The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice is regranting intermediary funding at the intersection of climate, racial, and gender justice. Their work is geared toward accelerating the transition to cleaner renewable energy by elevating women of color leaders, specifically those in the US South who often go unrecognized and underresourced. That work is vital, yet it is full of the now familiar traumas of being a woman leader of color. This led the Hive Fund to create the Healing Justice and Holistic Security grantmaking program—aimed at providing BIPOC women leaders and their communities with tools and practices needed to heal and combat threats to digital, physical, and psychological safety.
The Hive Fund’s Beginnings
When the Hive Fund launched in 2019, it was a time when young people, primarily young women, were leading strikes and climate advocacy movements all across the nation, explains Melanie Allen, the codirector of the Hive Fund. However, when she and her team looked at philanthropic budgets and funding, BIPOC women-led movements were almost invisible. This pushed the team to create a grantmaking program that prioritized people accomplishing vital work but treated as an afterthought by other philanthropists.
With a deep dive into the research, they identified the US South as the place to focus their efforts. “That was not only kind of a philanthropic blind spot, but where we…saw so much opportunity and also so much activity,” Allen explains. They recognized that women of color in the South have often been the momentum behind many of the major movements in this country.
When…the Hive Fund looked at philanthropic budgets and funding, BIPOC women-led movements were almost invisible.
In February 2020, the Hive Fund gathered frontline leaders from every state in the US South for a meeting in Atlanta. “Initially we thought we were going to look at all of our values and just really try to set the structure and figure out what this fund was going to be,” Allen says. But once these women leaders started sharing stories, it was the first time that many of them felt seen and heard in a community of peers.
Allen expected the meeting to be no longer than two hours, but it ended up having to be extended another day. The gathering revealed that leaders were in deep need of support for the isolation and pain that they were feeling. This space helped them see that they were not alone.
“Like most great ideas, [the grantmaking program] started with women in conversation, sharing their personal experience, and thought that they could make an intervention,” Allen remembers. These Southern frontline leaders and women in philanthropy all had similar stories about getting just pennies on the dollar compared to organizations led by men or White women.
“So, we began to really ask better questions about what was happening in organizations, what was happening with leaders, and then what are the systemic impacts that particularly women of color are experiencing as they are doing this work that is really saving the community, and shaping a future for all of us,” says Allen.
Grantmaking for Healing
Around the same time as the Atlanta gathering in early 2020, the Hive Fund connected with Cara Page, founder of the Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective and one of the architects of the Healing Justice framework, a movement to address collective trauma and harm. These resources helped deepen what healing justice meant for the Hive Fund and the communities they were funding.
With Page, the fund was able to develop its own definition of healing justice and holistic security. The Hive Fund then brought on Ananse Consulting—a firm working to advance movement work and healing justice—to facilitate one-on-one conversations with grantee partners and frontline leaders to better understand what additional support was needed.
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Leaders asked for training support for their staff, coaching, mental health support, and healing justice practices support from the Hive Fund. The continuous ask for this kind of support indicated to the fund that they were on the right track with their new grantmaking approach. This led the Hive Fund to give three-year general operating support grants—which are often the most important grants a nonprofit organization can get due to their flexibility. The grants are specifically meant to support capacity-building opportunities and hire practitioners and consultants among other things. General operating support grants help to lift some of the pressures that come with being a nonprofit leader, Allen points out. “So, you are in this cycle of raising this project support that doesn’t necessarily cover [what] it takes to do the valuable work that you’re doing.”
The Hive Fund was out to change the paradigm of grantmaking by leading with trust and providing resources that would allow their grantee partners to have breathing room. Allen hopes that these grants allow leaders to hire more staff to support operations and take on programmatic work. “We have heard really clearly that just funding in the way that we do has been able to relieve some of that [fundraising] pressure and allow folks to get health insurance and do those things that are actually really vital for [their] organizations to function,” she says.
In 2021, the Hive Fund provided a total of $690,000 for the first round of supplemental grants to existing Hive Fund grantee partners and $500,000 to support healing justice and holistic security practices in the field.
The Hive Fund was out to change the paradigm of grantmaking by leading with trust and providing resources that would allow their grantee partners to have breathing room.
Supporting Healing Justice and Holistic Security
The JPB Foundation, which funds US-based medical research, poverty issues, and the environment, got involved with the Hive Fund when the senior officer for environmental justice, Anna Loizeaux, heard their focus areas of climate, gender and racial justice. In 2020, the JPB Foundation granted the Hive Fund $3 million.
Since working alongside the Hive Fund, Loizeaux has learned to be responsive to what she hears. She now sees that the resources and needs look different for every organization—which can be hard to understand if you are not a frontline leader or coming from an environmental justice community. This is “why it’s so deeply important to have trusting relationships with the people that we fund and [that] is a critical value-add that Hive brings to their work,” says Loizeaux.
The Hive Fund Caring for Itself
While the Hive Fund was providing these resources and help for other organizations’ leaders, who was looking out for the leaders and staff of the Hive Fund? The fund’s staff decided it was time to care for themselves, so Allen reached back out to Omisade Burney-Scott, founder of Anansi, to help with internal organizational capacity building work.
“The ability to change the material conditions for Black Southern folk doing movement work should be led by Black Southern folk doing movement work.”
“We’ve done one-on-one coaching with all of their team members, and all of their staff members,” says Burney-Scott. “We are also talking to them about the full integration of a healing justice practice which means that everybody in your organization holds that as an ethos that drives your work.” As the Hive Fund’s team continues to grow, the vision is to fully integrate healing justice into how they operate as a philanthropic fund.
“The ability to change the material conditions for Black Southern folk doing movement work should be led by Black Southern folk doing movement work, and that Black radical feminist ethos grounds healing justice work,” says Burney-Scott. The Healing Justice and Holistic Security grantmaking program seeks to advance that for organizations doing the critical work on the ground.