CauseWired News Briefs: 9-25-2021

News from clients, friends and colleagues in the social justice and nonprofit sector.

INTERVIEW: We’re in strong agreement with the goals of the Black Feminist Fund, created this year in partnership with women’s movements across the globe and led by three veterans of philanthropy and social justice. The Ford Foundation is one of the seed funders of the BFF, and has a terrific Q&A up with the founding leadership: Hakima Abbas, Amina Doherty, and Tynesha McHarris, who said this: “Oftentimes our movements aren’t seen because philanthropy creates silos, and Black feminists can’t silo themselves and say, ‘racial justice here,’ ‘gender justice there.’ We want to fund movements doing the most transformative, intersectional work but getting the least resources.” Great read.

RELATED: Our client Sisters Lead Sisters Vote is looking for Black women who ran for office in the 2020 cycle for its in-depth research survey. “Our strength is not only our vote and our relationships with the Black community, but in our collective development and support of Black Women leadership. Our strategy is to amplify Black women’s voices; advance Black women’s political leadership; and expand Black women’s opportunities.” Data helps to make the case.

TERRIBLE MILESTONE: If you haven’t read it already, take the time to look through the report by the National Registry of Exonerations (a CauseWired client) which calls out a devastating milestone: 25,000 years of freedom lost to wrongful convictions in the United States. Innocent Black defendants served a majority of that time — a total of 14,525 years lost to unjust imprisonment. The National Registry of Exonerations reports every known exoneration in the United States since 1989, a total of 2,851 as of today. The NRE’s work is central to the justice reform movement nationally. 

BY THE NUMBERS: Speaking of data, the Vera Institute of Justice (a CauseWired client) has a very effective video that shows the massive scope of over-incarceration in this country. “There’s power in numbers: The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. Every 3 seconds, someone is arrested. Every 24 hours, nearly 3 people are fatally shot by police. And Black people are 3 times more likely to be fatally shot by police than white people. The numbers are daunting. But together, we can change them.” Watch it here. 

ON THE FRONTLINES: When we think of social justice work here at CauseWired, we definitely include frontline direct service organizations as a major part of that community. And during this ongoing pandemic, that frontline work has been absolutely vital to communities and families, particularly in underserved communities. BronxWorks is the largest settlement house serving one of the poorest communities in the U.S. and – while an in-person gala was impossible this year – the organization (where CauseWired founder Tom Watson serves on the Board) made the most of the opportunity to connect with donors, supporters, friends, volunteers and staff. There wasn’t a dry eye on YouTube when this video premiered:

MAJOR MILESTONE: In a very different way, this video from Clinton Foundation also made an important point – it’s been 20 years since former President Clinton opened the Foundation in Harlem, and despite our democracy’s existential challenge over the last four years (and the targeting of the Foundation by disinformation purveyors in the process), its work continues. The key message: putting people first is what matters most.

Corporate Philanthropy and Social Justice: An Unexpected Partnership

By Audrey Levitin 

If you work for any kind of a social justice organization, now is the time to consider expanding your outreach strategy. The corporate philanthropic sector has changed, and employees have more influence than ever before. 

AudreyFrankly, this is new. Before the summer protests of 2020 the corporate sector mostly kept social justice causes at arm’s length – utilizing philanthropy to be good public citizens while avoiding controversy. There has been a sea change. Businesses have become surprisingly and suddenly strong allies to organizations working on equality, fairness, reform, and social justice.

The Black Lives Matter movement forced many in the corporate sector to make a choice. While the NFL did not stand by Colin Kaepernick, Nike did. And the NBA, its players, coaches and management spoke in a unified voice about policing reform. Coaches like Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle and Doc Rivers spoke out publicly, as did many players. 

A report by McKinsey & Company, which tracked corporate responses from May to October of that year, found that while 18 percent of the top 1,000 U.S. companies made internal commitments, like diversifying their hiring, another 22 percent pledged to promote racial equity through donations or other means. Those pledges included $100M from Starbucks, and major commitments from diverse companies like Nike and Amazon; the biggest funding numbers come from the financial sector – Citi, PNC, Bank of America each committed more than $1B and Goldman Sachs says it will give $100 million as part of a 10-year $10 billion investment to advance racial equity and economic opportunities for Black women. 

As someone deeply ingrained in funding for justice reform work – I left the Innocence Project after 15 years as Development Director and joined CauseWired – it’s been fascinating to see corporate support for justice work emerge; justice reform organizations including the Innocence Project, the Vera Institute of Justice, Equal Justice Initiative and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund have been the beneficiaries of significant corporate support.  

The change makes good business sense. Corporations are not bound by the electoral college, and the last Republican to win the popular vote was George W. Bush in 2004. Now hundreds of companies have signed a letter opposing the assault of voting rights. We see this trend continuing. In addition to activist sports figures and celebrities, there are now activist employees. Conversations at DEI committees, human resource departments,and at staff meetings, led to a change in America’s business culture. 

As Lily Zheng wrote last year in the Harvard Business Review: “Corporate Social Justice is a new paradigm that imagines a healthier and mutually beneficial relationship between companies and the communities they interact with. It is driven by the growing desire of socially-aware consumers and employees for companies, especially socially-conscious and forward-thinking companies, to do better. Companies have an opportunity to rise to the occasion and leverage their influence to build a better world for all — including themselves.”

In our work at CauseWired, Tom and I put a social justice lens on our consulting – but we also take a wide view of what constitutes social justice work in the nonprofit community.

Here are four things we recommend you consider when seeking some of the “new” corporate support available for social justice causes.

  1. Seek a low “first step” gift while trying to build a multi-year partnership with the company.
  2. Take the time to see if the company’s philanthropic priorities have changed and who their most recent partnerships are with.
  3. Be sure to center employee engagement as you approach a company. Take the time to review what employees do in the context of their company-connected philanthropy and volunteer work.
  4. Once you find a connection at the company – either through the front door or through a network contact (like a Board member and someone on your Young Professionals Committee), treat that person like a top major donor. Invite them to briefings, personalize all materials, make sure they connect with your leadership.

The world of corporate philanthropy is changing dramatically and in real time. Where doors were previously closed they may very well be opened. A strategic approach that includes employee engagement can lead to new and unforeseen funding opportunities.

Connect with Audrey Levitin about your development strategy. Drop her a line at today.