships,” or “P3s” for short, which use private capital to finance public projects.
If done right, infrastructure projects—however they’re financed—can tackle inequality by boosting economic growth and providing quality jobs for disadvantaged communities. But since capital in P3s is more expensive than in public financing, and the public loses control over many aspects of P3-financed infrastructure, we should demand even more public benefit in return.
Today, along with the Partnership for Working Families (PWF), we released a report to help make sure P3s provide much-needed pathways to the middle class. The report, Building America While Building Our Middle Class, outlines best practices for policymakers considering infrastructure projects—whether publicly or privately financed—to make real economic and social impacts in their communities.
If they include job quality and equity policies, P3 infrastructure projects can be vehicles for creating career opportunities for low-income families, women, people of color, and those with a criminal record. The report describes successful publicly funded projects that have done just that, including the largest project in Seattle’s public works history.
Amidst a political season thick with pro-small business rhetoric, a new study on what states actually spend to help create private-sector jobs reveals a sharp bias against the “entrepreneurial economy.”
In a detailed analysis of three diverse states—Florida, Missouri and New Mexico— the new research finds that at least two-thirds of their economic development spending primarily benefits large businesses. Less than a fifth clearly benefits small businesses, and about an eighth cannot be assigned either way. In total, the study looks at $344 million spent annually through more than 60 programs.
Those are the primary findings of Slicing the Budget Pie for Big Business, released today by Good Jobs First at: www.goodjobsfirst.org/slicingthebudget . All findings and policy conclusions are solely those of Good Jobs First.
“There’s a galling mismatch between how governors and other state officials characterize their support for small businesses and what they actually spend,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First. “We applaud some candidates for federal office who have raised the issue of a federal spending bias against small business; states have the same problem.”
The new study confirms findings Good Jobs First published from 14 states last fall. In Shortchanging Small Business, Good Jobs First examined more than 4,200 individual subsidy awards and found 90 percent of dollars and 70 percent awards going to big businesses—even though the programs examined were open to companies of any size.
The new study is based upon a detailed review of many dozens of state economic development programs and their eligibility and targeting rules, state budgets and tax expenditure reports, and entries in Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker database. In some cases, large samples of program award lists had to be examined to determine the sizes of companies benefiting.
“The bias in favor of big business is compelling evidence that economic development spending has strayed far from its original mission of correcting market failures,” said LeRoy. “An incentive is supposedly intended to enable something that should happen but won’t happen until public dollars reduce private risk. But it’s hard to see how tax breaks are really influencing companies with access to credit, well established markets and deep pools of management talent. Instead, those resources really could help smaller firms still struggling with a credit crunch lingering from the Great Recession.”
The report recommends that states publish their own annual reports on how much spending goes to small firms, lauding Missouri for already doing so. Good Jobs First also again calls on states to spend less on big businesses by rewriting program rules in four specific ways.
In a related report also released last fall, In Search of A Level Playing Field, Good Jobs First interviewed 40 leaders of small business groups with 25,000 member firms. By super-majorities, they criticized state economic development programs as ill-suited for small and growing businesses. Many also recommended a shift in spending priorities towards public investments that benefit all employers.
Good Jobs First is a non-profit, non-partisan resource center promoting accountability in economic development. Founded in 1998, it is based in Washington DC.
In October of 2015, I packed my bags and headed to sunny California to join over 3000 organizers, policy advocates, artists, academics, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and civic officials concerned with bringing equity to marginalized communities at . The summit was incredibly inspiring on a number of levels, and below are a few lessons that I’ll continue to reflect on over the next year:
, President and CEO of , inspired action when she read the organization’s aloud. Her soothing voice and clear, purposeful message magnetized everyone. She invited us to share innovative data and practices that could be used to overcome the gross inequalities adversely affecting marginalized communities of color. Hopes of realizing true equity and social justice in the communities we serve permeated the room.
Following Blackwell’s call to action, Dr. Raj Chetty, professor of economics at Stanford University, presented research findings from the. This data proves that the neighborhood where a child is raised is critical for predicting long-term outcomes, including economic mobility. When children, especially boys, grow up in racially segregated “,” as indicated in his report—they face the least economic upward mobility and the most dire life outcomes. Our collective outrage at these disparities smoldered.
Understandably, inequity stirs up anger and frustration. But, it is this fire that inspires youth activists and captivates philanthropists and policymakers alike
This rage was emboldened and channeled into an overwhelming feeling of optimism when Policy Link aired “,” featuring a poem by Mayra del Valle. When del Valle treated us to a live performance of “This is Our Moment,” it was met with a standing ovation. Her small frame and colossal message served as a rallying cry for the audience, demanding that we all bring our full selves to the task of creating equity by deepening our skillset, meaningfully networking and building unbreakable ties of solidarity. As a drummer and performer with an all-women’s Caribbean folk drum troupe,, I was heartened to see how social justice requires that we address culturally relevant ways of interacting with each other and of giving voice to our concerns and dreams.
It is through this interplay of poetry and dance performances, research, data sharing and candid conversations that we recognize each other’s humanity and learn to take care of it in holistic and dynamic ways. AFF recognizes that in order to best serve young people, we must be mindful of their lived experiences—taking into consideration the societal, personal, psychological, and material realities that impact their life—and engage in multi-sensory strategies that ignite movements.
Youth organizers from the,,,(who work with Lakota Native American communities),(AFF’s Florida-based youth organizing grantee partner) and a host of other youth-led movements captivated audiences throughout the summit. AFF actively supports youth organizing because we believe in the power of youth to direct their own lives and create the solutions they need to the obstacles they face. We also believe that youth organizing is an important component of a vibrant democracy. As a former youth organizer for environmental justice within theand, I whole-heartedly understand the power of youth organizing and the importance of collaboration with older generations.
I thought these insights revealed both the hard-earned stripes youth movement leaders possess and their commitment to bringing everyone in the community along. It was refreshing to witness the candid conversations between senior executives, youth organizers and leaders. I also found it refreshing how humor played a role in the dialogues, which shows how youth and elders can conscientiously build a multi-generational framework that requires reckoning with the present and co-creating the future. They defied the myths that youth are not interested in multigenerational movements or that elders are not thinking about passing on the torch.
Senior Program Associate | Andrus Family Fund
Today marks the 107th observance of International Women's Day. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, we'll have to wait until the 150th observance for the wage gap between men and women to close.
The women garment workers in New York City who marched on this day in 1857 and again in 1908 demanding safer working conditions, a ten-hour day, an end to child labor, and fair wages understood, as do movement leaders today, that we cannot wait. Not only is realizing gender equality in our economic, political, and social systems imperative to women's economic security, it is necessary for those systems to thrive.
More than a century after those demonstrations, media are celebrating what they're calling the Year of the Woman and trusting that Americans will finally recognize the importance of women's economic security. But how far have women come, really, if we continue to see gender-based economic disparities all around us? Could this be the moment when Americans finally stand up and insist that decision makers change policy and address the persistent economic inequality that women, and women of color in particular, have had to bear?
There is reason to be optimistic. We have a viable woman presidential candidate, and there is a very real possibility that the United Nations will have its first-ever woman secretary-general. In addition, women will decide the outcome of the next national election. According to the Voter Participation Center, in 2012 single women drove turnout in practically every demographic, and despite increasing voter suppression tactics that disproportionately target women of color's access to the polls, voter turnout was higher among African American women than any other demographic group. In the process, the national discourse around social, economic, and political disparities affecting women — much of it generated by social movements, community-based organizations, and social-justice philanthropy — has been elevated to a new level.
Philanthropy and community advocates have long pushed for economic security policies with a clear gender-justice frame. Many funders — including the NoVo Foundation and Ford Foundation — have provided crucial support for women's economic security and safety issues. For over four decades, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the oldest public women's foundation in the country, has played a critical and unique role in identifying and investing in new grassroots leadership and providing capacity building support to local women-led campaigns and initiatives.
Over the past several months, Surdna Foundation has begun to forge a partnership with the Ms. Foundation. In 2015, the Ms. Foundation invested in the development of a women's economic agenda in Mississippi through a partnership with the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative. Through the "Making Mississippi Women Secure" campaign, which held eight town hall meetings across the state, women and women of color deeply connected to Mississippi were able to provide their input and shape policy priorities that reflected their own lived experiences, including a focus on higher-paying jobs for women, affordable access to education, affordable child care, and other issues that have a profound impact on working women and women who want to work.
The partnership with the Ms. Foundation creates an opportunity for Surdna to refine and strengthen its organizational analysis on gender-based economic disparities and empowerment, including issues of job quality that directly impact women, particularly women of color. To that end, the foundation has begun to articulate its commitment to addressing economic insecurity faced by millions of low-wage women. For the past several years, Surdna has funded organizations that have been working to advance women's access to economic security through innovative campaigns that are transforming many sectors of the low-wage economy and broadening the scope of workplace policies.
That's why Surdna has invested in the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United), two organizations dedicated to making industries like home health care and food service that primarily employ low-income women of color more equitable and economically secure. They have also succeeded in conferring dignity on work that is done by a too-often exploited workforce. Others have been moving local and state policy campaigns for earned sick days and family medical leave, and organizing and advocating on behalf of equal pay for caregivers.
This September, the work of Surdna and the Ms. Foundation's grantee partners will be amplified at a national Working Women's Power Summit where more than a thousand organizers, advocates, and civic leaders will gather to advance a comprehensive women's economic agenda that includes and addresses fair pay, paid sick and family leave, elder care and child care, health care, immigration, voting rights, and criminal justice reform.
With increased investment in women's funds and grassroots leadership, we can achieve gender equity in the economy. As Surdna and other funders move to further develop gender-based analyses of their economic justice funding, we are keeping in mind those marches of more than a century ago and how much farther we have to go.
William Cordery (@WilliamCordery) is a program officer in the Strong Local Economies program at the Surdna Foundation. Aleyamma Mathew (@Aleyamma17) is the director of the Women's Economic Justice Program at the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Created in 1917, the Surdna Foundation is a family foundation that has remained committed to a mission that captures its founder, John Emory Andrus’s beliefs: “Fostering sustainable communities in the United States guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies and thriving cultures.” Aside from the mission however, little else about the foundation has remained the same.
Phillip Henderson, president of the Foundation since 2007, reflects that, “It’s been both an honor and a challenge to take on such an incredible legacy,” admits Henderson. “And it is no small task to keep Andrus’ vision alive and compelling to modern changemakers.” One of the unexpected struggles was simply explaining who Andrus was to his many far-flung descendants—and why his vision still matters a century later.
The Surdna team pushes themselves continuously and fearlessly to re-examine and re-interpret the organization’s philanthropic mission in the context of our time. The organization must work every day to answer several key questions—“What are the values espoused by the family? How do we make the work relevant, but still responsive to their values?”—then find ways to introduce new ideas and experiences (as well as challenging existing ones) to the foundation’s grantmaking.
Here are three examples of how the Surdna Foundation is creating its own fearless path forward:
In Henderson’s President’s letter from Surdna’s 2014 annual report, he reflects that “Foundations are uniquely independent [organizations]… we believe we are most likely to stay on track if we remain committed to constantly pushing ourselves to take risks and to innovate. But also to analyze our successes, and especially to admit to and examine our failures.”
He goes on to detail a pivotal fail forward moment for the Foundation and one of its grantees that would later help to define its overall strategy:
These days, Henderson would add, “You can call it failure or understanding. We approach the world assuming we don’t know everything about the future, so we try stuff. Some things will work well and some won’t. Most things we do don’t work out exactly as we imagined.” To get better at learning, including learning from failures, Henderson explains that “we are increasing the relative time, energy, and attention we allocate to the ’back-end’ of grant making—long after the award has been made but when the work begins to yield learning. This is where we will find out how we are making progress or if—and why—a project is coming up short.”
Like many other foundations Surdna has begun to explore impact investing and how it can deploy more of its capital toward its goal of achieving greater impact. We think of impact investing as the next step in what has been a long history of funding market-based strategies, along with policy and practice, to achieve the type of systemic social change we are focused on.
Several years ago, Surdna began implementing program related investments (PRIs)—an additional two percent of its endowment on top of the five percent it was already allocating for grant making annually. In the , the team shared examples of some of its early PRIs. “We made an exciting PRI to support people of color and women running small businesses that allowed entrepreneurs to access government contracts. We also invested in regional food distribution, giving small- and mid-scale food producers a way to sell locally and resulting in more urban neighborhoods with access to affordable, healthy food from their own regions.”
Leadership at Surdna goes on to state in the Annual Report, “And we’re now discussing how we might expand our impact investing even further—beyond PRIs—to include aligning our endowment with our mission. Our board is excited to explore using our investment capital—not just our grant dollars—to contribute to social change.
Henderson says that working collaboratively has allowed Surdna to pool its dollars, leverage partners and incentivize others, which ultimately grows the pot and helps the foundation scale up the transformative work being done by its grantees. One such example is Partners for Places, which is a matching grant program for national funders to invest in local community projects that promote a healthy environment, a strong economy and well-being for all residents. Surdna is one of six funders that support Partner for Places in an effort to encourage sustainability focused grantmaking. To date, Partners for Places has awarded more than $2.5 million across North America.
Through Surdna’s efforts to innovate with others, they have learned reaching beyond one’s bubble can ultimately help funders, grantees, policymakers and community leaders reframe how they work on issues, create new champions and ultimately deepen impact in the field.
“We’re paying attention all the time to who the other actors are in the space,” says Henderson of the ways Surdna exemplifies the Be Fearless principle of reaching beyond their bubble. “We’re not on the ground doing it, but rather we are identifying key innovators in that space and trying to give them funding and create connections.”
The Surdna Foundation’s embrace of a fearless approach has helped it stay true to its core mission while also allowing it to evolve for the next century of changemaking.
Becomes Vice President, Programs at 99-year old family foundation.
The Surdna Foundation announced today that Betsy Fader, a leader in the philanthropic and social enterprise sectors, with experience in building and managing organizations across issue areas, has been appointed Vice President, Programs. Betsy, who will begin on March 30, will report to Surdna’s President, Phillip Henderson.
Betsy will focus on implementing even greater collaboration across the foundation’s grantmaking programs and administrative areas to further increase the impact of its programmatic investments. The foundation’s strategic plan, or Roadmap, identifies collaboration as critical to its success and has aligned its systems and staff to support this type of work.
Betsy is the Advisor for Strategy and the Director of the Program on Biomedical Research Infrastructure at the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. In her dual roles at the New York-based Trust, which she joined in 2012, Betsy works closely with the CEO on organizational development, internal processes and staff cohesion while also managing the $10+ million annual Program on Biomedical Research Infrastructure, which she developed. The program was designed, in part, to facilitate collaboration between the Trust’s health-related programs.
Phillip Henderson, commenting on the hiring of Betsy Fader, said, “We’re thrilled to have Betsy join the foundation. She not only knows the foundation world intimately, she’s also one of those rare and creative philanthropic professionals who is both an innovator with numerous successes to her credit, and an adept manager of complex organizations.”
Henderson continued, saying that Betsy’s embrace of equity aligns with the foundation’s mission and makes her the ideal addition to the foundation as it continues to learn how best to provide access to opportunity for those communities that have been marginalized by structural injustices.
In undertaking her new role, Betsy expressed, “The opportunity to support the work of the Surdna Foundation is enormously exciting to me. The organization has an impressive track record both as a leading family philanthropy and as a supporter of social justice. I am eager to offer my varied experience in the sector to enhance their outstanding work.”
Prior to her work at Helmsley, Betsy worked for more than 14 years at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), serving most recently as Chief Program Officer. At DDCF she created the foundation’s grants programs focusing on child well-being and improved US-Islamic relations and also helped oversee the foundation’s work in the environment, performing arts and medical research. Before joining DDCF, Betsy was the executive director of Student Pugwash USA—an arm of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization – which focused on science and social responsibility. Early in her career, Betsy worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, DC, and as a parliamentary assistant in the U.K.’s House of Commons.
Betsy holds a Master's degree in Education and Social Policy from Harvard University and a B.A. in Political Science from Vanderbilt University, where she later served as a trustee. She served for 13 years on the board of Echoing Green, a global nonprofit that provides seed funding and technical assistance to emerging social entrepreneurs; and continues to serve on the Board of Power My Learning (formerly Computers for Youth), a national nonprofit that leverages technology to enhance the interactions among students, teachers and parents so that all students can succeed.
Betsy joins the Surdna Foundation as it prepares to celebrate the centennial of its founding in 1917 by philanthropist, elected official, and businessman John E. Andrus. Believed to be one of the oldest continuously family-governed foundations, Surdna (which is Andrus spelled backward) aims to foster sustainable communities in the United States—communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by sustainable environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.
About The Surdna Foundation
In the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015, the foundation approved $34.2 million in grants primarily through its three main programs: Strong Local Economies, Thriving Cultures, and Sustainable Environments. The foundation currently has $5.95 million in program related investments.
In December, Phillip Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation, shared a captivating travelogue as part of the Cleveland Foundation's FRED Talks series. The event marked the 10th anniversary of the Greater University Circle Initiative, a collaboration among the city's leading anchor institutions, philanthropies, financial institutions.
Checks landing in the mailboxes of nonprofit organizations with foundation return addresses have long been considered philanthropy’s most important currency. Reflecting that view, family foundations have tended to focus their operations, self-image, and their very reasons for being on getting the dollars out the door.
The National Center for Family Philanthropy’s recent benchmark Trends survey seems to confirm this with the finding that by far the most common activity of family foundation boards is grantmaking deliberation: 90 percent of family foundations, regardless of age or size, indicate this is where they spend most of their time and energy. It’s not for nothing that the Surdna Foundation and thousands of other family foundations are called grantmakers: we make grants.
Read Phil Henderson's essay in Family Giving News
How can cities redeploy their economic development resources to focus on building a more inclusive economy grounded in broad, local ownership? How can policymakers get strategies like worker cooperative development the support and resources needed to reach truly meaningful scale? How can collaborations between communities, local government, and key institutional stakeholders build pathways to economic equity for the people left behind by the traditional trickle-down economic playbook?
These were the question on the agenda during the "Cities Building Community Wealth" gathering convened by The Democracy Collaborative on January 29th, 2016, at the CUNY School of Law in New York City. Hosted by CUNY Law's Community and Economic Development Clinic—a major partner in the coalition that has doubled the amount of worker cooperatives in NYCover the past year—and supported by the Surdna Foundation, the half-day event brought together mayors and heads of city economic development departments together with key allies and community advocates for a discussion of the emerging policy frameworks for creating more inclusive cities.
Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.