As a community organizer for 15 years, I’ve worked with low-income people to influence public policies that affect their lives. I have also witnessed first-hand what an incredible difference it makes when nonprofit foundations believe in and invest in grassroots organizations and their communities.
Guided by a values-driven approach—courage, empathy, orignaility and integrity—the Levi Strauss Foundation devotes all of its grant dollars to benefit marginalized communities, more than any other corporate grantmaker.
They share the vision that when those thought to be powerless band together and make their voices heard, they improve their own lives and also the broader community.
The truth is that philanthropy doesn’t always prioritize and empower those with the least wealth and opportunity. Our research shows that only 40 percent of foundation grant dollars are classified as benefitting underserved populations, and only 15 percent support efforts to mobilize these groups so that they can be a part of the solution to social problems that disproportionately affect them.
Now more than ever, we at National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) believe that we need smart, high-impact giving that engages those directly affected by, as the Levi Strauss Foundation puts it, “the issues of our time.”
We need the kind of philanthropy that produces real results that benefit all of us, not just a few—and the kind of grantmaker that uses its influence to help nonprofits be effective at meeting the needs of our communities.
The NCRP Impact Awards recognize and celebrate those foundations that are already practicing this kind of transformative philanthropy. We base this recognition on our suggested benchmarks for effective grantmaking for foundations, called “Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best.”
The Levi Strauss Foundation is one of only a few foundations – corporate and otherwise – that exceeds NCRP’s suggested benchmarks. Together with its community partners, the Levi Strauss Foundation is creating true, lasting social change.
As the head of NCRP, I hope that their example inspires other philanthropic funders to think about how they can maximize the impact of their giving and help make our world a better place for all.