What is a Justice Funder?

April 28, 2014 9:00 AM | Dana Kawaoka-Chen (Administrator)

As the director of a network of “justice funders,” I am often asked, “What is a Justice Funder?”  Since we are a relatively new network, I began to search for definitions of social justice philanthropy, and led an internal process for us to arrive at our own definition.

However, once I started sharing what we came up with, I soon realized that a definition is not necessarily helpful to most folks . . . the answer to the question, “What is a Justice Funder?” is far more nuanced and complex, and I soon realized, that maybe we (collectively) don’t know.


Even experienced leaders in the field, people who I think epitomize a “justice funder” have stumbled over their response to this question. Because there’s no school or training program for “justice funders,” and current research often offers yet another definition, we are dedicating this next year to hearing from both current practitioners in the field as well as those who engage with them to answer the question, “What is a Justice Funder?”

  • What do they think?
  • What do they do?
  • How do they do their grantmaking?
What do you think a Justice Funder is?


  • April 28, 2014 5:25 PM | Ellen Friedman
    I have been pondering this all day and was unsettled about the question. Then, in a discussion, Carrie Avery quoted Cornel West: "Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public". That seems to summarize for me what a justice funder hopes to unleash. So, what does that mean for us as funders? We do our work with an understanding of the systems that intersect to create the root conditions that cause inequality or injustice. We invest in relationships and try to acknowledge the power dynamic that can define a funder/grantee relationship. We are transparent about our process and decisions. We work with a movement perspective and appreciate the many actors it takes to build movements and leaders. We try to be connectors and build bridges between silos of work. We work with humility. We are adaptive based on changing conditions. But, most of all, we work with hope and love and we believe in the possibility of transformative change for all people and our planet.
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    • July 17, 2014 10:18 PM | Vini Bhansali
      thank you Ellen. beautifully said!
      Link  •  Reply

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