Guest Post — The War in Ukraine Requires a Major Philanthropic Response and Overall Increase in Peace and Security Funding

Originally published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, March 1, 2022

“The Molotov cocktails are the worst,” says my 99-year-old grandmother, reflecting on the violence erupting in her homeland of Ukraine. She remembers dodging them in the streets of Odessa as she fled invaders eight decades ago. “But,” she sighs during our weekly Skype chat from her home in Germany, “what can we actually do at this point?”

The short answer for everyone, but especially philanthropy, is quite a lot.

First, grant makers must respond to the immediate humanitarian crisis in Ukraine by providing much-needed rapid-response funds to help those on the ground. Millions of people are likely to need shelter, food, water, and medical care. Foundations and individual donors that can give rapid-response grants should connect with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy or their philanthropy colleagues who are in direct touch with Ukrainian grantee partners and who can most effectively channel funds to meet immediate needs.

Grant makers that have not established flexible-funding approaches should take this opportunity to embrace the notion that timely philanthropy is the most effective philanthropy — especially during a crisis.

Pushing Back on Misinformation

Second, philanthropy can play an important role in pushing back on the warmongering, misinformation-driven narrative woven into the conflict itself and the debate surrounding it. Much has been written about Russia’s use of disinformation in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and, most recently, its characterizations of Ukraine and its government. In both cases, Russian disinformation was amplified by conservative news outlets and politicians in this country, fueling the partisanship that stands in the way of genuine policy debate and consensus building. Such misinformation also feeds narratives that peace, diplomacy, and compromise are weak.

One of the most effective ways grant makers can respond is by supporting independent journalism and analysis that counters these narratives. For example, the 762 Project, which is run by volunteers in Ukraine and elsewhere, has been collecting, analyzing, and posting information about the buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders since last spring. Supporting local news sources in Ukraine, such as the English-language news site the Kyiv Independent, is especially important to ensuring that propaganda from outlets like the Kremlin-funded RT and social-media misinformation campaigns don’t drive decision making about the invasion.

Bolster Peace and Security Funding

Finally, philanthropy must increase its investment in peace and security broadly, and diversify who receives that funding. Without meaning to sound insensitive, this step is more important and more difficult than the short-term response to the war in Ukraine. It is the only way to achieve lasting peace and security in both Ukraine and future conflicts — and to identify and spotlight innovative, peace-focused solutions.

Peace and security funding accounts for just 1 percent of all grant making, which is as lopsided as the funding disparity between the State Department and the Department of Defense. The State Department’s $65 billion budget is 1 percent of the overall federal budget, while the Defense Department’s is 10 times that, or $773 billion. In a recent op-ed about American militarism, Patrick Hiller, director of the War Prevention Initiative at the Jubitz Family Foundation, noted that “diplomacy is the sidekick of the U.S. war machine when it comes to relations with the rest of the world.” Is it any wonder that diplomacy doesn’t have much of a fighting chance?

The 57 members of the Peace and Security Funders Group, which I manage, make up a passionate and strategic bunch, but we struggle to get adequate funding for our issues. Why?

During my 14 years of working in this area, I’ve heard three perennial reasons from grant makers for avoiding peace work:

Peace is a long-term investment, with payout measured in decades, and boards lack the vision and patience to stay the course when there aren’t quick wins to showcase at quarterly meetings.  Peace work can feel too political because many of the issues involve policy or legislation.  It’s difficult to claim credit for avoiding a future nuclear terrorist attack or for preventing a conflict that would have happened absent locally led peace-building efforts.

In reality, hundreds of examples demonstrate how investing in peace building can stop or reduce conflict. And, as the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to investments in peace versus war. As for those concerned about crossing too far into direct political involvement or lobbying, there are many options in the advocacy toolbox that both grant makers and nonprofits can deploy to effectively and legally engage in this work.

The peace and security arena is itself at a crossroads. One foundation colleague of mine often jokes that the field is mostly “pale, male, and stale.” Some have called the lack of diversity a national security crisis, and myriad initiatives are pushing for more diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism efforts. For instance, the nonprofit group Organizations in Solidarity “seeks to diversify the fields of peace and security, foreign policy, and national security,” with the goal of making the work more inclusive and equitable.

The field is beginning to grapple with a toxic culture that dismisses new ideas, as well as its role in upholding a white dominant system that favors solutions for only some of the world’s people. This is necessary and long overdue. As philanthropist and financier Frank Giustra observed, “Without peace and security, you can forget about advancing any of the other social issues philanthropy is trying to address. … It’s impossible to implement solutions in issue areas like health, education, and poverty unless you have a peaceful and stable environment to work in.”

The tragic and unnecessary war in Ukraine is unlikely to end anytime soon — and philanthropy has no excuse for sitting on the sidelines. Funds should be directed toward immediate humanitarian needs while also supporting organizations that are charting a more inclusive, equitable, and just path forward. We all need to learn to talk about peace in a way that’s empowering, inspiring, and radically feminist. For those grant makers who aren’t yet in the peace game, this is your chance. We have an opportunity to change history’s trajectory and prevent another devastating war.

Over 90 Charitable Sector Leaders Join United Philanthropy Forum in Urging Senate Action on Voting Rights

United Philanthropy Forum sent a letter to all 100 Senate offices urging action on voting rights during the final year of the 117th Congress. Joining the Forum as signatories of the letter were over 90 philanthropic and charitable sector leaders from across the country, including 40 Forum members.

Specifically, the letter asks the United States Senate to prioritize passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act in 2022. The Forum endorsed the legislation last year and has continued to work with partners like Independent Sector to uplift the issue to the broader sector.

After the Senate failed to act on voting rights last month, the Forum recognized the need to continue to call on legislators to do act on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement and the critical importance of the measures the bill takes to ensure equity in the voting rights process.

If you have any questions about philanthropy’s work on this issue or the Forum’s commitment to uplifting equitable public policy solutions, please feel free to contact Matthew L. Evans, the Forum’s Senior Director of Public Policy.

$450K in American Rescue Plan Funds for RI Arts Organizations

Representative David Cicilline announced that six Rhode Island arts organizations have been awarded a total of $450,000 in competitive grant funding from the American Rescue Plan. These grants, awarded through the National Endowment for the Arts, will support payroll costs and pandemic-related expenses. The grants were awarded as follows:

  • Alliance of Artists Communities, Providence – $100,000
  • Dirt Palace Public Projects, Providence – $50,000
  • DownCity Design, Providence – $100,000
  • Spectrum Theatre Ensemble, Providence – $100,000
  • Everett Arts Incubator, Providence – $50,000
  •  Riverzedge Arts, Woonsocket – $50,000

The pandemic and safety measures have hit arts organizations here in Rhode Island and around the country hard. These American Rescue Plan grants will help Rhode Island’s cultural institutions weather this storm and continue to enrich Rhode Island communities.

State Arts Council Awards 74 Grants to RI Artists, Arts Organizations and Nonprofits

Arts and culture organizations, arts education and healthcare programs, individual and teaching artists, culture workers, and related community projects benefited from $215,011 in funding announced by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA). The 74 grants, of which 34 went to individual artists, were approved by the Arts Council’s Board on Dec. 13, and will assist RI’s arts and culture community throughout the 2022 fiscal year.

The next cycle of arts and culture grants will open on Feb. 1 with a deadline of April 1. Several grant programs have been updated to align with the agency’s ongoing work to ensure that arts and culture continue to be an essential part of Rhode Island life and thrive in our communities. For more information, visit RISCA’s grants webpage.

$5.4 Million in CARES Act COVID-19 Aid Awarded to More than 160 Nonprofits

The Rhode Island Foundation announced the distribution of $5.4 million in federal CARES Act funding for COVID-19 relief to more than 160 nonprofits across the state. The grants cover the cost of housing, behavioral health services, health care, job training, food pantries and child care among other uses.

The Rhode Island Nonprofit Support Fund II was established jointly by Governor Dan McKee, through the Rhode Island Pandemic Recovery Office; and the Foundation last month. The grants average more than $32,000 and target services or direct assistance that respond to the COVID-19 pandemic impact on vulnerable individuals or communities.

The $5.4 million in grants includes an additional $900,000 in funding that became available after the Foundation began taking applications November 30.

Full list of grant recipients

National Endowment for the Arts announces $195,000 in Project Funding to 11 RI arts organizations

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced today the first round of recommended awards for fiscal year 2022, with 11 awards totaling nearly $195,000 to Rhode Island-based arts and culture organizations.

Nationally, the first round of NEA’s recommended awards for fiscal year 2022 totaled 1,498 organizations and nearly $33.2 million in funds. The Grants for Arts Projects funding spanned 15 artistic disciplines and reached communities in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Recipients of the Challenge America grant program, NEA Literature Fellowships in creative writing and translation, and support for arts research projects were also included in this announcement.

Click here to see the national listing of grantees.

RISCA and RIHPHC Award $3.46 million in Capital Grants

Governor Dan McKee, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) jointly announced the recipients of 24 State Cultural Facilities Grants and 18 State Preservation Grants.
Together the projects represent some $2.28 million from RISCA and more than $1.18 million from RIHPHC for capital preservation work at public and nonprofit arts and performance facilities, museums, cultural arts centers and historic sites throughout the state.
Last March, Rhode Island voters overwhelmingly passed the Cultural Arts and State Preservation Grants Programs ballot measure, which authorized the state to allocate funds to arts, culture and historic facilities. Included in this funding are carryover funds from the 2014 $30 million ballot measure totaling $460,930.
For a listing of State Cultural Facilities Grants, click here.
For more on HPHC’s State Preservation Grants, visit www.preservation.ri.gov.

RI Arts and Humanities Councils Award Nearly $1 Million in Grants with Federal Funds

One hundred twenty one culture, humanities and arts nonprofits have been awarded grants through the Rhode Island Culture, Humanities and Arts Recovery Grant (RI CHARG) program, a historic collaborative partnership between the State Council on the Arts (RISCA) and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (Humanities Council).
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded $968,000 in assistance to Rhode Island from their American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and is not part of the $1.1 billion in ARPA funding awarded to the state.
These federally appropriated cultural assistance funds administered by RISCA and the Humanities Council provide general operating support grants of $8,000 each to 121 culture, humanities, and arts nonprofits:
● 95% are small to midsize and/or Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) centered organizations;
● 65% are organizations based outside the city of Providence; and
● More than 25% are first-time grantees.
Click here to read the list of grantees.

Community Leaders Call for More Investment and Focus on Rhode Island’s Nonprofit Sector

Several community leaders — Mario Bueno of Progreso Latino, Anthony Hubbard of YouthBuild Preparatory Academy, Cortney Nicolato of United Way, and Daniel Schliefer of New Urban Arts — published a commentary piece in the Boston Globe on the importance of investing in the capacity and sustainability of the nonprofit sector.

Rhode Island can no longer overlook, and underfund, its nonprofit sector

Over the last 19 months, Rhode Island’s nonprofit organizations have been the heart, hands and feet of Rhode Island’s relief and recovery efforts.  They provided food and shelter to Rhode Islanders in need. Helped underserved communities access testing and vaccines.  Supported children and families with the challenges of distance learning.  Provided physical and behavioral health care.  Helped isolated seniors connect with loved ones and services.  Provided support and training for small businesses and social entrepreneurs.  Trained workers for new jobs.  Uplifted somber days with beautiful music and art.

In some ways, the last year-and-a-half has been a story of unprecedented commitment and heroism. Faced with the confluence of health, economic, and racial justice crises, Rhode Island nonprofits rose to the challenge of skyrocketing need. At great personal and organizational cost, they overcame public health restrictions, inadequate staffing, physical and emotional exhaustion, and fundraising limitations to deliver services in innovative ways. They were a lifeline to thousands of Rhode Islanders during their darkest moments.

In other ways, the commitment and heroism displayed by our state’s nonprofits during the pandemic is completely normal. It is what happens when organizations are driven by mission and collective social benefit.

Every single day, pandemic or not, quiet, essential work is done across Rhode Island by nonprofit organizations.  Skilled, dedicated, compassionate staff work with limited resources to care for our neighbors, empower our children, and build flourishing communities.  Community-based organizations provide the expertise, energy, and innovation to make the state’s vision for strong, equitable, prosperous cities and towns a reality. Every. Single. Day.

And every day, whether in times of crisis or plenty, the state depends on these same nonprofits to make Rhode Island lives and communities better.  Yet, at nearly every turn, this vital sector is under-resourced, stretched thin, and often taken for granted.

Like the steel beams that undergird our bridges, the crucial work of our state’s nonprofits is so integral to the health and well-being of our communities that it can easily be overlooked.  But like our physical infrastructure, our “civic infrastructure” of unheralded nonprofits, collaborative networks, and community-based initiatives cannot continue to carry the weight of our state’s critical needs without comprehensive, long-term investment.

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Guest Post: ABFE Stands in Solidarity with Haitian Asylum Seekers — How Philanthropy Can Respond

From our sister organization, Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE):

ABFE Stands In Solidarity with Haitian Asylum Seekers

How Philanthropy Can Respond

As of Friday 9/24, the migrant camp under Del Rio bridge has been cleared ─ but the conversation around anti-Black immigration to the US has just begun. The inhumane and cruel attacks on Haitian asylum seekers on the US-Mexico border were heart-wrenching to witness ─ sadly illuminating a long history of violent detention and deportation by the United States. ABFE stands in solidarity with Black migrants who are typically left out of the immigration debate and commits to advocating on their behalf within the philanthropic sector.

We condemn the ongoing abusive treatment of the Haitian people and demand a dignified path forward for the thousands of Black immigrants seeking asylum. Mounted border patrol agents aggressively corralling people like cattle or runaway slaves was on public display for the world to see. We are equally concerned with what we are not seeing in mainstream media. Where are the thousands of Haitians now? What are their living conditions? Are they being treated with dignity and respect? There are reports that some are being held in detention centers and prisons, waiting to hear if they will be granted asylum or be deported. Those that have already been deported to Haiti have been dumped into a country overrun by strife and instability.

Many in this country were encouraged when the Biden administration signed an executive order on advancing racial equity in his first days in office. It states, “ it is therefore the policy of my Administration that the Federal Government should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality” [1]. This does not appear to be the case in the area of immigration policy; anti-Black racism is alive and well – one just needs to compare the treatment of Haitians at the border with that of Afghan refugees who have recently arrived in this country.

How Philanthropy Can Respond

Thousands more will make arduous treks to the U.S. border. Immediate strategies to address real-time humanitarian crises as well as long-term solutions for welcoming asylum seekers into U.S. society are needed.

  • Disinvestment – Foundations can look internally to see where their investments lie. There is a growing disinvestment movement – similar to the South African Apartheid disinvestment – focused on the Immigration Industrial complex. Similarly, the current Prison Industrial Complex disinvestment movement is focusing on immigration camps and detention centers.[2]
  • Invest in the Caribbean – If we care about Black lives in the US, we must care about Black lives in the Caribbean including Haiti. Why? The majority of Black immigrants in the U.S. migrate from this region and these families retain strong economic ties to one another. We urge international funders to focus on the issues and development of the Caribbean.
  • Support Organizations focused on Black immigrants (from the Caribbean, Africa, Afro-Latinos from South American countries) – The focus has been on Latinx migrants which means many of the services provided for migrants and asylum seekers are Spanish-language based.

ABFE recommends supporting the following organization:

Grantmakers Council of Rhode Island