Political, racial, religious, and social tensions seem to be at an all-time high in the United States. Fortunately, in order to channel our frustration or fear into something positive, we can donate to causes  that support our beliefs and morals. This easy action can create systemic change – alleviating the root causes of current issues. Social justice philanthropy is a sub-sector of philanthropy that funds the causes of economic, social, and environmental inequalities. By donating to an organization that funds social justice, you address the issue’s cause thereby targeting the elimination of that issue.

For example, a donor provides funding for a scientific study that determines why children become ill after drinking water from a stream in rural India. This study will determine that the bacteria within the water infects the children. Eliminating the bacteria addresses the root cause of the issue. If someone were to fund treatment for children after they drank the contaminated water, this would not eliminate the problem.

According to the Foundation Center, social justice giving increased more quickly than overall foundation giving between 2002 and 2006 (source). Evidently, Americans invest in long-term solutions to current challenges. In order to provide depth to this complicated sub-sector of philanthropy, let’s dive into the core components of social justice philanthropy.

Diversity and Inclusion

Social justice funders incorporate diversity and inclusion within their strategies. As these organizations seek solutions to community-wide challenges, it’s imperative that diverse individuals participate in strategy design and program implementation. Diverse individuals push the boundaries of current thinking and discourage groupthink. Many societal inequalities are multi-faceted and complicated; therefore, it’s important that individuals with a variety of experiences contribute to their solving. (To learn more about the importance of diversity and inclusion, read our blog post here.)

Community Empowerment

Beyond forums and open house discussions, social justice funders include the community in decision making. The communities themselves best understand their needs and challenges. These community members offer insight during the research gathering phase of the project. Afterwards, they contribute to the decision-making process on fund requests and project implementation. This will ensure buy-in from the entire community, and they will commit to eliminate all forms of inequalities. 

Responsive Grantmaking

Social justice funders respond to community member needs with agility. Although these needs are complicated, these funders recognize the importance of action. By pigeonholing themselves into one aspect of funding, they may miss opportunities to fund new, innovative projects. Community members who previously may not have participated in philanthropy may have unique ideas with merit. Responsive grantmaking is the perfect arena to try out these programs. (To learn more about responsive versus strategic grantmaking, read our blog post here.)

Social justice philanthropy is a multi-faceted form of philanthropy that encompasses a wide variety of causes and issues. Despite the challenge in eliminating racism or sexism, ultimately, we all prosper when those with the least also prosper. We encourage you to explore the realm of social justice philanthropy and find a cause or organization that speaks to you.

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