What is Social Justice Philanthropy?

Social justice philanthropy is the granting of philanthropic contributions to nonprofit organizations that work for structural change in order to increase the opportunity of those who are the least well off politically, economically, and socially.

It includes the following broad categories of activities:

  1. Researching root causes of social problems (like poverty, its implications, discrimination, lack of access to politics, public policymaking and the economy).
  2. Communicating and disseminating this information to the public, with a particular emphasis to reach those who are direct victims of social problems.
  3. Protecting and enhancing the legal rights of those who are marginalized in society or discriminated against.
  4. Strengthening new and/or existing social movements that work for social, political, and economic equity through:
  • Grassroots activism toward the mobilization of disadvantaged and disenfranchised groups;
  • Creating networks or alliances among social justice groups;
  • Community organizing toward increasing opportunity and redistributing socio-economic power;
  • Technical assistance – including board development, inclusion of constituencies and democratic funding processes – for social justice nonprofits;
  • Economic development that increases the socio-economic opportunities of disadvantaged and disenfranchised populations;
  • Environmental causes that ensure that disadvantaged groups are not disproportionately affected by harmful environmental practices;
  • Peace and reconciliation programs that seek to understand and address the causes of conflict; and
  • Advocacy and lobbying to enact changes in government policies regulations and programs affecting disadvantaged populations.

(Source: Independent Sector: Working Group on Social Justice Funding)

Democratizing Philanthropy

As an organization interested in social justice and promoting social change, Social Justice Fund NW has funded a wide range of activist organizations working in communities of color. And Social Justice Fund NW has always believed it is important to reflect the diversity of our society in our own organization, including people of different races, nationalities, genders, ages, and sexual orientation. In the 1990's, Social Justice Fund NW made major strides to become an actively anti-racist and inclusive organization.

In 1997, the Board of Directors of Social Justice Fund NW decided to open membership in the foundation to people with a much broader range of incomes, and thus give Social Justice Fund NW a stronger democratic orientation and allow it to grow into a truly community-based foundation. The minimum contribution to join was first lowered to either $1,000 or one percent of their annual income and then, in 2003, to $240.

As a result, membership soared, bringing an increase in members, more volunteerism, and greater diversity and representation from the communities that Social Justice Fund NW serves, both in the membership and the Board of Directors.

Donor Organizing

Social Justice Fund embarked on the next step of democratizing philanthropy in 2010, with the first Next Generation Giving Project, a partnership with Resource Generation and our pilot Giving Project. NGGP was a huge success. We realized that through the Giving Project model we could not only make philanthropy accessible to an even broader range of people, we could also make it more sustainable and accountable through donor organizing. In 2011, we made Giving Projects our sole model for grantmaking. Through this model, 73 volunteers in 5 Giving Projects raised more than $300,000 from 479 donors, making 30 grants across 5 states. 

Giving Project Learning Community

Learn more about the Giving Project model and other projects around the country.