Social Justice Philanthropy Archives - PEAK Insight JournalPEAK Insight Journal

Social Justice Philanthropy

Social justice philanthropy is grantmaking that addresses the root causes of systemic issues over the course of generations. In the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s (NCRP) Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best, this category of grantmaking is defined as:

The practice of making contributions to nonprofit organizations that work for structural change and increase the opportunity of those who are less well off politically, economically, and socially.

NCRP tracked philanthropic giving from 2003 to 2013 and found that despite the fact the greatest opportunity for long-term impact is made possible through social justice philanthropy, too few dollars were given to support the communities and organizations that needed funding the most. Specifically, 90 percent of funders gave less than half of their grant dollars to organizations and resident-led initiatives with the least resources and greatest unlocked potential. And median philanthropic giving to long-term change was eight percent 

However, conversations about social justice grantmaking have exploded in recent years. The reason? Similar conversations have erupted everywhere and are motivating communities to take action. #OccupyWallStreet#BlackLivesMatter#MeToo, the #PoorPeopleCampaign, and other movements have grown, and individuals online and on state and federal Capitol building steps are pointing squarely at the root causes of structural and systemic issues, loudly proclaiming that the status quo of centuries-old oppression will not be tolerated any longer.

It is now up to philanthropic leaders to determine if and how their foundations will move from conversations about national and global movements to funding the activists and organizers leading their communities to effect long-term, systemic change. Where to start? NCRP’s research has yielded three recommendations:

  1. Invest in communities with the least resources and, therefore, the greatest unmet potential
  2. Fund strategies that have been proven effective in knocking down structural barriers and dismantling systemic inequality
  3. Provide general operating support and multi-year grants

In this Issue

In the Fall 2018 PEAK Insight Journal, philanthropic thought leaders will share how they have collaboratively taken action to address root causes and increase resources available to do the long, hard work of transforming lives and communities. Keep your eye on PEAK Insight Journal as we share stories about:

  • What one Southern funder learned from its reflection on a decade of courage, commitment, and collaboration to transform a state’s economic and education systems
  • What has been accomplished after a decade of investing in Black men and boys across the U.S?
  • How arts funding can galvanize community members through the power of their voice
  • Why paying leaders on the frontlines of social justice work is key to sustainable, long-term change


Joanna Willis Cabral is serving as the Co-Editor of the Fall 2018 Issue of PEAK Insight Journal. Joanna is a Grants Manager at The Annie E. Casey Foundation. She is a seasoned grant professional with experience managing all aspects of grantmaking, from fundraising and donor cultivation to agreement development and execution.

Brad Cameron-Cooper is the founder of Big Big Box, a digital communications firm that turns organizations’ and governments’ lived experiences into stories that transform lives and communities. Brad was previously the Communications and Knowledge Management Associate at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.