A year is the cycle of growth, and together we have learned and grown and gained powerful new insight during this eventful first year of the Democracy Frontlines Fund. I am so grateful for our ten amazing grantee partners, who daily show all of us how to have impact, and for the courage of the dozen funders who stepped up to this moment.
This Fund was born out of last year’s tumult, when we all felt an urgent need to throw out the rulebook and do something more and faster to address systemic racism. We wanted to put unrestricted, multi-year grants into the hands of Black-led organizations that are building power in their communities and advancing movements toward justice and a true democracy. So we got together, and that’s exactly what we did: $36 million over 3 years to ten exemplary organizations. This is money that backs Black organizing across a wide range of issues, from voting to land rights to defunding the police.
But that was only the beginning of the journey. Change takes funding, but it’s about more than funding. Together, the DFF funders began a learning journey that has confronted the deepest, most painful scars and toughest issues: from the racial impact of policing to intersectionality to voting rights and systemic racism. We have sat in discomfort, examined our own preconceptions, shining light in dark places. We have a great guide on this journey in Tynesha McHarris and a strong program lead in Daniel Lau. We are grateful.
This report captures transformation in philanthropy in the act of happening — please share it widely, because we need more of this change, now. Our eyes are burning from colonialist images of Black immigrants felled by men on horseback and whips — and still we feel the exact urgency we felt last year.
Founder, Democracy Frontlines Fund
Executive Director, The Libra Foundation
Under the guidance of the Brain Trust and with commitments from philanthropic partners to do something transformational, DFF was ready to do what it set out to accomplish – move millions to those most impacted by injustice and get out of the way. The following 10 national Black-led organizations are each receiving $3.6M over three years – unrestricted, unburdened, and unapologetic.
These organizations rose to the top because of their exemplary efforts to build sustainable local power, reimagine safety, amplify the voices of disenfranchised voters, and prioritize the leadership of Black, LGBTQIA+, youth, disabled, undocumented, and the formerly incarcerated. Read on to learn more about their 2020-2021 movement- and power-building accomplishments!
Accomplishing robust efforts to get out the vote, collect recent and relevant data about Black communities, policy advocacy and design, and political education, BFL “transforms Black communities into constituencies that change the way power operates—locally, statewide and nationally.” Established by Black Lives Matter Global Network co-founder Alicia Garza, BFL is building the political strength of Black communities with grassroots digital strategies, reaching people all year round, not just during election seasons.
Through community-building, political education, creating access to direct services, and organizing across borders, BLMP is establishing international solidarity amongst Black LGBTQIA+ migrants, ensuring that freedom is within reach for communities targeted by homophobia, transphobia, misogynoir, and other forms of injustice.
Black Voters Matter builds on the legacy of racial justice movement leaders that have transformed democracy. Despite historic suppression, Black voter turnout in the South is changing and progressive leadership is growing.
With seven chapters in cities around the country, the BYP100 membership includes Black activists ages 18-35 creating justice and freedom for all Black people with powerful campaigns, advocacy, events, calls to action, and through amplifying the voices of young Black activists.
“Low ego, high impact” has been the mantra of Blackbird since day one. As a co-creator of strategies and narratives with some of the most influential justice organizations around the country, they reach audiences around the world. They are working with movement leaders and building durable and sustainable infrastructure for multi-year wins that mitigate harms and advance structural change.
Supporting the strategic direction and infrastructure of M4BL leadership as well as the growth of other racial justice coalitions, often operating as a primary fundraiser for underinvested frontline movements across the U.S. and around the world, including the Global Black Victory Lab to support Black feminist organizing in Europe, Southern Africa, and Latin America & Caribbean.
Leading critical movement security and safety measures with expert leaders who focus on cyber, digital, and legal protocols in the face of the growing threat of white nationalism and managing a security team that has developed robust, decentralized, and nimble networks that respond swiftly to attacks.
The CTPF at Borealis Philanthropy invests in the leadership and longevity of community-defined and community-controlled safety. Led by and for those most impacted by criminalization, these organizations are building power to end deadly policing, increase police accountability and transparency, and shift our society from carceral to transformational.
Adopted a participatory grantmaking process to center the leadership of individuals who have been most impacted by policing and criminalization, facilitated by a new grantmaking committee, selected by CTPF grantees.
As of October 15, 2021, CTPF has awarded $4.425 million to 51 groups focusing on decriminalizing poverty, divesting from policing and carceral systems, and developing community based safety strategies to serve as alternatives responses to harm and violence.
The Movement for Black Lives has permanently reshaped the collective consciousness around racial justice issues in America and around the globe. Police murders of Black people have galvanized a mass movement to defund the police and demand justice in ways this country hasn’t seen since the Civil Rights movements of the 1960’s.
Mobilized millions of people through its extensive Vision for Black Lives, a comprehensive and visionary policy agenda for the post-Ferguson Black liberation movement that includes: the BREATHE act calling for divestment of taxpayer dollars from policing and investment in community-defined and controlled public safety; and the Electoral Justice Voter Fund awarding $75K to 12 Black-led organizations that are expanding democracy and building political power in defense of Black lives.
NBFJA is “collectively creating a just food and land revolution” with an intergenerational network representing hundreds of Black food and land stewards across the nation, building bridges between urban and rural populations, training and developing Black leadership, and advocating for policies that cultivate justice and liberation.
Playing a pivotal role in The Justice for Black Farmers Act, which seeks to address the history of discrimination against Black farmers and requires reforms within the Department of Agriculture to prevent future discrimination. In the summer of 2020, members of NBFJA joined with Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and other officials to support the authorship and implementation of this bill, which could make land available to any Black person and/or Black-led organization committed to land stewardship.
Comprising nine organizations with deep roots in the U.S. South – AgitArte, Alternate Roots, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Highlander Center, The Ordinary People Society (TOPS), People’s Advocacy Institute (Mississippi), Project South, The Smile Trust, and Southerners on New Ground (SONG) – the Southern Power Fund supports frontline communities in the South and shares this philosophy with W.E.B Du Bois – “As goes the South, so goes the nation”. Built off of relationships that have been cultivated for decades, the formation is strengthening community resilience through mutual aid, hot zone campaigns, ecosystem and infrastructure development, and the capacity of community controlled funds.
Awarded unrestricted, no strings attached funds, with no proposals or reports, and mobilized institutional philanthropy to give more in right relationship with grassroots partners. Check out this piece in Chronicle of Philanthropy for more about its work.
With over 1200 partners, 22 State Tables (nonpartisan state-based coalitions of democracy-building organizations), and a leadership team and constituency reflecting those it serves, State Voices ensures that “grassroots organizing is centered as the heart of the powerbuilding model.”
In 2020, used the principles of relational organizing to conduct record high civic engagement across 50 states: 228 million voter contacts, 2.1 million voter registrants, 28 million Census contacts, and 228,000 calls made to the Our Vote election protection hotline.
Launched its new Strategic Direction to collectively revitalize their mission: using data and technology, people-powered campaigns, and coalitions to build a multiracial democracy that allows everyone to thrive and live in their full dignity.
Hosted Our Voices, Our Power virtual convening to build, strategize, and explore how to center care and joy in fighting for freedom and a healthy democracy. It is keeping the momentum going by recruiting for its 2021 Data Certification Program on how to use tech to build democracy.
We are the 12 funders who comprise the giving and learning community of the Democracy Frontlines Fund.
Our collective efforts create the $36M commitment in trust-based general operating support over 3 years to the Slate of 10 national Black-led organizations.
After following the lead of the Brain Trust and funding the Slate of 10 national Black-led organizations with general operating dollars, we knew we had our own work to do. The DFF Funder Partners made a commitment to come together in a learning journey to dig deeper into issues of racial justice and equity and examine our roles as philanthropists in this movement moment.
Led by Curriculum and Facilitation Director Tynesha McHarris, the DFF Funder Learning Community is unpacking the legacy of discrimination and racism, discussing movement theories and strategies, building community, and embracing what it means to practice active anti-racism through racial justice grantmaking and allyship.
We know that the year ahead will be a challenging one for our grantees, as COVID lingers, the economy sputters, and race-based fearmongering is an escalating threat to our democracy. Democracy Frontlines Fund will continue to confront the most difficult issues that underlie racism and will stand by our grantees.
Together, we are uprooting the old ways of philanthropy and planting new ones. Thank you for continuing on this journey with us.
We are inspired by the work we’ve done together, reflected in this report. But we also know that a dozen funders and three years are not enough.
We know that movement and power-building is a long term strategy and we need to broaden our transformation and widen our circle.
So I say to other funders who want to be in this space: join us.
Daniel Lau, Virginia Witt, Jennie Goldfarb
Kelly Costa, Brook Gagnon