Competencies for Justice Funders

Definitions of Core Competencies for Effective Grantmaking


Analytical competence is the ability to understand, articulate and solve complex problems and concepts.

In justice funding, it includes the ability to understand the forces and structures that contribute to injustice, the repercussions of oppression on broad classes of people, and how power is distributed.


Leadership competence is the ability to inspire and align others to successfully achieve common goals. Individual leadership competencies include displaying integrity and honesty, and communicating skillfully and powerfully.

In justice funding, we see the most valuable and effective leadership to be collaborative and facilitative in nature – in direct contrast to the model of a solo, charismatic leader.


Strategic competence is the ability to see patterns where others simply see complexity, and to chart future decisions and foresee obstacles.

In justice funding, strategic competence includes the ability to identify and strengthen movements through influencing philanthropy to adopt social justice approaches.


Technical competence is holding the specific knowledge, experience and skills required for successful accomplishment of a job or task.

In justice funding, technical competence gained from lived experience and unconventional and/or generally undervalued sources is seen as valid and valuable.


Adaptive competence is the ability to take calculated risks; learn from both successes and failures; and choose thoughtfully from a variety of approaches, styles, and tools.

In justice funding, adaptive competence includes learning from and with grantees and movements. Adaptive leaders incorporate practices and approaches designed to create generative strategies that iterate over time.


Relational competence is the set of traits that allow people to interact with each other effectively, including high emotional and social intelligence; strong empathy, humility and compassion; and skills to generate, utilize and maintain social capital.

In justice funding, having a keen awareness of privilege and power in relationships between individuals and organizations is a critical relational competency.

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