New Initiative Rallies Philanthropy Behind Black-Led Grassroots Organizing

By The Libra Foundation - October 9, 2020

Amid an unprecedented national reckoning on racial justice, The Libra Foundation has rallied foundations from across the country to establish the Democracy Frontlines Fund, a new initiative to provide sustained support to frontline, Black activists leading the movement to end systemic racism. Funding partners include the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Schmidt Family Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, among others.

The Democracy Frontlines Fund is an innovative funding model that supports a slate of 10 frontline organizations curated by a brain trust of women of color with deep experience funding social movements. The Fund will funnel $36 million to Black activists at the frontlines of the movement for racial justice over the course of three years.

“Our goal is to move from transactional to transformational philanthropy,” said Crystal Hayling, Libra Foundation’s executive director. “That means listening and being guided by a different type of expertise than the think tanks and consultants that usually frame foundation strategy.” 

“This is a gamechanger,” said LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute. “Multi-year support gives us room to plan for our long-term growth, and we can build real relationships with foundations we wouldn’t otherwise have known.”

The Democracy Frontlines Fund disrupts traditional grantmaking to Black communities by replacing short-term, administratively burdensome giving with sustaining, unrestricted, multi-year support. This new design will bolster Black activists as they take on the civil rights challenges of our time. Democracy Frontlines Fund grantees have created a network of trusted voices in communities that are training the leaders and building the vision for our collective future.

“For too long, communities of color have been marginalized and silenced in pursuit of their most fundamental rights,” said Joe Sciortino, executive director of The Schmidt Family Foundation. “Now is the time for philanthropy to increase their support of frontline Black organizations and communities and to recognize that doing so is critical to their own missions.”

Critical to the success of the three-year initiative, the Democracy Frontlines Fund creates a learning community for foundation leaders to deepen their understanding of racial justice grantmaking by having hard conversations and building authentic relationships with the grantees.

“The Democracy Frontlines Fund provided an opening to join our philanthropic peers and put our confidence in women of color advisers, who will direct our support to nonprofits on the frontlines of the racial justice struggle,” said John Palfrey, president of the MacArthur Foundation. “We are investing in Black-led organizations at the vanguard of grassroots social justice organizing to lead the transformation of our democracy.”

More information on the 10 Black-led organizing groups receiving grants, the brain trust, and the foundation partners is available here. Inside Philanthropy also published a more detailed feature on the initiative, which can be downloaded here.

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