Innovative funding pool helps empower San Diego’s social justice warriors

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I’ve never seen a grant application with the words ‘racial justice,’” were encouraging words delivered to the San Diego Grantmakers Social Equity Collaborative Fund (SECF) steering committee members during a revealing grantmaking process. This applicant was also quick to point out that they applied for the funds because of the confidence and inspiration they derived from the unusually plain language used about the challenges our communities face.  The Steering Committee took this unique approach not only to contribute to the efforts currently taking place on the ground, but as a way to model effective funder-grantee relationships that stem from the pursuit of a common goal rather than struggle through a strained power dynamic.

This funding approach was adopted by a diverse eight person steering committee committed to utilizing their understanding of the issues at hand, their networks and knowledge, and taking the role of allies to the grantees supported by this fund, with this approach paying immediate dividends by catalyzing a number of new and dynamic collaborations in our most underserved communities. In a region where much of our much effective racial justice and economic justice work takes place through the efforts of volunteers and small organizations that are not always on the radar of organized philanthropy, it was important that the Social Equity Collaborative Fund supports authentic collaboration among grassroots groups that advance racial equity in San Diego County.

This photo of the 40th anniversary includes two steering committee members:
Michelle Jaramillo - Latina Giving Circle; Khalid Alexander - City College/Pillars of the Community) and one founder of the Social Equity Funders (Judy McDonald - Parker Foundation)

The response to the Request for Proposal (RFP) which would guide more than $800,000 into local communities was tremendous.  From among 66 applications, the steering committee selected those that most effectively move forward the SECF’s key values:

  • Racial justice and economic justice
  • Resident leadership through community power-building
  • Collaboration, trust-building, shared learning, and cross-cultural healing and understanding by all stakeholders
  • Innovation in methods and strategies
  • A productive learning process may include failure and risk-taking
  • Honesty, openness, and trust among partners
  • Accountability not just to a grant report, but to partners and the community served
  • Collaboration that reflects an awareness of interconnectedness in a broader movement
  • A commitment to structural and systemic change

As you can see, the influx of applications made clear both the need for racial and economic justice funding and the tremendous capacity of community members and community based organizations to bring forward solutions and strategies.

In the end, we proudly selected and funded six projects which represent 24 organizations and groups of residents working collaboratively to achieve racial and economic justice in our region.

  • Advancing Healthy Neighborhoods builds the agency and voice of refugee and immigrant families as equal participants in the civic, environmental and economic life in the City of El Cajon and San Diego’s City Heights neighborhoods ($135,000).
  • Asian Solidarity Collective activates Asian American social justice consciousness, identify intersectional affiliations, condemn anti-Blackness, and build Asian solidarity with Black folks and other communities of color ($152,250).
  • Semillas de Libertad supports formerly incarcerated individuals in San Diego with a focus on underserved North County through an intensive, holistic curriculum that integrates culturally relevant education and legal approaches to increase students’ wellness and reentry success ($170,000).
  • Southeastern San Diego Food Equity Project transforms the political and economic environment using neighborhood-based agricultural cooperatives as strategies of resistance to food insecurity through community/civic engagement and alternative food ecosystems ($130,000).
  • The CommUnity Spot Collaborative provides a home base or community center for residents and leaders from—and working within—the Southeast region to congregate and build community, and offers mentoring and educational support and support for entrepreneurship ($104,400).
  • United for Justice nurtures a powerful, collaborative voice in our immigrant communities of color and, through the nonprofit minority-led United Dispatch, empowers low-income immigrant taxi drivers to achieve livable incomes and fair treatment in their work ($130,000).

In September 2016, SDG hosted the Equity Event to soft-launch our public equity position and the sentiment on this table tent is consistent with the SECF grantmaking.

San Diego Grantmakers is thrilled to support this work. We view it as a critical reflection of our focus on equity,  transparency and consistent with practices we promote through the Full Cost Project, which emphasizes multi-year general operating support to promote sustainable community organizations and long-term systemic change.

The SECF was created via a transformational three-year investment by the Satterberg Foundation and provided the catalyst for additional contributions by the Blue Shield Foundation and The California Endowment.

For more information on the Social Equity Collaborative Fund, its grantees, and how you can join us in contributing to this important work, please visit or contact me directly at megan[at]!


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