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US Foundations Supports Social Justice -Study

3 October 2005 at 1:10 pm
Staff Reporter
The largest U.S. foundations provide 11 percent of their grant dollars to support social justice issues.

Staff Reporter | 3 October 2005 at 1:10 pm


US Foundations Supports Social Justice -Study
3 October 2005 at 1:10 pm

The largest U.S. foundations provide 11 percent of their grant dollars to support social justice issues.

The funds were used to provide structural changes for those least well off economically, socially, and politically.

According to Social Justice Grantmaking: A Report on Foundation Trends — the first-ever study to benchmark foundation giving for social justice — support spans all areas of foundation activity, from promoting economic development in distressed areas, to ensuring access to health care for disadvantaged populations, to encouraging diversity in education.

The report has been released jointly by Washington, D.C.-based INDEPENDENT SECTOR and the New York-based Foundation Centre.

Diana Aviv, president and CEO of INDEPENDENT SECTOR says this report on social justice philanthropy will serve as a benchmark of foundation giving to social justice causes, and also increase the understanding of and interest in this vital area of philanthropy.

Aviv says social justice grantmaking exemplifies philanthropy aimed at systemic change, with its goal of reaching beyond specific individuals to improving the lives of whole communities of people.

Social Justice Grantmaking focuses on funding trends from 1998 through 2002 based on an analysis of the Foundation Centre’s grants database, which includes all of the grants of $10,000 and up awarded by more than 1,000 of the nation’s largest private and community foundations.

Among these funders, 749 made 13,355 grants in 2002 focused on improving the well-being of groups of disenfranchised and disadvantaged people.

The report analyses social justice giving by field, recipient type, funder and recipient location, and type of support. It also includes profiles of 26 leading social justice grantmakers.

Social Justice Grantmaking was funded by the Ford Foundation.

A survey of 20 leading social justice grantmakers conducted in February and March 2005 found differing perspectives on the concept of social justice philanthropy.

Although most of the respondents organised their grantmaking around social justice, some expressed ambivalence about the “social justice” terminology. Feeling that many Americans no longer relate to that vocabulary, several of the grantmakers have adopted more neutral and results-oriented language to describe their work.

An additional, small group of respondents is moving away from both the terminology and strategies of social justice grantmaking toward a focus on helping individuals to improve their lives.

The study says that respondents also identified numerous barriers that impede social justice grantmaking, among them the current political climate, the extent of the needs relative to resources available, and a lack of collaboration and new ideas in the field.

Yet despite these deep concerns about the challenges facing social justice work, surveyed grantmakers expressed an abiding commitment to promoting equality and opportunity.

“Highlights” of Social Justice Grantmaking are available at .

INDEPENDENT SECTOR is a Not for Profit, non-partisan coalition of approximately 500 charities, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs, collectively representing tens of thousands of charitable groups in the US. Its mission is to advance the common good by leading, strengthening, and mobilising the independent sector.

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