An Open Letter to Funders

As BIPOC nonprofit leaders, we intimately understand the enormous potential and needs that exist in our communities. Our top priority is working with philanthropy to redefine funder-nonprofit relationships to be trust-based and community-directed, increasing the flow of resources statewide for BIPOC-led nonprofits.

240+ BIPOC Strong

We, the undersigned BIPOC ED Coalition of Washington State, are writing to urge you to

  • double the amount of funding you release to nonprofits;
  • ensure the additional funds are going to organizations led by and serving Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color;
  • foster long-term stability of these organizations by providing multi-year, general operating grants; and
  • support systems-change work led by these communities.

Black, Indigenous, and communities of color have been disproportionately devastated by the intersecting crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and systemic racism. Our nonprofits are facing increased demands for services while our resources have dwindled. We need you to give more, to fund differently, and to partner with us to address the host of problems our communities are facing. 

Over the past few months, we nonprofits have been pushed to our limits. With everything in crisis, demands for our services—food banks, mental health counseling, human services, housing, etc.—have exponentially increased. While everyone is suffering, pervasive racism means Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color have been dying from COVID-19 at a higher rate than the general population. We are experiencing disproportionately higher levels of unemployment, hunger, homelessness, and other issues. Voter suppression in BIPOC communities is putting our democracy in jeopardy. Racist and xenophobic attacks on our communities are relentless. The effects of these crises will get worse in the coming months and will be felt for decades to come. 

Over the past few years, funders have talked about equity, diversity, and inclusion. Many of you have attended workshops on undoing racism and have made public statements in support of Black lives. However, we have seen little of this translating into actual changes in your practices that would allow us to effectively do our work during this critical moment. We still see the same tokenizing behaviors, the lack of trust, and the hoarding of resources at a time when we nonprofits and the communities we serve need you to step up. 

It is unconscionable that so little funding has gone to communities of color [PDF] over the past decades. Many of you have released special funds, but they are not enough. Your solidarity statements are meaningless unless you back them up with substantive actions. Below are the actions we need you to take immediately: 

1. Increase your annual payout rate to 10% or more

The 5% minimum legally mandated foundation payout rate was designed to allow foundations to save the other 95% for a rainy day. It is now that day. It is pouring outside!  Even with an increased 10% payout rate,  foundations would still be able to sustain a sizable corpus to continue investing. If you host Donor-Advised Funds, challenge these donors to increase their giving to at least 10% as well. If you are a government funder, find ways to release additional funds.

2. Provide significant multiyear general operating funds

Organizations and leaders cannot plan for the long-term if they do not have stability of resources and the autonomy to use them. Organizations and leaders need to be able to focus on their work and not spend half their time fundraising and piecemealing small grants together. Commit to giving unrestricted funding to organizations for a minimum of five years to ensure they have the stability to focus on their missions and the ability to weather potential future crises. 

3. Designate the additional funds for organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color

It is not acceptable that so few dollars go to organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and communities of color. Our communities face extreme and disproportionate levels of injustice and must have the resources to lead the way in solving these problems.

4. Support BIPOC-led systems change work

We cannot expect structural racism to end without BIPOC-led systems change work. There is very limited funding available for advocacy work in general and even fewer dollars available for BIPOC-led systems change work. You must fund work focused on advocacy, voter registration, increasing the number of women of color in elected office, changing the tax codes, ending gerrymandering, removing the influence of money on politics, and other efforts that will protect democracy and lead to systems change. 

The next few months are critical. Our communities are experiencing an unprecedented number of crises. Nonprofits will continue to provide services for as long as we can. But we need you to be partners in the work. If you are serious about equity, if you truly mean what you said in your solidarity statements, then release more funds immediately, ensure they are going to organizations led by the communities most affected by systemic injustice, provide multi-year support, and support community-led solutions.

BIPOC Executive Directors Signing in Solidarity

* Note: These are original signatories. While some executive directors may have changed roles, the organizations continue to be considered signatories and coalition members.