Sign the Funder Pledge—We Did

By Gordon McHenry, Jr., on November 30, 2021 | In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, Covid-19, Fighting Homelessness, Racial Equity, Statements from Leadership

United Way of King County is among many funders in Washington state that are channeling more funding and resources to Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities. As we create opportunities and align with initiatives that we believe will yield lasting results, we spread the word to other funders. That is why United Way signed the Equitable Funder Pledge to invest in BIPOC communities, and we are calling on other philanthropic organizations in Washington (as well as outside donors who fund in the state) to do the same.

We make this call to philanthropy while understanding that funders don’t always appreciate suggestions on when, where or how to donate. Yet many of us proclaim to be about the business of addressing inequities in BIPOC communities – and we pledge not to work in siloes while doing so. Here is an opportunity to advance social justice and dismantle systemic racism by backing, supporting and partnering with the very people we seek to uplift.

And that means signing a pledge crafted by more than 200 BIPOC nonprofit leaders calling on funders of all types and sizes to give more, to fund differently, and to partner with them to address inequities. Thus far, only nine foundations and two United Way organizations (including ours) have signed the pledge. Many philanthropic organizations have not signed the pledge at a time when organizations nationwide are engaging in rare, if not unprecedented, narratives about centering their work on diversity, equity and inclusion following last summer’s uprisings.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, non-profits that serve Black, Latinx, Indigenous and Asian communities were grappling with increasing demands for services such as food assistance, mental health counseling, human services and housing. Now they are stretched to the limits.

Signing the pledge means your organization will commit to increasing an annual payout rate of 10 percent or more, designating all additional funds from the increased payout rate to BIPOC organizations as unrestricted grants of at least five years and financially support BIPOC-led systems change work such as changing unfair tax codes and ending voter suppression.

What is our rationale behind this move? It is threefold:

First, we track our allocations to BIPOC organizations on an annual basis. For FY21, for example, 40% of allocations went to BIPOC organizations, and we aim to increase this percentage each year.

Second, we signed the pledge in conjunction with launching the two BIPOC community funds. The Black Community Building Collective was started in fall 2020 as a participatory funding approach to invest $1.5 million in Black-led organizations. This group of 15 Black nonprofit leaders—who know their communities best—will determine how this funding is directed to support equitable recovery and long-term viability of King County’s Black community. With a $1 million investment, the Indigenous Fund supports four founding organizations of the Coalition to End Urban Indigenous Homelessness. The funds are dedicated to housing and food, and the organizations are employing them for deeply culturally- rooted housing services. Though we’ve had two rounds of funding, we know this isn’t enough. We aim to continue these funds for multiple years.

Third, we’ve seen evidence supporting impact of such a pledge. For example, BIPOC organizations have demonstrated they are more effective than mainstream organizations when it comes to achieving outcomes, and research has shown that when BIPOC organizations are funded adequately, the result is tangible progress that extends to all communities, not just those of color.

The pledge calls all organizations who sign to track their own progress in meeting pledge goals while sharing updates with the BIPOC Executive Directors Coalition as well as inviting other funders to sign.

This pledge is proactive, deliberate and unwavering in its aim to get to the heart of issues facing BIPOC communities. We believe that a dedicated commitment to the tenets of this pledge is a major step in bringing about change in communities that many funders say they wish to see. If you are about results, sign the pledge and support BIPOC organizations.


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