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Good morning.

Soon after George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, a foundation board in nearby St. Paul decided it needed to go really big in its work to advance equity.

The result: The Bush Foundation is awarding $100 million to increase the wealth of Black and Native American people. What’s notable is not just the sum but how the money will be distributed. Bush isn’t making the decisions; instead it’s tapping two groups that are immersed in Black and Native American communities, writes Jim Rendon.

The approach is essentially a form of reparations.

“It really goes back to harm caused to those communities from before we were even a nation, particularly around taking land and from slavery,” says the foundation’s president, Jen Ford Reedy.

Bush was poised to act fast because it had been doing significant work to advance equity for many years. Forty percent of its staff is now made up of people of color, compared with 15 percent four years ago.

And unlike many foundations that shroud their staff and process in mystery, the Bush Foundation tries its best to break down barriers. It has a hotline staffed by program officers that anyone can call to learn more about whether Bush might support a nonprofit’s work. And before Covid, it sent program officers out across the region to events, meetings, and conferences to talk with anyone who was curious or interested.

“So many foundations create a moat around them,” Reedy says. “Our approach to equity is tied into this idea of equitable access. We want people to know that the funds exist, and we want them to be able to raise their hand if they believe that they should be considered for that funding.”

The efforts at the Bush Foundation are part of the increased attention foundations are paying to advancing equity. Haleluya Hadero takes a closer look at what’s happening with funding to groups that focus on the needs of Black women and girls.

One key new effort: the Black Feminist Fund, started with a $15 million grant from the Ford Foundation. The fund will be led by activists from across the African diaspora and will serve as the first global hub for Black feminist philanthropy.

“We know that Black women and Black women’s organizations often get very little funding in the global landscape, but Black feminists, and women that are prepared to come out explicitly as being feminist, are severely marginalized,” Nicolette Naylor, the Ford Foundation’s international program director for gender, racial, and ethnic justice, told Haleluya.

Here’s What Else You Need to Know

As Covid-19 rages through India, a new mass fundraising campaign with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other corporate, religious, and world leaders aims to inspire 50 million people worldwide to support equitable global distribution of Covid-19 vaccinations. Launched by the WHO Foundation, the Go Give One campaign aims to mobilize small-dollar donors around the world to give roughly $10 each toward the cost of Covid-19 vaccines, writes Emily Haynes. Organizers also plan to involve businesses through workplace giving campaigns. Facebook has pledged to host a fundraising campaign for the effort and match as much as $5 million contributed through the platform.

A case awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court has the potential to be “the forerunner to a Citizens United for charities.” That’s the view of Roger Colinvaux of Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law. He is concerned about the outcome of Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, a lawsuit that is seeking to strike down a California rule that requires charities raising money in the state to report confidentially the identity of major donors to the state attorney general. If the state is not permitted to make that request, he worries, it’s not a far step until other requirements — such as disclosing the pay of charity leaders — become legally threatened. He says that would be a move toward “throwing transparency in charities into darkness and undermining trust in our nation’s vital civic institutions.”

Despite big and positive changes in grant making practices during a year of pandemic-induced pressures on nonprofits and a nationwide reckoning over racial injustice, foundations need to guard against slipping back to their old ways. Many foundations remain stuck in a mind-set that philanthropy adviser and author Kris Putnam-Walkerly calls “delusional altruism,” a tendency toward illogical behavior that undermines progress. The phenomenon manifests itself in “a fixation on saving money, a belief that moving too quickly could send them down the wrong path, and a fear of losing control.”

And to start your weekend, we have some listening to go along with your reading.

First, you may want to check out — and pass along to colleagues — Stacy’s conversation with Trabian Shorters, founder of BME Community, at the American Express Leadership Academy this week. He offers smart advice for aspiring leaders on how they can ensure the movement for racial equity endures and how his early days as a technology entrepreneur helped him become a better social-change agent. (Hint: It has to do with hacking.)

We also have a Spotify playlist for you on our site: It comes from Eric K. Ward, executive director of Western States Center, as an offshoot of his nonprofit’s work to bring musicians together to close ideological divides. In his essay about the project and the need for philanthropy to fund more cultural responses to threats to democracy, he argues, “Fostering pride in the deep values of democracy — equity, prosperity, generosity — is not the work of politics. It is the work of culture. Cultural efforts grounded in values that unite us are the most promising route to rebuilding an America polarized by ideology and political party.”

Another audio piece worth a listen on the topic of closing divides is not on our site but at This American Life. It delved into work sponsored by the de Beaumont Foundation to devise effective messages to persuade reluctant Republicans to take Covid vaccines.

We hope you find plenty of time to read, listen, and recharge this weekend.

Stacy Palmer and Dan Parks

More News, Advice, and Opinion
Here’s what else you’ll want to read as you catch up this weekend:

What We’re Reading Elsewhere

Here are some of the articles that attracted our attention in the past week. We provide these summaries every day in our free Philanthropy Today newsletter. (Sign up now.)

The U.S. system of food charity has been essential during the pandemic, but it also papers over, or even helps perpetuate, widespread food insecurity. Food banks subsidize poverty-level wages and take the heat off of corporations to pay a living wage. Meanwhile, they give favorable publicity to those same corporations, some of which donate food by the ton. Food banks are often governed by white board members from private industry, a world away from their clients, many of whom are people of color. “Food philanthropy is focused on mitigating rather than ending hunger because it is connected to capitalism by the hip,” said Raj Patel, a scholar of food poverty and philanthropy. “There is so much money to be made in food aid through tax breaks, free publicity, salaried executives, electronic Snap cards.” (Guardian)

MacKenzie Scott’s method of giving away billions — suddenly, with an email or a phone call, and with little online presence or physical infrastructure — makes it the perfect vehicle for scammers, experts say. Sophisticated criminal gangs are pretending to be Scott, targeting vulnerable people with elaborate cons. One single mother in Australia, who had posted a crowdfunding appeal, was lured with the promise of $250,000, which she had to pay a steady stream of fees to “unlock.” The woman said her research turned up no red flags, but by the time she got wise to the scam, she was out $7,900, which she could not recoup because it had been paid in Bitcoin. Criminals in West Africa are running the schemes by setting up dummy bank accounts, one investigator said. (New York Times)

The idea of direct cash payments to people in need is having a moment again, but pilot programs on universal basic income are still inconclusive. The first U.S. city to test the program was Stockton, Calif., where foundations and big donors provided major support. The city saw an increase in full-time work among participants compared with a control group. But that pilot had a sample size of only 125 people, and information on the program and press access to participants was tightly controlled. In Brazil, on the other hand, far more people participated. Almost 68 million people received about $107 a month last year. Once the program ended, though, desperation returned, and people started selling their belongings on the street. (Washington Post)

Last year’s shutdown of religious services accelerated a trend that began more than a decade ago, away from physical collection toward online giving in support of churches and their charity work. The share of congregations accepting online contributions rose from 27 percent in 2006 to 48 percent in 2018. By the time of another study, two years later, 73 percent of churches could accept online donations, and the pandemic pushed about 40 percent of the holdouts to make that option available. Now it is mostly small congregations that do not offer an online option, and some congregation leaders say they will bring back in-person collection as soon as they can for those who prefer using checks or cash. (Religion News Service)

New Grant Opportunities

Your Chronicle subscription includes free access to GrantStation’s database of grant opportunities. Among the latest listings:

  • Refugees. The Refugee Career Pathways Program of the Department of Health and Human Services supports projects that help refugees qualify for licenses and certifications necessary to get a job and improve self-sufficiency. This program requires a partnership with at least one educational institution (e.g., a university, college, community college, or other institution with expertise in career and technical education) to facilitate career opportunities in ways that supplement existing services. Allowable activities include, but are not limited to, case management, training and technical assistance, specialized English language training, and mentoring. The application deadline is June 1.
  • Youth running programs. The Saucony Run for Good Foundation provides grants of up to $10,000 to community groups that initiate and support youth running programs to help prevent and reduce childhood obesity. Program participants must be 18 or younger. Priority will be given to programs that serve youth populations not traditionally exposed to running programs. The application deadline is June 15.