Reframing <Washington>

Frequently Asked Questions

For our Greater <Washington> Empowerment Fund, the Foundation has prepared specific answers to several frequently asked questions. Click on the FAQ to reveal our answer.

  • There are varying definitions for racial equity. We like this one from the Center for Social Inclusion:

    At CSI, we define racial equity as both an outcome and a process. As an outcome, we achieve racial equity when race no longer determines one’s socioeconomic outcomes; when everyone has what they need to thrive, no matter where they live. As a process, we apply racial equity when those most impacted by structural racial inequity are meaningfully involved in the creation and implementation of the institutional policies and practices that impact their lives.

    When we achieve racial equity:

    • People, including people of color, are owners, planners, and decision-makers in the systems that govern their lives.
    • We acknowledge and account for past and current inequities, and provide all people, particularly those most impacted by racial inequities, the infrastructure needed to thrive.
    • Everyone benefits from a more just, equitable system.
  • In Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: Benchmarks to Assess and Enhance Grantmaker Impact, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy writes that, “Organizations working on policy advocacy, organizing and civic engagement offer a powerful real-world example of systems thinking and theory in action. This work enhances our pluralistic democracy, provides voice to communities that would otherwise not be heard, demonstrates an understanding of systemic reform and results in tremendous impact. With several notable exceptions, civic engagement, advocacy and organizing are under-funded by foundations, and community groups struggle to raise the resources needed to engage in this important work.” Though this was written in 2009, it still holds true, particularly in the Washington, DC region.

  • There are varying definitions for advocacy, organizing, and civic engagement. The following definitions from our colleagues resonate most with the Weissberg Foundation.

    • Advocacy

      Any action that speaks in favor of, recommends, argues for a cause, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others. It includes public education, regulatory work, litigation, and work before administrative bodies, lobbying, voter registration, voter education, and more.

      Alliance for Justice

    • Community organizing

      A multi-faceted strategy for social change that relies on the leadership of members from the affected community to bring about change. HSF also states the following goals of community organizing: 1) improve social conditions, outcomes, and the quality of life for marginalized communities through systemic change; 2) build the leadership within marginalized communities; and 3) strengthen democratic participation and accountability of decision makers to marginalized communities.

      Hill-Snowdon Foundation

    • Civic engagement

      The process of helping people be active participants in building and strengthening their communities, whether that community is defined as a physical place, or a shared identity/interest. In other words, civic engagement is a spectrum of ways people can participate in self-governance, from interactions with government to voluntary associations, and everything in between.

      Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement

  • The Foundation Center tracks a list of grantmaking beneficiaries. From that list, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy identified twelve populations as “underserved” or “marginalized.” In developing our 5-year strategic framework and this grant program, the Foundation wanted to focus our grantmaking efforts on historically underserved and marginalized populations most impacted by racism. Therefore, we chose to lift up people of color, those closest to incarceration, immigrants, and refugees.

  • By “those most impacted by incarceration” we mean those who are at the greatest risk of being incarcerated, those who are currently incarcerated, those who were formerly incarcerated, and those who are the family and loved ones of any of these individuals.

  • The Foundation recognizes that the grants we have to give are relatively small. Therefore, we want to award them to relatively small organizations and/or programs where they have the potential to make an outsized impact.

  • The Foundation shared an open request for proposals with organizations that might be interested in applying for an Empowerment Fund grant, or that might know of other organizations that would be. We received 66 letters of intent in response to the RFP. Of those 66 LOIs, we declined 16 because they did not meet the stated eligibility criteria. The 50 eligible LOIs were reviewed by our review committee of foundation board members, staff, and community reviewers and narrowed down to 22 that we invited to submit full proposals. The review committee reviewed those 22 full proposals and recommended 12 for funding, pending the outcomes of site visits. After conducting all 12 site visits, we decided to award full empowerment fund grants—ranging from $16,000 to $24,000—to 10 organizations.

  • The Foundation’s experience with inviting external individuals to join our board and staff in grant review is that it brings different perspectives, expertise, and experience to our review process. Grant decisions are therefore better informed, and we and our guest reviewers learn from each other and strengthen relationships.

  • In addition to advancing their organizational goals, grantees are asked to do an in-person check-in with the foundation 6 months into the grant period; write a story about their current work to be shared through their own, the Foundation’s, and any other appropriate media channels; and submit a final report on grant activities, learnings, outcomes, and feedback at the end of the grant period.

  • At this time, we anticipate that we will release an RFP for a second round of Empowerment Grants in early 2019. Please note, the parameters of that grant program might differ from this inaugural one. Both applicants and grantees from the first round of funding will be able to apply for the second round if they meet the eligibility requirements of that funding initiative.