5 Pillars Grantmakers Should Focus on for an Equitable, Multiracial Democracy

Photo of Brenda Sears

Voqal’s director of grantmaking and fellowships, Brenda Sears recently wrote an article outlining 5 pillars grantmakers should focus on to build an equitable, multiracial democracy for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. An excerpt from the full article, which first appeared on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s (NCRP) blog, is below.

Two years ago, Voqal decided to focus its funding on 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations led by people of color working to strengthen and protect democracy. The 2016 presidential election illuminated our broken democracy and just how deep the need is for funding to strengthen institutions and build power.

Voqal had a long history of addressing social equity; however, we had limited resources, and we knew we needed to focus. We reviewed our grantmaking history, talked with grantees about the issues and needs, and studied democratic theory, indices for democratic strength, and democratic frameworks.

We settled on a grantmaking strategy that funded what we identified as 5 pillars of an equitable, multiracial democracy. We view these pillars as an ecosystem, all contributing to the health of a vibrant democracy as explained below:

1. Representative Government: We fund groups working to make sure that every vote is counted, every voice is heard, every person is represented and every policymaker reflects the identities and ideology of the people they serve. This work includes fighting for fair redistricting, enacting campaign finance reform, ensuring voting rights, and modernizing the voting process.

2. Fundamental Rights: We fund groups working to grant, guarantee, secure, defend, protect and preserve civil rights, civil liberties, and basic freedoms for all people. This work includes fighting for economic justice, education justice, environmental justice, health justice, housing justice, gender justice, and racial justice.

3. Accurate and Trusted Communications: We fund groups working to make sure information is representative, accurate and trustworthy and that it enables people to hold policymakers accountable. This work includes fighting to protect net neutrality, expand broadband, cultivate progressive narratives, and support alternative and local media.

4. Fair Processes: We fund groups working to make sure the way the laws are written, interpreted, and enforced are fair, impartial, non-discriminatory and transparent, and that those laws uphold fundamental rights. This work includes fighting to protect judicial independence and advocating for more diverse and progressive players in the criminal justice system, such as prosecutors and sheriffs.

5. Participatory Engagement: We fund groups working to ensure there are more opportunities for people to shape their representative’s decisions at all levels of government. This work includes encouraging people to attend public actions, communicate with policymakers, join community organizations, participate in leadership trainings, and vote.

You can read the full article on the NCRP blog.