San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell shares four equity-based practices that people can use to ground their giving and create real-world impact.
1. Address the root causes of social issues.
This principle is particularly poignant in this moment. While emergency cash relief for families who have lost their jobs is a worthy cause, we must also examine our economic systems. Those systems have created a reality for millions of families without savings even before the pandemic, and now millions of households with no lifeline during this crisis.
No amount of direct service will solve a social problem. We must look “upstream” to the policy and systems that have created or at the very least contributed to the problem itself. Some ways to address systems change include funding organizations focused on community organizing, advocating for policy change, and building sustained movements for change.
2. Watch out for the “shiny penny.”
While well-resourced organizations grab the headlines, consider supporting smaller and newer organizations that also do critical work. Consider looking at groups that are made up of community members and center community priorities, specifically communities of color and communities where English may not be the primary language.
3. Support organizations rooted in community.
Look for organizations with leaders and staff who represent the community they are serving. Keep in mind that people who are most impacted by a particular problem should be part of informing the solution. It is also important to consider investing in building the power of communities to advocate for change for themselves and their communities, rather than relying on others to swoop in and speak for them.
4. Keep learning and collaborating.
No single person can solve a social problem by themselves. Look for other donors and groups that are interested in similar issues. Gather together, share information, and learn from nonprofits and community members themselves.
Fred Blackwell is the CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the country. Since joining the foundation in 2014, Blackwell has led it in a renewed commitment to social justice through an equity agenda focused on racial equity and economic inclusion. He attributes the trajectory of his career to family members, who were teachers, civil rights movement activists, and worked in nonprofit and social justice organizations. An Oakland native, Blackwell is a nationally recognized community leader with a longstanding career in the Bay Area.
The San Francisco Foundation has been working since 1948 to ensure that all Bay Area residents, no matter their skin color, can thrive. To support its work and learn more, visit sff.org/make-an-impact
Photography by: San Francisco Foundation