The Choir Book

Choir Book: A Framework for Social Justice Philanthropy is a guide to support you and your philanthropic organization in aligning your grantmaking practice with social justice values. It defines core values, individual competencies and actions that support values-aligned practice to create a comprehensive framework for effective social justice philanthropy.

Philanthropy is quick to get excited about the latest hot topic, yet it struggles with deeper culture and practice change. The Choir Book is designed to support grantmakers of all kinds in making tangible changes in philanthropic practice to be more equitable and just. We believe that values-aligned practice is a critical step in shifting the culture of philanthropy as well as achieving better results, and that The Choir Book can support veteran grantmakers and those new to philanthropy, whether or not your institutions are focused on social justice.

The ideas in this framework were generated through a combination of broad and deep field engagement and synthesis by a dedicated group of philanthropic and social justice practitioners. It is our sincere hope that you find The Choir Book a valuable resource in strengthening individual skill and application, enhancing organizational grantmaking practices, and increasing collaboration in the field.

For those of you eager to align ALL of the work of a philanthropic institution with its values, beyond just grantmaking, we encourage you to check out Justice Funders’ companion publication, Resonance: A Framework for Philanthropic Transformation.

Why is it called "The Choir Book?"

A common refrain in philanthropy is, “We have to get beyond the choir.” At Justice Funders, we have heard this sentiment from members and peers since our beginnings. It seems to be an unquestioned assumption: there is a choir, we are in it, and the real power for making change is in talking to others outside of it.

We question this set of assumptions. In the growing community of funders working for equity and justice, is there really a choir? Are funders singing the same song, in key, or – even better – in harmony? Our perspective is that philanthropy has excellent soloists, but is far from forming a choir. For example, for decades we have heard a refrain of the importance of general support and multi-year funding– two ways to structure grant funding that grantees find invaluable– yet the practices are still not the norm. Why not? Part of the answer is the individualism of philanthropic culture, where every foundation pursues its own programmatic strategy, often on a short timeframe.

We believe that a true philanthropic choir will:

  1. Focus on systems rather than symptoms,
  2. Align its strategies with frontline organizations,
  3. Assess internal operations and their congruence with the stated organizational values, and
  4. Deploy all of its resources to creating and sustaining real change.

To achieve this vision of harmony, a choir needs to practice. Please join Justice Funders in learning the “songs” in this Choir Book, and then join us in practice through the Harmony Initiative, a community of practice for grantmakers
to gain cutting edge tools, training and knowledge needed to partner with communities, select impactful grantees, evaluate social change work, and collaborate in philanthropy.

Next Section: Overview of the Framework