Our Down Payment on Equity

Our Down Payment on Equity

We live in a region with enormous inequality. There are glaring gaps between how people of color are doing compared to other communities. We have an economy that is galloping forward at the speed of light and seems to leave more and more people behind day by day, week by week, year by year. Clearly, the Bay Area is at a crossroads with deep implications for the future of our region.

As a community foundation with deep roots in social justice that span nearly 70 years, The San Francisco Foundation made a commitment last year to focus our work on advancing racial and economic equity throughout the Bay Area. Our equity agenda was created in collaboration with our community, our donors, and the broader set of leaders and stakeholders around the Bay Area.

It’s impossible to stress enough how important our grantees are. Our grantees are intrinsic partners in our shared strategy. They are helping to engage in conversations with donors, becoming a part of internal conversations, and working with cohorts of other grantees, as well as with leaders across the region from the nonprofit, public and private sectors. Partnership is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot these days, but we know that we are all in this together — no foundation or nonprofit can do this alone.

Today, we take the next step in our shared journey with the announcement that we have made $11.5 million in grants to 140 Bay Area organizations.  With our work organized around three interrelated pathways — PeoplePlace, and Power— we are focused on expanding access to opportunity by removing systemic barriers to meaningful jobs; anchoring communities that reflect people’s culture and identity; and nurturing equity movements to ensure a strong political voice for all.

With these new equity grants, we had some firsts in our approach to grantmaking.  Several grants included advocacy for change and providing services in the areas of community safety and criminal justice, which represents the first time the foundation has focused on these issues. We are also funding a range of community organizing efforts and support for several organizations focused on providing services to take their first steps into advocacy around issues of equity. And we are placing a stronger focus on Contra Costa County, which has seen an increase in need over the last several years. We are supporting efforts to build communities’ power and leadership through organizing. Finally, we are supporting the development of a regional equity atlas. This is a partnership with community, civic, public and private sector leaders to provide the data and analysis that can undergird our effort for the region to be more inclusive and equitable.

And while we are proud of these efforts, I also must admit that this open grant cycle process has not been easy. When we announced our call for grant proposals, the response was a bit overwhelming. We received more than 950 requests for funding totaling more than $120 million — far more money than we can provide. While we are proud of the grants we are making, we knew that we could not provide funding to all the organizations that are doing very important work to advance racial and economic equity. But we are in this for the long term.

We want to continue to be a part of the conversations, advocacy, and outreach that we need to be engaged in. We also want to make it clear to the leaders of these important organizations that they are part of this agenda and that we want to stay connected and supportive over time. For those organizations that may not have gotten a grant this year, our door is open for future opportunities. We know that it is the work of many — organizations and leaders — that is critical to bringing about a more equitable Bay Area.

While we have been making grants, we also have been using the foundation’s voice and relationships to help advance our equity agenda of greater racial and economic inclusion. We’ve been working to build partnerships with the private sector, to find ways to work closely with the public sector, and of course, to work with our grantees and other nonprofit and philanthropic partners.

We are also collaborating internally in ways that we never have before. We are working in teams across our three pathways — and across all departments — which also helps grantees build relationships throughout the foundation. Collaboration helps us stay accountable to ourselves, our grantees, our donors, and the broader community. And, we are refining the kinds of results we’re seeking to make sure that we can measure our progress and live up to expectations. We are also creating better systems for tracking results so that we can better understand who we’re funding, and so we can more accurately measure how our grants contribute to moving our equity agenda forward.

We think this is a good start, but we also know that it’s just a start. The problems may seem immense, but we also believe that the opportunities are limitless. We have the chance to build a more equitable Bay Area that truly reflects who we are — a compassionate, productive community that is rich in culture, cherishes its vibrant neighborhoods, and provides real opportunity for all. It is our hope that our engagement across the region and these grants – and the many more that we will continue to make – help to make that a reality.