More than 20 foundations and philanthropic organizations across Minnesota — from Target in Minneapolis to Blandin in Grand Rapids — are backing a new coalition aiming to reform philanthropy, denounce racism and raise $25 million for Black-led nonprofits and advocacy groups.
The coalition, announced Tuesday, is in response to the death of George Floyd, 46, at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, sparking calls for racial justice.
Minnesota’s strong philanthropic and nonprofit sector has its own problems with racial inequities. A majority of its employees are white, especially in leadership, and Black-led initiatives and nonprofits are largely underfunded.
“What are we doing in our systems to perpetuate harmful practices and how can we transform ourselves in order to transform society?” said Lulete Mola, vice president of community impact at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and one of three leaders of the group. “What we have been doing so far alone has not been working.”
The coalition, called the Philanthropic Collective to Combat Anti-Blackness & Realize Racial Justice, is also led by Chanda Smith Baker, senior vice president of community impact at the Minneapolis Foundation, and Repa Mekha, CEO at Nexus Community Partners.
It aims to raise $25 million for its Black-Led Movement Fund, which will be housed at Nexus Community Partners in St. Paul. Black Visions, a Minnesota organization, will help determine how funds will be distributed.
“We believe that fund really symbolizes a transfer of power, if you will, a transfer of resources to Black communities to decide for ourselves where we think we need investments,” Mola said.
The coalition wants foundations to sign on to a statement on the sector’s role in anti-racism work and help establish policies to address anti-Blackness and racial justice. Those could include how decisions are made about grants that support general operations and changing decisions over hiring employees or naming board members, who are often white.
Philanthropy, Mekha added, can create change through the millions of dollars it gives and uniting in a collective voice.
“I think it has called on philanthropy to be bold in a different kind of way,” he added of Floyd’s death. “The energy behind [the coalition] is greater than anything I’ve seen in philanthropy in my life.”