Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW

Georgianna Dolan-Reilly, LMSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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The Status of Funding and Philanthropy for Social Justice Projects

Do you ever struggle to get funding for your projects or organization? Does your organization partake in social justice work? Well, you might not be alone in your struggle, but things might be looking up…

In Foundations and the Non-Profit field Social Justice work is often defined as work which focuses on creating structural or policy changes which help the less fortunate or underrepresented in our communities such as advocacy efforts, public policy analysis, and community organizing. According to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy , while this work is incredibly important to advancing our services and our society the funding for such projects is severely lacking:

 “A new analysis of social justice philanthropy among the nation’s largest foundations by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy reveals that “social justice” philanthropy comprised 15 percent of grant dollars on average from 2008-2010. In a country experiencing levels of inequality not seen since the Great Depression, that’s less than one in six grant dollars classified as supporting any kind of structural change that benefits the least well off in our communities.”

So why isn’t the funding there? The NCRP suggests several reasons: grantmakers believe funding social justice is illegal, they fear that it might go against the charitable intentions of the founder of the organization/foundation, grants are developed in a way to avoid funding such projects because of a misunderstanding and reluctance to support social justice (a word often viewed as rather ‘liberal’).


Such a situation is very unfortunate for those foundations seeking to assist those in need beyond the therapy room, or who have a well developed ‘change oriented mission statements’ which often grabs attention but always seems un-addressed:

“”The magnitude of societal change envisioned in change-oriented mission statements cannot be achieved through the support of direct human services,” he writes. “Change-oriented mission statements — by necessity — require a foundation to pursue public policy efforts that attempt to fundamentally change how the system operates.”

While the picture may seem bleak, changes towards more funding for social justice efforts do seem to be on the horizon. These changes are limited, but can be heightened by an increased awareness of the benefits of social justice work for grantmakers and for communities. For example NCRP’s research has shown that:

“for every dollar grantmakers and other donors invested in advocacy, organizing and other forms of policy and civic engagement, communities saw $115 in benefits, a tremendous return on investment. These benefits came in the form of increased wages and jobs, broader public benefits and even savings to local, state and federal governments.”

With these benefits in mind t’s time for funders and grantmakers to step up and fund Social Justice work, to stand behind projects that will not only benefit individual clients but also the communities the money is put into on a larger scale, and ultimately the funders themselves.


You can read more about The State of Social Justice Philanthropy in this publication by the NCRP.

For more information about how Grantmakers get get the best tangible results out of their funding you can also check out this article also by the NCRP.

Written By Georgianna Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer

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