The COVID-19 health and economic crisis and uprisings for racial justice have affirmed what has been increasingly clear to us at NFF over the last four years: the potential and importance of community-centered leaders of color to drive progress on a wide range of social issues. They understand their communities’ aspirations, know the challenges their communities face, have the greatest stake and accountability in solving them, have the clearest insights about how to do it, and represent communities who will be the new American majority in a generation.
But our social sector funding system generally fails them. Funders are too often distrustful of leaders of color, dismissive of lived experience as a form of expertise, and unwilling to give up control. And race-neutral policies often unintentionally exacerbate the inequities funders seek to address. We know because we have been a part of this system.
We are now committed to do our part to change ourselves and the funding system we help influence. We are on a mission to support community-centered organizations led by and serving people of color to gain control of the financial resources and knowledge they need to realize their communities’ aspirations. This is a moral imperative, because all communities have the right to determine their own path forward. And it is the greatest opportunity we have as a society to get better results from donations and government funding.
Where are we now?
NFF has helped nonprofit leaders tap into their power for 40 years by mobilizing financial expertise and tailored investments so they can deliver on their mission with greater resilience, confidence, and agency. We have learned that living our values when we show up is as important as technical expertise. And we have come to appreciate that, especially in communities of color, our work must begin with a recognition that finance has been a historic source of trauma, not potential, for many of the people, organizations, and communities we serve.
While we have a long way to go, we have worked actively to build a more equitable organization since being challenged by clients and team members of color in 2016. Our Board is now over two-thirds people of color, our team half people of color, and three of our seven Leadership Team members are Black women. We have an explicit strategic vision to use our capabilities to drive equity in social sector funding and financing and launched an internal Social Innovation and Equity Council to push internal and external changes to implement it.
Where are we going?
Especially in this national moment, we recognize that we must step beyond this important foundational work. We will make a difference based on what we do not what we say and must be accountable to action, not intention. To make our strategic commitment to racial equity concrete and accountable, we are launching “Plan 50%+.” In 2021 we will:
- Invest $25 million in organizations led by people of color, half our total lending.
- Provide deep consulting services to 100 organizations led by people of color, half of our deep consulting.
- Build an NFF team in which people of color hold half of leadership positions (our team is already more than half people of color overall).
- Commit half of our advocacy to promoting more racially equitable funding practices, and center our clients’ insights in our external communications.
- Model what it means to be an equitable intermediary by more consciously putting our access and resources to work for clients and convening an external panel to provide guidance and accountability.
- Serve as trusted advisor to three networks led by people of color, helping them to access financial insight and investment capital to meet their aspirations.
This is the next important step in a longer journey we take, knowing we have much to offer and even more to learn. Over the next five years we aim to invest $250 million in community-centered organizations led by and serving people of color, train 750 leaders of color with the financial knowledge they need to measurably increase control of their organizations’ financial future, become a trusted financial partner for 10 people-of-color-led networks or movements to support their ability to mobilize resources and shift funding practices, and transform who we are and how we work, relentlessly putting our clients’ interests first and also using our vendor relationships to promote racial equity.
What does this add up to?
We believe our country is poised to recognize the leadership potential of community-centered organizations led by and serving people of color. Alongside those leaders and aligned partners, we will help shift how money is created, raised, invested, and spent, in ways that measurably increase their control of resources and ability to spark sustained progress.
Together with our inspiring clients, committed partners, and investors, we will create the conditions in which finance can be a force for social justice that advances equity in our time.
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