Social Equity Collaborative Fund Supports Black-led Racial Justice

“If you want to measure your commitment to racial equity, measure how much funding you are directly investing to work led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color.” – Lyn Corbett, The Nonprofit Institute, University of San Diego 

During a recent webinar, part of a powerful series led by Logan Heights CDC, Lyn Corbett issued this challenge and followed it up with an invitation to discuss the idea that being a bystander in the current climate is not a neutral stance. Over the past several weeks, SDG has spoken with a number of funders and members who are in an in-between space of wanting to move beyond statements to meaningful action, but who have not historically funded with a racial equity lens and aren’t sure where to meaningfully begin.

For San Diego Grantmakers’ Social Equity Collaborative Fund, the answer is three-fold: give everything we can give now to Black-led work aimed at radical systemic change; draw on the relationships we’ve built to find out how we can be helpful; and commit to using our privilege to bring significantly more funding to Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)-led work in the future.

San Diego Grantmakers’ Social Equity Collaborative Fund was launched in 2015 as a pooled grantmaking fund that supports collaborative, grassroots efforts to improve the economic, social, and physical well- being of San Diego County residents. Grants from the fund work to support grassroots organizations and projects that increase the connectivity of racial equity work in San Diego County across a breadth of issue areas. In five years, SECF has funded more than $2 million to collaborative grassroots racial justice efforts throughout the county, and recently celebrated the addition of a partnership with The San Diego Foundation to integrate SECF values into co-funded climate justice grants.

The funds distributed through SECF are pooled from foundations seeking racial justice investments and have largely leveraged contributions from the Satterberg Foundation and The California Endowment. The steering committee works within an annually planned grant budget that is augmented through additional funders.

The SECF model is based on values of social justice; committed to trust-based philanthropy; and seeking to learn through action. It is designed to go beyond grantmaking to challenge and shift the approach to funding community-driven solutions. The grant review committee is comprised of individuals with deep connection to the communities the fund serves and includes racial equity experts as well as community leaders to balance decision making power and learn from one another.

“The Social Equity Collaborative Fund is more than a grantmaker; we are a group of people connected to our communities and working to transform grantmaking. We debate and learn from one another, we listen to the nonprofits and community groups fighting for racial justice, and we adapt to be more like what they need,” explained Michelle Jaramillo, SECF Steering Committee member, Latina Giving Circle Leadership Council member and SDG member said.

“In today’s world of health and economic crises amid a rising collective demand for justice, we knew that we had to do more than ponder the “right” action. So, we put everything we had out to support Black-led organizations; and we committed to learning and doing more consistently in the future. That’s what we can do, that’s what we must do,” Jaramillo added.

SECF has historically deployed general operating grants, funded technical assistance, and created space for community groups to connect as a cohort. Recently, they have also begun to develop priorities to bring the collective SECF voice towards policy advocacy in advancement of racial justice.

In late June 2020, as our region and the entire country showed up through uprisings and political actions, SECF decided to distribute its remaining current funds available among 14 Black-led organizations and businesses active in Black-led racial justice. The funding triggered a matching gift, for a total $28,000 of rapid response grants deployed. We have since heard from several other funders interested in leveraging the SECF model and tapping into the collaborative’s knowledge of and connection with community to increase impact.

“The biggest priority for our community, in my humble opinion, is the need to assist with resilience building and genuine empathy. Helping the community understand that all of our stories may not look the same but that each of us has a story and no one person’s story is invalid. We must put ourselves in the shoes of others while listening to understand their unique experiences,” Rashida Hameed, executive director of Epiphany Women in Focus, and SECF grant recipient shared.

For Hameed, funding Black-led organizations – and particularly, Black womxn-led organizations – is recognition of how lived experiences shape leadership.

“Black womxn are essential to the leadership aspects of any community-based organization as we have generationally had to build resilience as the born nurturers most of us are. I believe no nation can rise higher than its womxn thus making it imperative to have Black womxn in leadership positions,” Hameed said.

In the coming weeks, SECF will work with its grantee partners (racial justice, climate justice, and Black-led organizations), supporting them through gatherings and conversations to build connectivity among this cohort and beyond to strengthen our region’s racial justice movement and the funder-community relationship.

“Our first name is “Community” by design,” said Geneviéve L. Jones-Wright, Esq., and Andrea St. Julian, Esq., co-founders of MoGo [Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance], another SECF grantee. “MoGo is community-led and community-centered in all aspects. We are not only advocates for the Community; we empower the Community to be advocates for themselves.”

CC Gardner Gleser of the Satterberg Foundation – a catalyst investor in SECF – noted on the same meeting that Lyn was quoted on that funders are at a critical point of decision: “Do you want to grow, or do you want to be comfortable? Because you can’t do both.”

At San Diego Grantmakers, we are here to grow and get uncomfortable with you. If you’re unsure where to start or are ready to move towards action, SECF’s five years of relationship building, experience and connection to the community are here to help. Connect with us to learn more and speak with the steering committee today.