Diverse City Fund: Advancing Racial Justice

Posted on November 29, 2018 | Farah Fosse, Diverse City Fund

Diverse City Fund Board of Instigators (BOI) at the strategic planning retreat (2018).

Every few weeks, the Weissberg Foundation features a story from one of our Reframing <Washington> Empowerment Fund grantee partners to shine a light on their critical work. Learn more about these powerful organizations by visiting their websites.

Diverse City Fund (DC Fund) nurtures community leaders and grassroots projects that are acting to transform DC into a more just, vibrant place to live. Through small grants to grassroots social justice projects led by people of color and a community-led grantmaking process, Diverse City Fund works toward a vision for a DC that is as rich in its present diversity as in its history, grounded in respect for the work that has brought so many neighborhood institutions into being, and with a readiness to support a new generation of community leaders.

Strategic Planning
Founded in 2010, Diverse City Fund, an all-volunteer operation, has raised and moved resources to more than 270 groups, totaling nearly $850,000 in grants. With so much program activity, there has been little time to invest in planning and infrastructure. To address this, the Board intentionally took time earlier this year to create a strategic plan that will guide our work through 2020.

We developed our change model for how the DC Fund will build community power, under three primary goals:

  • Strengthening the fund’s capacity and effectiveness
  • Advancing DC Fund’s “community-led” model of grantmaking and intersectional racial justice framework in philanthropy and beyond, and
  • Building the collective capacity and power of communities in which we work.

Through the process, the Board analyzed our local context and history, coming face-to-face with the importance of grassroots grantmaking with the understanding of how gentrification has pushed out people of color and widened wealth disparities in DC. We grew even more convinced of the need for our funding model. It has been gratifying that, during such a divisive historical moment, our grants support tenant organizing, power building among Black workers, media justice work, incubating collectives, and much more.

To view our 2018-2020 Strategic Plan Snapshot click here.

Doing the Work
Following completion of our strategic plan, the Board has begun acting around our goals and objectives. We’ve built out new working groups aligned with the strategic plan and are now organized with a Steering Committee, and three working groups: Communications and Impact, Finances and Fundraising, and Grantee and Grantmaking Team Relations.

DC Fund is also active in the Washington Regional Association Grantmakers (WRAG) Racial Equity Working Group , which has three major areas of focus: Envisioning a Racially Equitable Region, Community Engagement, and Systems & Policy Work. Participation helps advance our commitment to deepen our own racial justice analysis and shift philanthropy to greater focus on work led by impacted communities of color in order to make systemic changes. The working group is co-chaired by Hanh Le, Executive Director of the Weissberg Foundation, and Yanique Redwood, President and CEO of the Consumer Health Foundation.

Having engaged in strategic planning in the spring, when we usually conduct a semi-annual grant round, we undertook our most ambitious round yet this fall. We received 95 applications, including numerous alliances, for $774,992 in total requests. DC Fund granted $150,150 in grants, about double the amount funded in any other grant round, ranging from $750 – $12,500 to 37 projects – 20 returning grantees and 17 new organizations or alliances. Grants were again awarded by an independent team made up entirely of community activists of color rooted in the District.

The grantmaking team had to make difficult decisions given limited funding and truly inspiring work being led by and for DC communities of color. The commitment and creativity to meet current challenges through advocacy, organizing, healing, and cultural work highlights the need to increase our fundraising over the next year to better support community change. The next grant round will be in spring 2019.

Click here to see the complete list of the organizations that were funded.

Farah Fosse a member of the DC Fund Board of Instigators since 2017, is a long-time tenant / community organizer in DC with a history of leading (and winning!) campaigns for affordable housing in the District and supporting tenant associations to preserve their housing and prevent displacement. Farah currently spends her time consulting with social justice organizations, frequenting playgrounds with her toddler, and teaching empowerment self-defense.

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