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Welcome to the Giving Thought Podcast, a bi-weekly exploration of trends in global philanthropy and civil society from the Charities Aid Foundation’s in-house think-tank, Giving Thought.

In each episode your host Rhodri Davies (formerly with co-host Adam Pickering) explores a big issue, theme or trend and analyses what it means for philanthropy and civil society around the world.

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Jun 29, 2021

In this episode we're joined by Lori Bezahler, President of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation, to discuss the role of philanthropy in supporting racial justice and funding grassroots organizing or social movements. Including:


Racial Justice

  • Is racial injustice such a big/cross-cutting issues that it should not be seen as a cause area, but rather as something that is the responsibility of ALL philanthropic funders and nonprofits?
  • What does this mean in practice re racial justice issues? (E.g. supporting more grantees led by BIPOC leaders, promoting more BIPOC employees into positions of authority within foundations, acknowledging where philanthropic assets have been created in ways that exacerbated racial injustice, paying reparations etc?)
  • Should we be optimistic that the current recognition of the need to apply a racial justice lens across philanthropy will be maintained?


The “Movement Moment”

  • Is the current enthusiasm for social movements reflective of a frustration people have that traditional nonprofits have failed to move the needle on issues such as the climate crisis or racial justice?
  • Is the fact that participation is inherent to the approach of social movements part of their appeal, as it gives people a greater sense of agency over problems that can seem insurmountable?
  • Are traditional nonprofits and funders too often a reflection of existing systems and power structures to push for the kind of radical solutions we need to deal with huge global, structural challenges?
  • Does the ability of social movements to be more overtly political, or to employ more challenging tactics (e.g. protest, direct action), give them an advantage over civil society organisations (CSOs) that might be more constrained by legal/regulatory requirements?
  • Can movements that have grown to huge scale very quickly find that they are lacking some of the elements of organisations infrastructure that they might need if they are to be sustainable over the longer-term? If so, can traditional CSOs and nonprofits work with them to provide some of that infrastructure? Does this happen in practice?


Funding movements

  • How can a funder determine where best to allocate their resources in order to support a movement most effectively?
  • How big a risk is there that foundations and other funders co-opt social movements by deliberately introducing grant stipulations etc. aimed to direct the focus of the movement away from controversial areas or soften their tactics?
  • Can funding from donors/foundations confer legitimacy on movements as well as financial resources? Is this useful for the movements?
  • Can funders use their power positively on behalf of the movements they fund?
  • Why is core-cost and multi-year funding so important when supporting movements? Are we seeing more funders recognise this and adapt the way they fund?


Spending Down

  • The Hazen Foundation took the bold decision in 2019 to spend down its remaining endowment over 5 years. What was the rationale for doing this at this point, after nearly 100 years of operating?
  • What is the foundation aiming to fund over the coming years to ensure the foundation leaves a strong legacy?
  • Should more foundations should consider spending down?


Mission Related Investment

  • Why did the Hazen Foundation decide to take a fully mission-related investment approach? What does this mean in practice?
  • Does this involve going beyond screening to look for active opportunities to invest in activities that further the foundation’s mission?
  • How are trade-offs between financial return and social impact assessed?




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