“A lot of affinity groups are driven by their funder membership, which really means driven by people in close proximity to wealth and power. Coming into philanthropy as a community organizer, it has been refreshing to experience Justice Funders as a values-driven organization advancing movement priorities within philanthropy.” - Alex Saingchin, Vice President of Community Investments & Partnerships, East Bay Community Foundation

Who We Are

We envision a world that honors the sacredness of our natural resources and recognizes the inalienable rights of all. We assert that philanthropy must take an active role in building this world by redistributing all aspects of well-being, democratizing power and shifting economic control to communities.

Redistribution requires us to reject the accumulation of wealth and power, which drives economic inequality. It means letting go of two narratives that currently dominate philanthropy: 1) charity, which perpetuates power dynamics between givers and receivers without tackling root causes of injustice; and 2) investment, which expects a financial return to the ultimate benefit of the investor.

By embracing redistribution, we are following the lead of the most courageous movement leaders of our time, who are standing in their power and unapologetically asserting their rights to live with dignity and to thrive. We are deeply inspired by this movement moment and recognize that now – more than ever – philanthropy must be just as bold and relentless.

What this means for philanthropy is that, rather than accumulating wealth and power, we must use it to resource movements that fight the systems that oppress us and also support the creation of new, local, resilient economies that build wealth in low-income communities and communities of color.

We are guided by the Just Transition principles for building political and economic power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy. For philanthropy to embody a Just Transition, two fundamental shifts are necessary:

1. A shift in our underlying assumptions about capital…

  • Away from an assumption that individuals and institutions have the right to endlessly accumulate capital and make decisions on how it should be allocated for the public good, where the preservation of wealth and power is prioritized over the needs of people and the environment;
  • Towards an assumption that, rather than being accumulated by individuals and institutions, capital must support the collective capacity of communities most impacted by economic inequality to produce for themselves, give to and invest directly in what their communities need, and retain the returns generated from these investments. All aspects of collective well-being are prioritized over the wealth and power of a few.

2. A shift in our underlying approach to philanthropy…

  • Away from an approach where foundations maintain power, accumulate wealth and grow their endowments indefinitely to exist in perpetuity, by maximizing their return on investments even at the expense of communities they claim to support;
  • Towards an approach where foundations actively support new economic systems that transfer the management and control of financial resources away from institutions and into the hands of communities who have been impacted by wealth accumulation and the extractive economy.

At Justice Funders, we are re-imagining a world that works for all of us, and philanthropy’s role in creating it.

Our History

Justice Funders emerged in 2009 as the Bay Area Justice Funders Network, as local funders sought spaces to bring the philanthropic community together with front-line leaders following the murder of Oscar Grant by BART Police. Melanie Cervantes (Akonadi Foundation), Luke Newton (Common Counsel Foundation), Vanessa Daniel (Groundswell Fund), Carmen Rojas (Mitchell Kapor Foundation), and Kazu Haga (Peace Development Fund) formed the founding steering committee, which solidified the goals for the network, raised seed monies, and hired staff.

Over the next seven years, our work began to broaden in scope and reach beyond the local network. After having tested and incubated successful interventions to re-imagine philanthropic practices, the organization adopted a new name to reflect its expansion. Today, Justice Funders is the home of Bay Area Justice Funders Network while also 1) offering professional and leadership development programs, 2) providing coaching and consulting for organizational transformation; and 3) designing, piloting and scaling innovative collaborations that advance social justice movements.

By engaging in these multiple areas of programming, Justice Funders is ushering a Just Transition within the field of philanthropy to take a proactive role in building the world we need.