May 14, 2024

The Courageous Giving Framework: A Philanthropic Strategy to Build a Just Democracy

In Nonprofit Quarterly, fundraising consultant Marsha Davis just shouted out Movement Voter Project as a top vehicle for funding grassroots voter engagement, as a key strategy for maintaining and building on the human and civil rights gains of the last 50 years.
Post featured image

Nonprofit Quarterly just shouted out Movement Voter Project as a top vehicle for funding grassroots voter engagement, as a key strategy for maintaining and building on the human and civil rights gains of the last 50 years.

Read the full piece: OnlinePDF

Key excerpts

“This political moment calls for a comprehensive philanthropic strategy that protects marginalized communities from physical and political attacks while building the economic, cultural, and political power we need to create a future where we all can thrive.”

“The [Courageous Giving] framework consists of four strategic priorities: building the grassroots political power that is an essential component of a truly just democracy; maintaining the civil rights gains of the last 50 years; protecting marginalized communities; and adapting to create nimble, responsive funding structures.”

Why Focus on Grassroots Organizing? [Grassroots efforts and organizations] serve a critical role in maintaining democracy by building civic and political power for communities under attack from conservative and authoritarian campaigns. Grassroots organizations equip and mobilize those most impacted by injustice to take agency in fighting for the world we deserve.”

“We need a comprehensive strategy that is clear-eyed about the urgency of these times while building the infrastructure necessary for long-term wins. I am calling forth a philanthropic approach grounded in courage—the courage to be ruthlessly strategic in the face of current threats while holding an unapologetically hope-fueled vision for the future.”

Full text

We may have never imagined that fascism would be looming in our lifetimes, and yet, this is where we find ourselves. Over the last 40 years, individual donors, corporations, donor-advised funds (DAFs), and super PACs have lavishly funded the right. The results of decades of strategic, unrestricted funding streams are reflected in an effectively organized movement that has gradually shifted toward extremism.

This political moment calls for a comprehensive philanthropic strategy that protects marginalized communities from physical and political attacks while building the economic, cultural, and political power we need to create a future where we all can thrive.

Political and legislative losses in recent years—from the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning abortion rights, to the historic rise of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation—have made clear that rights we thought were well established are under attack. Anyone whom White nationalists deem as “other” (including people who are Black, Indigenous, people of color, LGBTQ+, immigrants, differently abled, and people with uteruses) will experience the most severe impacts of fascist-leaning politics. We now face an urgent crisis—a presidential election that may fundamentally shift the ground that our country stands on.

Progressive funders are moved to do something to respond to these times and are committed to moving resources quickly to protect our democracy. However, the only way we can ensure a truly democratic future is to fund grassroots organizing courageously and strategically. This political moment calls for a comprehensive philanthropic strategy that protects marginalized communities from physical and political attacks while building the economic, cultural, and political power we need to create a future where we all can thrive.

What Is the Courageous Giving Framework?

The Courageous Giving Framework™ is a philanthropic strategy that donors and their advisors can employ to ensure they are working with social justice movements to build a just, multiracial democracy. It calls for funders to be as ruthlessly strategic as our opposition and shift from a defensive posture to an offensive one.

[Grassroots organizations] serve a critical role in maintaining democracy by building civic and political power for communities under attack from conservative and authoritarian campaigns.

As a former resident of North Carolina, I’ve watched as strategic funding to conservative groups subverted the will of the people by shifting a purple state into a gerrymandered red state. North Carolina has become a testing ground for conservative anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and voter suppression tactics that threaten Black queer and trans families like mine. In my consulting practice, I’ve used the Courageous Giving Framework to guide funders activated by our current political conditions and who needed support to discern how to effect long-term strategic change.

The framework consists of four strategic priorities: building the grassroots political power that is an essential component of a truly just democracy; maintaining the civil rights gains of the last 50 years; protecting marginalized communities; and adapting to create nimble, responsive funding structures.

Why Focus on Grassroots Organizing?

Grassroots efforts and organizations are “drawn together by something they have in common that has both personal and community consequences—and grant themselves the authority to solve the problem they are facing or create the future they desire.” They serve a critical role in maintaining democracy by building civic and political power for communities under attack from conservative and authoritarian campaigns. Grassroots organizations equip and mobilize those most impacted by injustice to take agency in fighting for the world we deserve.

In the last decade, powerhouses such as SisterSong and Black Voters Matter have demonstrated the benefits of leveraging collective power in the service of complex systemic change and electoral wins. The last midterm and presidential election cycles have shown how critical these collectives have been in bending the long arc of history toward justice, even when pundits predict otherwise. Raphael Warnock, the first Black senator from Georgia, owes his 2022 win largely to the campaigns of Black Voters Matter and other grassroots voter engagement groups. Grassroots groups like the Asian Pacific Environment Network (APEN) could elect progressive leadership in their city due in part to multiyear funding from the Chorus Foundation. The organization New American Leaders, supported by the Four Freedoms Fund, trained BIPOC grassroots leaders to run for office—65 percent of their alums went on to win local elections.

Thriving grassroots efforts directed by leaders with lived expertise in navigating systems of oppression and a track record of successfully organizing their communities to protect and advocate for themselves are needed most in this political moment.

We need a comprehensive strategy that is clear-eyed about the urgency of these times while building the infrastructure necessary for long-term wins.

Build, Maintain, Protect, and Adapt: A Philanthropic Strategy to Meet This Moment

Inspired by trust-based philanthropy and social justice philanthropic approaches that guide donors on how to fund, the Courageous Giving Framework complements other progressive funding approaches by describing what to fund in these urgent times.

This framework is built on the shoulders of this transformative work and a vision that philanthropic dollars can be a pivotal lever in helping create a just world. Through a strategy centered around building, maintaining, protecting, and adapting, philanthropic efforts can best meet the moment. To this end, where are resources needed now?

Building robust grassroots political and economic power to create a multiracial and multiethnic democracy where all people can thrive

  • Provide multiyear general operating support to grassroots organizations that have a track record of building political power within marginalized communities and are accountable to the bases they say that they represent (Organizations such as Movement for Black Lives and NDN Collective)
  • Fund grassroots organizations to build communications departments to effectively amplify their cultural change work
  • Fund narrative strategy organizations that are building a new vision of our country that includes those who have been marginalized (Organizations such as TransLash, Demos, and Color of Change)
  • Fund pooled funds and donor collaboratives that follow the expertise of the social justice movement leaders to extend your reach beyond the organizations that are currently in your network (Organizations such as Democracy Frontlines Fund, Communities Transforming Policing, Southern Power Fund)
  • Fund and support Black and Indigenous reparations efforts to build a national culture of repair. The right often takes advantage of racial tension to destroy our movements. Building solidarity through repair makes us more resilient in the face of authoritarian movements (Organizations such as Liberation Ventures and Decolonizing Wealth Project)

Maintaining domestic human and civil rights gains of the last 50 years

  • Provide general operating support to think tanks and legal advocacy groups that respond to unjust political threats, voter suppression, and gerrymandering (Organizations such as Campaign for Southern Equality, and Movement Advancement Project)
  • Fund grassroots voter engagement campaigns partnered with social justice movements to ensure robust voter turnout in the upcoming presidential election and increased engagement in the democratic process (Organizations such as Movement Voter Project, Black Voters Matter, and Showing Up for Racial Justice)

Protecting marginalized communities by resourcing mutual aid, community care, and security networks that meet fundamental survival needs 

  • Fund mutual aid networks where community members work together to provide for each other’s needs. Hate crimes have been on the rise since 2014. In 2022, the FBI data reported the highest number of hate crimes since they began collecting this data in 1991. Mutual aid networks will become increasingly important as fascism and the rate of hate crimes rises (Organizations such as Tranzmission and Crown Heights Mutual Aid)
  • Provide general operating support to organizations targeted by digital, physical, and legal security threats in response to their work (Organizations such as Janisha R. Gabriel Movement Protection Fund and MPower Change)

Adapting our strategy in response to the current political context and the insights of trusted social justice leaders

  • Develop a cohort of trusted advisors from the communities you fund who provide insight into the needs of their communities and justice movements
  • Join mission-aligned funder networks to gain access to private funder briefings and other learning opportunities to deepen our understanding of relevant social justice movements (Organizations such as Grantmakers for Southern Progress and Solidaire Network)

We need a comprehensive strategy that is clear-eyed about the urgency of these times while building the infrastructure necessary for long-term wins. I am calling forth a philanthropic approach grounded in courage—the courage to be ruthlessly strategic in the face of current threats while holding an unapologetically hope-fueled vision for the future.

About the author

Marsha Davis is the cofounder and co-CEO of Davis Squared Consulting, a boutique consulting firm that supports nonprofits and funders in operationalizing their social justice values. Courageous Giving is an initiative of Davis Squared Consulting that provides political education and vetted funding recommendations to progressive funders. Previously, she served as the inaugural executive director of the Tzedek Social Justice Fund and was a founding steering committee member of the Reparations Stakeholder Authority of Asheville.

Share:

More Posts

Post image
June 13, 2024
Briefing on Electoral Strategy: “What the #@$% Are We Gonna Do??”
On June 13, we held a briefing to hear MVP partners’ creative strategies to tackle the toughest questions in this dangerously volatile election year. Here's the recording!...
Post image
May 30, 2024
Trump convicted, but “the only verdict that matters is Election Day”
“The real trial is Democracy v. Trump, and the only verdict that matters is Election Day,” admonished Zo Tobi, MVP spokesperson. “Our only defense against a second Trump term is a few thousand hard-to...
Post image
May 30, 2024
‘A political earthquake’: Will Trump guilty verdicts make an impact in close California races?
SF Chronicle just quoted MVP in their piece on the political consequences of Trump's conviction. "Many left-leaning groups blasted out joyous emails and social media posts celebrating the verdict — an...

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter, invitations to our donor briefings, and occasional updates on our work. No spam, unsubscribe anytime.