Funding a Dream, not an Issue Area

Tactical Philanthropy is currently covering the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference with the help of a blog team. This is a guest post by Teri Behrens of The Foundation Review.

By Teri Behrens

image What I loved about this morning’s session, How Movements Work and How to Support Them, was both the framework for understanding social movements and the humor and candor of the presenters.

Manuel Pastor (USC) shared his framework: ten fundamental elements, six capacities, three key warnings for funders, and three key drivers (The full report can be accessed here). Two of the crowd favorites: having a vision is a fundamental element – “Martin Luther King had a dream, not an issue.” Funders were warned, “Don’t think you as a funder ARE the social movement – you are not the change you seek in the world.”

I appreciated the unabashed support of developing and using this knowledge to support a progressive agenda. “The left is often proud of its principled losses.” Funny, sad, and true! Much can be learned from how the conservative movement (and the recent Tea Party manifestation of it) has grown. Making sure to keep a broad base while connecting with the policy makers at various levels is critical.

Funders need to understand where a movement is in its developmental cycle in order to identify where and what kind of support is needed. Is the movement still building its infrastructure of committed leaders and organizations? Is it ready to build a broader identity and shared intentions? Is the time ripe for “social combustion” – for the movement to take off? Or is now the time to think about how to consolidate the wins?

Taryn Higashi (Unbound Philanthropy, formerly Ford Foundation) applied the framework to immigrant rights work. She talked about the need to bring funders together to provide the long-term support needed for movement building (one of the key drivers in Manuel’s framework). Be willing to fund for 20 years if necessary!

Matt Foreman of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, used the framework to analyze the GLBT movement. (Matt pointed out that he has been lucky enough to be paid to be gay for the past 20 years – great work if you can get it.) One strategic decision the GLBT movement leaders made was to pursue marriage equality, rather than to continue to focus on less-emotional – and less visionary – goals such as workplace discrimination. While this intensified the opposition, it also has inspired activists to aim higher and achieve more.

The session closed with each attendee being asked to share three words to sum up their reactions to the session. A key learning from this: many GEO members do not know how to count.

One Comment

  1. Linda Wood says:

    Teri, thanks so much for your comments. As far as I can tell, this seems like the post that was tweeted and retweeted the most!