Four Suggestions for Social Justice Funders, #3

On a panel at the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy pre-Council on Foundations Conference in April, I presented four suggestions for social justice funders to consider.  Previously, I wrote about the first two of these, Find a Political Home and Build the Vehicles to Move us Forward.  Below, I share the third of four suggestions.

3) Develop your Skills as an Organizer

One of the most remarkable aspects of social movements is that there truly is a role for everyone to play.  Regardless of your background, your relative privilege or lack thereof, your profession or where you live, there are ways to contribute and benefit.  Foremost of these is to organize – to consciously attempt to expand and amplify social justice analysis and work by allowing others to similarly have access to and ownership of social justice analysis and work, and by supporting those people to themselves become organizers.

As social justice funders, we must accept the responsibilities that come with being an organizer.  In particular, we need to organize where we’re at, to organize within philanthropy. Thankfully, many of us do.

But choosing to be an organizer might be the easy part.  The challenge is to be great organizers within philanthropy, to be both disciplined and thoughtful.  And so, we must intentionally find the ways to develop our organizing skills.  My hope is that there already exists curriculum, workshops and / or organizations that train us how to do so. Or, if not, that we can create them. Because, if we believe that what the community organizing groups we fund do is strategic, are acts that come as much from ones head as it does ones heart, then we can’t assume that we can be great organizers without ourselves being trained.  Developing our skills as organizers is an opportunity to more effectively and efficiently play our respective role in a larger social justice movement, while, at the same time, further developing our shared understanding and empathy with the thousands and thousands of other organizers in the country.

On a related note: I’ve found the tendency to restrict who we consider to be an organizer, whether  just to paid organizers or those who work only in certain communities, to be a dangerous and limiting one.  The question shouldn’t be who can be considered an organizer, but rather, once we popularize the title of organizer, how do we support individuals to fulfill the responsibilities, the work and the appropriate level of accountability that comes with by being an organizer.

Next post in the series: 4) Choose to be a Member

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