Media Archive

Philanthropy, Social Justice and Shifting Power

By Michael Hamill Remaley, Inside Philanthropy / October 13, 2022

“While I’m definitely heartened by more funders having an interest in practices like trust-based philanthropy, I see trust-based philanthropy as [just] an entry point to the redistribution of wealth,” said Dana Kawaoka-Chen, co-director of Justice Funders. “However, we have yet to see broader adoption in the transfer of decision making from philanthropic institutions to communities, so further assessment on the kinds of interventions that result in structural change to who has power and control over how philanthropic assets are distributed would be helpful.”

“Dana Kawaoka-Chen of Justice Funders identified another gradation, asserting that a higher order within the justice category comprises those projects that specifically pursue an anticapitalist agenda.”

How Fundraising Can Bring Americans Back to Giving — if It Changes

By Drew Lindsay, Chronicles of Philanthropy / July 12, 2022

“Foundations deserve a lot of blame for the disconnect with donors, says Mario Lugay, senior innovation director for Justice Funders, which supports philanthropy to advance social justice. In the past few decades, Lugay argues, grant makers have invited nonprofits to turn to them for help, to stop chasing small-dollar gifts. Foundations now account for almost one out of every five dollars given to charity, according to “Giving USA,” up from just 6 percent in the early 1980s.

“This spring, the magazine shifted donor communications in another small but symbolic way. With help from Justice Funders, which supports philanthropy focused on social justice, the magazine discarded its form gift-acknowledgment letter — a “Mother Jones-centric” message that “regurgitated the mission statement,” according to Cathy Asmus, then the magazine’s membership initiatives manager.”

A Growing Number of Bay Area Foundations Are Paying “Land Taxes” to Native Peoples

by Michael Kavate / April 26, 2022

One institution has been particularly active in spreading the word in philanthropy about land taxes: Justice Funders, whose Oakland headquarters are on unceded Lisjan Ohlone territory. The grantmaker network started paying Shuumi last year, and as part of its broader mission, has been working ever since to invite others to do the same.

“Slowly, we have been seeing some traction, where more and more foundations are beginning to pay the tax,” said Maria Nakae, senior engagement director at Justice Funders, who calls it a “moral obligation” for philanthropy. Nakae helped launch the campaign to inform foundations about Shuumi alongside Luckey, Paola Diaz of 11th Hour Project and Kathryn Gilje of Ceres Trust, who co-chairs Justice Funders’ board.

Social Justice Philanthropy Restructures to Focus on Power

by Louise Lief, Inside Philanthropy / February 12, 2020

“For Justice Funders, equity is not an end goal but a step on the road to ‘liberation’ from extractive and exploitative systems. Many foundations will find their current practices described as ‘extractive’ or ‘less extractive’ in Justice Funders’ framework. In the final ‘regenerative’ stage, ‘wealth is redistributed, power is democratized and economic control is shifted to communities.’”

Balance of Power: A group called Justice Funders wants to democratize grant making and give more control to recipients

by Alex Daneils and Ben Gose, The Chronicle of Philanthropy / April 2, 2019

“There needs to be a shift from wealth and power being accumulated within institutions toward a new vision where philanthropy is about redistributing wealth, democratizing power, and shifting economic control to the community…Often foundations can extract labor and extract resources more than they are putting in. For justice and liberation to be truly achieved, we need to rethink the way that philanthropy as a field actually exists.”

What Do Our Times Require? Funders Propose a Philanthropic “Green New Deal”

by Jeanne Bell, Nonprofit Quarterly / March 12, 2019

Last month, more than 150 people crowded into a standing-room-only event in Oakland, California. Hosted by Justice Funders, which describes itself as “a partner and guide for philanthropy in reimagining practices that advance a thriving and just world,” the convening had a decidedly activist orientation. Speakers and participants were not there to talk about doing charity well, but rather about transforming philanthropy to its core.

Dana Kawaoka-Chen shares Justice Funders’ vision for philanthropic transformation

by Next Economy Now (Podcast)

Interview Highlights:

  • Justice Funders was born out of community organizing in the wake of the murder of Oscar Grant
  • Examining the problematic roots of philanthropy & re-imagining a more values aligned system
  • Dana shares her family story, how her father was born imprisoned in Japanese concentration camps in the United States, and how these experiences inform her work
  • “The Choir Book: A Framework for Social Justice Philanthropy” and the Resonance: a Framework for Philanthropic Transformation explore what a Just Transition can look like for philanthropy

Beyond Equity, Toward Liberation

by Dana Kawaoka-Chen / March 7, 2019

“We can remain satisfied with the goal of achieving equitable health outcomes within an extractive economic system that will continue to endlessly harm low-income communities and communities of color, in which we will always have another battle to fight. Or we can expand our imaginations to liberate ourselves from the extractive economic system altogether, and proactively work to build a society that inherently values the health and well-being of all people and the planet we live on.”

How Community-Funder Collaboratives Can Build Regional Power

by Dana Kawaoka-Chen / December 6, 2018

“Can funders and grassroots organizations form authentic partnership to align philanthropic resources around movement-identified priorities and support regional power building infrastructure?”

5 Lessons to Guide the Transition to a More Just Philanthropy

by Dana Kawaoka-Chen / December 4, 2018

“What we have learned from engaging with some of today’s most forward-thinking leaders in philanthropy is that transformation requires us to acknowledge the harm that has been done to communities through extraction and exploitation. We must bring an end to the processes and practices that reinforce existing centers of power, and instead employ practices that allow communities historically harmed through extraction and exploitation to self-govern.”

Are You Ready for a Vision of Philanthropy?

by Maria Nakae / May 9, 2018

“While we know it will take years – even decades – to truly undergo a Just Transition in philanthropy, there is no doubt that the time is NOW for funders to get on board – rather than getting left behind while upholding the status quo to maintain their wealth, power and privilege.”


#SolidarityDefenseAction Closing Comments

by Dana Kawaoka-Chen / February 13, 2018

“Asking ourselves “what is necessary?” is similar to a question that I hear often in philanthropy, “What should we do?” However, when we ask ourselves what is necessary, it requires us to acknowledge the nested systems of oppression that are in operation vs. when we ask ourselves what we should do, it allows us to operate from whatever privilege we may have. “What should we do?” becomes a choice vs. answering “what is necessary?” hones focus on what needs to be done.”


Funding Grassroots Movement Building

An interview with Dana Kawaoka-Chen / September 14, 2016

“A move to a strategic philanthropic and data-driven, results-oriented approach often works against deeply transformational work of organizations, as it requires a smaller, narrower focus or goals….Some organizations can get stuck trying to make benchmarks in particular programs rather than thinking about larger transformational impact.”


Changing Funder Habits to Change the Game 

by Dana Kawaoka-Chen / December 12, 2014

“I am clear that we in philanthropy need new habits to support new ways of intersectional organizing, as well as new habits to radically transform the very systems that allow and perpetuate state violence without accountability. We need new habits because the very definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over, yet expect different results.”


What Do We Stand For?

by Dana Kawaoka-Chen / June 29, 2014

“What is the role of philanthropic affinity groups?  And how do we both support our members in an “inside change strategy” as well as help push an “outside change strategy” that keeps philanthropy accountable, while continuing to lift-up work that centers the values of love, social justice and movements led by those most impacted by inequity?”