Small Survey of Community Foundations Poses Interesting Questions

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November 7, 2011; Source: White Courtesy TelephoneAlbert Ruesga, who is president of the Greater New Orleans Foundation and who writes a sometimes irreverent blog about philanthropy, has contributed a serious piece based on a small survey of community foundations he co-wrote with a colleague. The survey looks at the reasons why many community foundations resist funding social justice work.

Ruesga, by the way, defines social justice funding as grantmaking that addresses the root and/or structural causes of social, economic, or political injustice. An issue that is certainly on center stage right at the moment.

The most interesting (in our opinion) survey finding? 57 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “Many CEOs or trustees of community foundations resist social justice philanthropy because they fear alienating donors.” Ruesga points out that the community foundations, of course, have to raise a certain percentage of current assets each year to meet what is called “the public support test.” The implication is that this issue may be part of what is at play in the attitude.

Ruesga then lapses into considering whether or not the right language is in use to describe the type of grantmaking one might describe as “social justice” related, but we kind of think that the snapshot of caution and first stated reasons for that caution are fairly accurate. What are your thoughts?—Ruth McCambridge