AFF Board Member & AFF Consultant Develop A Racial Justice Curriculum for Family Foundations

The National Center for Family Philanthropy has launched the Racial Justice Learning and Action Network to deepen engagement with issues of race in philanthropy. NCFP fellows conducted community interviews to explore the reasons why trustees wanted to engage in racial justice learning. Former AFF board member Lindsey Griffith contributed to the interviews, while AFF consultant/trainer Bari Katz and AFF Board member Edgar Villanueva have been chosen to guide the curriculum design with the trustees who will participate in the network.

Read more about their impactful work here.

How AFF’s Inaugural Movement Partner Advisory Council Will Help Build A More Aligned, Liberated Philanthropic Practice

Recently, movement leaders, board members and AFF staff gathered (virtually) for our annual board meeting. This meeting was a historic occasion for our fund because we welcomed our first cohort of Movement Partner Advisory Council members — a group of AFF grantee partners focused on youth justice child welfare policy that will collectively craft AFF’s strategic plan for the next 5 years.

MPAC & AFF Board

That day, we took another step toward making good on the lofty goals we identified last year during our board retreat at the Highlander Center with Reverend Allyn-Steele and Ash-Lee Woodard-Henderson. The three goals:

  1. Support the field’s demand to close youth prisons in 10 years and assist movement partners in ending the over-criminalization of BIPOC youth nationwide.
  2. Move more money to grassroots frontline movements.
  3. Help organize philanthropy to follow the lead of movement communities.

On that day, I asked the group to hold up four words: Community, Alignment, Power and Strategy.

Community in this context means that movement leaders and board members sit together (virtually) to explore how real change happens and how we can do our best work together. Through the expert facilitation of Rusia Mohiuddin, we are creating a culture of collaboration and connection that builds the power of movement organizations. Community also means grappling with the inherently flawed and unjust system of philanthropy and the toxic power dynamic it creates between movement partners and funders. In community, we discuss the places where we’re politically aligned and where we are misaligned in our vision of how change happens. In other words, in community, we learn what transformative change actually looks like.

Why do these encounters of board and movement leaders rarely happen? One major reason is because funders have never been held accountable to communities as stakeholders. It is standard practice for boards to approve strategies that are designed by program officers and directors who often do not collaborate with the communities they intend to serve. The other reason for the rare encounters is because movement partners are incredibly busy! Their time and brilliance are spent on the frontlines pushing for racial justice and building power for young people, and we take that commitment very seriously. But one thing we’ve all come to agree upon is that more authentic proximity — not less — will help us do our most aligned and impactful work. If we are to practice being in a more equitable, transformative relationship with one another — one rooted in interdependence, transformation, learning and grounded in the courage to change — then we have to foster a rigorous, long-term practice that is truly beneficial for communities, not just beneficial to funders who prioritize “learning” above action.

Alignment with today’s work is to follow the leadership of those directly impacted at the center. Not because funders and movements aren’t already aligned in racial justice values — although sometimes there’s a difference between espoused and practiced values — but because we are continuously refining our understanding and practice — PRAXIS — of who should lead and how to support them. The deployment and reclaiming of much-needed resources to support movements to actualize their visions is a necessary part of transformative change work. Bringing together those with the resources and those who need them, and building a practice rooted in anti-racism, healing, and transformation is a rigorous yet necessary endeavor. I believe this proximity between funders and movements will produce political clarity, sharpened focus and, dare I say, impact. Not just impact in communities, families and organizations, but also our own impact as philanthropic allies.

The heart of this work is not an intellectual exercise, but a personal commitment to examine how each one of us is personally implicated in the exploitation of another. Many of us — it is inevitable — are both the oppressed and oppressor in a society whose foundations were built on stolen land, slavery and extractive capitalism. We are here to do the hard work together, as Darnell Moore said in the “Black Freedom Dream” episode of the “Lady Don’t Take No” podcast hosted by Alicia Garza, of getting the “boot off the neck” of the person we are in an oppressive relationship with. Our collective liberation lies in the courageous work of seeing both the privilege and oppression and taking accountability for harm prevention. I invite you to step into self-care, compassion and courage as we witness the dimensions of ourselves (as funders or movement leaders) that we are often afraid to acknowledge — to own and transform our behaviors, and ultimately, our impact.

Finally, our time together is intended to build Power for directly-impacted youth and their communities. Despite the power dynamics between us–funders and movement leaders-–our collaboration is meant to interrogate and transfer power to where it is needed. Who has power in the legislative halls? Who is holding narrative and moral power? How does power show up on the blocks and streets where youth and communities are surviving and seeking to thrive? Who has the power to change the rules and relieve the material and social conditions of marginalized youth? To truly make good on our vision of liberation? Who has the power of resources and capital to ensure these visions come to life and how will they deploy it?

We have the opportunity to build a Strategy that is a model for the broader philanthropic community. A model that firmly believes community must be at the table to inform, lead and design the strategies meant to build long-term community power. Although we proudly see staff as advocates and champions who are often also directly impacted, we are well aware that staff should not be a proxy for directly-impacted communities and leaders. We affirm that it is sophisticated, intelligent and darn right strategic to build philanthropic structures meant to support and strengthen communities’ expertise and position them at the helm.

We are excited for our time together this coming year and hope that the rich conversations and thought partnership between staff, board members and movement partners will transform us all. Our ultimate hope is that the change we create together will live on in our philanthropic structures, policies and culture.

Let’s stay in deep awareness and enjoy building the spaceship for liberated futures we needed yesterday. It all starts with one step, one conversation, one Zoom icebreaker at a time.

Welcome in accountable love, community!

Nothing About Us Without Us: AFF Welcomes Movement Partner Advisory Council

“Nothing about us without us.”
James Charlton, Disability Rights Movement Author

Dear Community,

After 20 years of philanthropic work, AFF is excited to announce the launch of the inaugural cohort of Movement Partner Advisory Council (MPAC). AFF welcomes 2021 with the goal of entering into a more accountable philanthropic practice, deeply grounded in collaborative relationship with movement organizations, following their lead and transferring power to frontline communities.

Our staff is an all-women-of-color team, and we are deeply aware that accountability to frontline, directly impacted communities must be more than a soapbox talking point. The absence of a dedicated structure to bring community to the table is a promise — not an actionable plan.

The AFF board seeks to change that. As a result, we decided to formally create the MPAC. The Council is an intergenerational, geographically diverse table of movement partners from across youth justice, child welfare, immigrant rights and gender justice organizations. MPAC members are also intermediaries, organizing policy and/or advocacy partners. They all have deep expertise and proven track records building power in communities, changing policy and practices that impact the youth and communities AFF serves.

The goal of the MPAC is to serve as a strategic partner that will provide guidance to the AFF staff and board in how we meet the AFF mission, vision and strategic plan. The MPAC will also inform our grantmaking, capacity-building and philanthropic organizing endeavors. As AFF continues to strengthen our accountability to the field and deepen our commitment to sharing power with frontline communities, we’re very excited about formalizing a vehicle to deepen relationships and commit to the regular practice of following the lead of movements.

Our vision is that the MPAC serve as a council of wise movement building experts who can inform our philanthropic strategy and practice, ensure staff and board are in lockstep with movements and maximize our resources, efforts, and time to improve outcomes for the youth we serve and the organizations we partner with.

In 2021, MPAC members will sit at the table alongside the AFF board in our strategic planning process, providing valuable insight into the revamping of our application and reporting processes, capacity building programing, communications and grantmaking strategies, and philanthropic organizing efforts. Together, we will articulate a collective vision and plan for how to better serve the young people we serve.

Please welcome the outstanding members of the inaugural MPAC — all AFF grantee partner leaders on the frontlines of fighting for Black, Brown, and Indigenous youth impacted by youth justice, child welfare and other disruptive systems. We are beyond honored to work together with our brilliant grantee leaders to deepen authentic, collaborative partnerships between philanthropy and movements.

Together,
Manuela Arciniegas
Director
Andrus Family Fund

CC Gardner-Gleser
Chair of the Board
Andrus Family Fund

A Letter to Foundation Trustees: 5 Things You Can Do Right Now To Show Up For Racial Justice

The year 2020 holds challenges for us all — a triple-layered challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the police killings and resulting uprisings calling out racial injustice and an economic recession. The upcoming shift in the political landscape provides hope, but the election also highlighted a known rift in a country that has not reckoned with its racist history. Arguably, the work and organizations funded by the Andrus Family Fund (AFF) are more critical than ever.  

This year also marks AFF’s 20th anniversary, which provided an opportunity for reflection and radical visioning. Our grantee partners have shown incredible resilience and serve as a source of inspiration in building power among like-minded groups, with an urgency that philanthropy isn’t used to. We understand that philanthropy is steeped in dominant culture and centers itself over the needs of community. We can no longer operate at this slower pace; we must be responsive. It is essential that change at the board level follows the pace of movement building or we will lose this moment. The building of this moment has happened over time; now is the time to trust community, listen to community and lean in. 

As we reflect on our role as a learning board and family fund, we commit to the hard work of organizing our peers — trustees. AFF board members, comprised of both family and community board members ages 25-45, have put together five recommendations to fellow trustees in family philanthropy to meet the current moment, all of which are rooted in action. These ideas are not new, but we want to lift them up resoundingly because we are on the journey to committing to bringing these recommendations to life.

We center two commitments above all else in our work as board members: (i) to create just and sustainable change rooted in a commitment to racial and social justice and (ii) to learn and commit to using our knowledge to bring about change — in ourselves, in our board rooms and in our communities. These values are reflected in the recommendations below:

1. Practice Trust-Based Philanthropy

  • The brilliance lives in the field and with the practice of our partners, not within foundation walls. Directly impacted communities hold the ideas and need resources to carry them out. 
  • Trustees are to trust in staff, and in turn, staff are to trust in grantee partners. Forgo the need to understand all strategies before trusting partners on-the-ground to experiment, innovate and lead with action.  
  • Shift the focus from transactional grant-making to deep, authentic relationship-building. Ask yourselves: how are we in service to our partners? Re-assess both strategic and operational aspects of the grant-making process to make sure it leads with deep care for movement organizations and their staff. 
  • Be careful not to center board members in this process. Ask not what board members want or need and instead center community. An explicit focus on social and racial justice will continue to shift the focus back to community.

 

2. Commit Long Term to Becoming Anti-Racist and Eradicating Anti-Blackness in our Institutions

  • AFF and Surdna recently made a commitment to become a fully inclusive, anti-racist organization. Our vision is an institution within a wider community that has overcome systemic racism and all other forms of oppression, with full participation and shared power from diverse racial, cultural and economic groups. We are humbly at the beginning of this journey.
  • Require both institutional and personal commitments. Individual commitments are necessary to examine internal bias, as well as to sit in the discomfort and do the work.
  • Work to build anti-racist cultures and processes across all levels of the institution. Learn about anti-racist practices and implement these practices throughout all corners of your foundation.  
  • Break up all-white spaces and ensure members across all identity groups are participants in decisions that shape an institution. Recognize where, why and how all-white spaces appear. In family philanthropy, this may be across all levels of an organization, or at the board and senior leadership level.  
  • Recognize that much of this work rests on the shoulders of white people. Without a commitment to anti-racism and fighting anti-blackness from white people, we become the barriers to progress.

 

3. Fight Complacency and Transcend Fatigue

  • Silence is violence — speak up about racism and anti-blackness on every level to hold both people and systems accountable. As Ibram X. Kendi has taught us, one must be actively anti-racist and not complacent to counter the forces of racism. Center anti-racism and social justice in your personal life and family relationships. Lean into vulnerability; there will be discomfort in this process — find your support team, regroup and keep at it!  
  • Cultivate a learning culture. Learning has been central to AFF’s evolution — from topics such as power, privilege and white supremacy to abolitionist strategies. Education with historical context is key, and helps prevent claims of ignorance or unawareness.  
  • Do not rely on staff — particularly BIPOC professionals — to “teach” board members; there is a balance between leveraging resources and expertise versus consuming the time and energy of staff.  
  • Reframe the concept of risk to promote action. What does it mean for a young, Black person on the front lines to bear risk? What does it mean for a white person close to resources, power and privilege to bear risk?

 

4. Take Bold Action

  • Ask questions and push for bold action as board members, including diversifying boards and exploring increased spending. 
  • Building on several of the themes listed above, family foundation boards should be encouraged to diversify boards by bringing on non-family and/or community board members. AFF embarked on this journey several years ago, recognizing the importance of living our values by extending the opportunity for board service to the broader community and bringing professionals with expertise and lived experience into decision-making roles. Today, AFF proudly has a community member serving as Chair of the board and a standing commitment to have three community board members. 
  • Institutions should also wrestle with the question of further supporting a well-funded endowment versus supporting communities in need. If not now, then when? Throughout 2020, AFF advocated for more dollars to flow to grantee partners. In the words of Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of the Highlander Research and Education Center, “fund us like you want us to win.” Grantees are on the frontlines and we want more dollars to be directed more quickly to critical movements supporting Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. We want them to win!

 

5. Leverage Relationships and Power

  • Educate and organize within your own communities. Have conversations with family members, friends and acquaintances. Make a personal commitment to do so long-term.  
  • Explore fundraising ideas and ask people you have relationships with for money. Look to partner organizations and directly impacted communities to inform how resources should be allocated, and follow their lead. Build on the themes around trust-based philanthropy, quickly removing barriers to access grants. Make it as easy and labor-free as possible to move resources.

 

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather highlight areas where a family foundation board has uncovered small wins in responding to the current moment. Grounded in our commitment to learning, we welcome continued conversation around what other family foundation trustees are doing to advance social and racial justice. If you’d like to sign on to this pledge, or request support in holding conversations around these ideas to your board, please reach out to us at info@affund.org.

Onward,
The AFF Board

The Andrus Family Fund Announces New Board Leadership

The Andrus Family Fund, a program and sub fund of the Surdna Foundation,  is pleased to announce our new board chair: C’Ardiss “CC” Gardner Gleser. CC is the first community member to serve as Chair of the AFF Board, and continues to make visible the influential leadership of Black women in social justice philanthropy. 

CCCC is currently the inaugural Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives at the Satterberg Foundation, where she has resourced a number of BIPOC-led organizations advancing racial and environmental justice. She was a recipient of the YaleWomen Award for Excellence in 2019, the highest award bestowed to Yale alumni who are exceptional advocates for justice, equality and access for women. CC was also a Connecting Leaders Fellow at the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE). Her deep commitment to elevating and centering the voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Color led her to establish the first-of-its-kind Seattle Equity Summit, which is an annual cross-sector dialogue (bringing together community, non-profit, philanthropy, corporate, government and education) designed to solve some of the most pressing issues plaguing Seattle through a racial justice lens.  

Under CC’s leadership as board chair, AFF family and community board members will continue to advance trust-based philanthropic practices, racial equity and social justice grantmaking led by youth impacted by the Child Welfare, Youth Justice and other systems. “The time is now. It’s more critical than ever for philanthropy to show up as a partner that trusts the communities it serves rather than continuing to apply traditional and outdated models of philanthropy,” said CC. “I commit to modeling what it looks like for philanthropy to listen and learn from young people and allied adults with direct lived experiences of racial discrimination, economic and social exclusion, and systemic barriers.” 

KaitlinAs board chair, CC will partner closely with Kaitlin Miles, newly appointed Vice Chair, based in Austin, TX.  Kaitlin is currently an Investment Manager at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, helping provide pension benefits to over 1.6 million public school teachers and public education employees and retirees. “My goal is to be a great support system for our staff and board chair. In this role I pledge to champion the impactful work of our grantee partner leaders. Together, we will continue to push AFF and philanthropy to give even more support to youth, invest in Black leadership, and make bolder moves to center the voices of community,” said Kaitlin. Both CC and Kaitlin, in partnership with the Surdna Foundation, look forward to creating more opportunities for building power in communities by following the leadership of directly impacted young people.

Joining CC and Kaitlin on the AFF Executive Board are Emily Klass as Secretary and Julia Voorhees as Treasurer.

Stepping Up for Racial Justice

The Andrus Family Fund is a program and sub fund of the Surdna Foundation.

Across the U.S., millions have stepped up in support of Black lives and against systemic anti-Black racism. Today, I want to tell you how the Surdna Foundation is stepping up, too.

Meeting the Moment

Racial and social justice has long been at the heart of every grant we make. But the pandemic, economic crisis, and our nation’s long-needed reckoning with racial injustices call upon all of us to do more and to do better.

In response, Surdna is increasing its grantmaking for racial justice by approximately $36 million over the next three years. These new funds will intensify our support for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color leaders, organizations, and networks most affected by systemic racism.

Our goal is to give our grantee partners breathing room to respond to today’s urgent needs and to sustain their work toward addressing deep, structural anti-Black racism to realize just and sustainable communities in which everyone can thrive.

Combined with our annual grantmaking of roughly $41.5 million per year, this increased spending will bring Surdna’s total financial commitment to racial justice to approximately $160 million between now and the end of 2023.

How Will the Funds be Granted?

As a longtime funder of racial and social justice, Surdna will initially use additional grant dollars to support existing grantee partners, including:

  • Artists and arts organizations that are particularly threatened by revenue losses during the pandemic and those working with their communities to imagine and prototype a more racially just future.
  • Grassroot organizations and networks working at the intersection of racial, economic, and climate justice.
  • Businesses and entrepreneurs of color in need of access to capital and a runway to imagine, innovate, and generate wealth in their communities.
  • Efforts to abolish youth prisons and foster safe communities.
  • Program- and mission-related investments that extend the impact of the Foundation beyond grantmaking.

Our Inclusive EconomiesSustainable Environments, and Thriving Cultures program teams, alongside our Impact Investing staff and the Andrus Family Fund, will work within their existing strategies to make investments that support previously identified ideas developed with grantees and partners. Opportunities for new grants and grantee partners will be developed at a later date.

Each year, we will determine the exact amount of increased spending, estimated to total $36 million over three years, by an annual valuation of our endowment on December 31st. In keeping with trust-based philanthropic practices, we will listen to our grantee partners’ needs and award multiyear, core support grants whenever appropriate.

Fulfilling Our Mission

As an institution working to foster just and sustainable communities, we know that thriving cultures, inclusive economies, and sustainable environments simply are not possible without directly addressing structural racism. Sustainable communities must include access to fair opportunities and the processes that shape our lives and communities.

For over five generations, Surdna has been governed largely by descendants of John E. Andrus, who founded the foundation in 1917. As Peter B. Benedict II, Surdna’s board chair and fifth-generation family member said, “Not only is stepping up our funding at this moment the right thing to do, but it also underscores the importance of our social justice mission.”

On a practical level, we fulfill our racial and social justice mission in three ways: 1) programmatic grantmaking, 2) offering support to grantees beyond the grant money, and 3) program- and mission-related investments, including leveraging our $1 billion endowment to influence other investors to do impact investing that will result in more just, sustainable markets and outcomes. We intentionally invest in communities of color, supporting those that have historically been underfunded, and make impact investments that are not only profitable but good for people and the planet.

Centering Our Grantee Partners

For years, the Surdna Foundation has supported solutions to dismantling the policies, behaviors, and cultural drivers that have produced racial injustices over generations. The greatest reward of my job is seeing the transformative work of our grantee partners. Here are just a few examples of initiatives we’ve had the privilege to support this year:

Imagining a More Racially Just Future
Artists can help us radically imagine and build a more just future in which we all can thrive. Take, for example, Designing Justice+Designing Spaces (DJDS), a nonprofit real estate and architecture firm with a mission to end mass incarceration and structural inequality. At the heart of its work is the question: What would a world without prisons look like? DJDS works with communities and those in the criminal justice system to imagine and design healing alternatives to prisons like the new Center for Equity in Atlanta.

Rendering of the new Center for Equity in Atlantic
Rendering of the new Center for Equity in Atlanta, courtesy of DJDS

The NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through its Radical Imagination grant program, it will fund six Indigenous artists/culture bearers to imagine, design, and create projects that propose solutions to our most intractable societal problems. NDN Collective is one of our Thriving Cultures program’s 11 re-granting partners supporting artists of color to advance racial justice within their local communities.

Caring for the Land and One Another
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities are disproportionately impacted by environmental and climate inequity—such as flooding, land loss, and environmental toxins—and have the experience, expertise, and powerful solutions to resolve these inequities. To realize healthier, more equitable outcomes, our Sustainable Environments grantee partners seek to increase the capacity of communities of color to self-determine the ownership, control, and stewardship of land and infrastructure assets.

A gentle and nurturing hand
A farmer tends to his crops. Photo: Getty Images

The National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA) promotes Black food and land, by increasing the visibility of Black leadership, and building power in our food systems and land stewardship. NBFJA has facilitated seed grants to BIPOC members across the country for food security, community wellness, and cooperation.

The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) is an alliance of grassroots Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining, and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws. In response to the pandemic, IEN has been resourcing frontline community-based mutual aid organizations and providing immediate relief to small business owners in need. IEN’s extensive grassroots network of Indigenous peoples has connected community members with basic needs like food and water, healthcare, and preventive measures, and through their PPE partnership has distributed over 190,000 masks to the hardest-hit areas of Indian Country.

Creating Inclusive Economies
People should have power, choice, and ownership over the economy no matter their race or ethnicity. Yet, the Black and white wealth divide is as wide today as it was in 1968. Our Inclusive Economies grantee partners are working to close the gap.

One Fair Wage is a national coalition, campaign, and organization seeking to lift millions of tipped and subminimum wage workers nationally out of poverty by requiring all employers to pay the full minimum wage with fair, nondiscriminatory tips on top. As restaurants and other establishments close nationwide due to the pandemic, One Fair Wage launched an Emergency Relief Fund to provide assistance to restaurant workers, delivery drivers, and other tipped workers and service workers who are bearing the economic brunt of this crisis. Its members are also mobilizing voters to make a fair minimum wage a reality across the country.

Elena-the-essential-worker
‘Elena the Essential Worker’ artwork serves as visual representation of the fight for One Fair Wage. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Common Future is a network of leaders seeking to shift capital into historically marginalized communities, uplift local leaders, and accelerate equitable economies. From bridging the wealth gap for Black entrepreneurs to ensuring communities have a final say over the development that impacts their neighborhoods, Common Future’s leaders shed light on how to rebuild economies that work for everyone.

Investing for Impact
Investing in entrepreneurs of color is one of the most effective ways to drive job and wealth creation and address long-standing racial inequities. To that end, we make impact investments that provide capital to fund innovative, market-based approaches that address systemic challenges while generating social and financial returns.

For example, The Impact America Fund (IAF) makes early-stage investments in tech-driven businesses that create ownership and opportunity within marginalized communities. The fund’s founder, Kesha Cash, is one of the few Black women in venture capital and understands that traditional venture capital funds often overlook prioritizing and supporting entrepreneurs of color. IAF helps founders get traction with institutional investors, who often don’t have the expertise or lived experience in these communities to appreciate the huge opportunities at hand.

There’s an abundance of bold ideas and investible businesses coming from BIPOC communities. Photo: Getty Images

VamosVentures is another investment firm that sees tech as an essential ingredient for communities of color to thrive. VamosVentures, founded by Marcos Gonzalez, invests in diverse teams with a focus on Latinx entrepreneurs. The fund supports diverse-owned companies with capital, commercial opportunities, and strategic guidance with the goals of generating returns and social impact through wealth creation, social mobility, and tech-driven solutions to challenges persistent in communities of color.

Unlocking Potential by Ending Youth Prisons
The Andrus Family Fund envisions a just society in which vulnerable youth have more than one opportunity for a good life. As part of this vision, many of AFF’s grantee partners are working toward a world without youth prisons.

Youth Lead the Way to Youth Justice
This episode of the Out of the Margins podcast explores the power of youth organizing to close youth prisons in Virginia and across the country.

Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) unlocks the leadership of formerly incarcerated young people to dream beyond bars. Through youth programs, life coaching, policy organizing, and restorative retreats and trainings, CURYJ helps young people lead the way in transforming their communities and investing in their healing, activism, and aspirations.

Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) is an unprecedented campaign to end discriminatory and abusive policing practices in New York and build a lasting movement that promotes public safety and reduces reliance on policing. Running diverse coalitions of more than 200 organizations, CPR works closely with those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD to build accountability and increase transparency. These are just two of AFF’s grantee partners that are shining a light on injustice and lifting up ways to foster safe, thriving communities for all.

Contributing to Racial Justice

This is a year for the history books. Every day seems to bring a new challenge. At the same time, I’m grateful. Having spent a career working to advance just and sustainable communities, I’ve often wondered what it would take to get a critical mass of leading voices to wake up to long-standing racially unjust conditions and demand transformative change. I believe that moment has arrived. By intensifying our support, the Surdna Foundation hopes to contribute to greater sustained momentum for change.

I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months about our grantees and what the Surdna Foundation is thinking, doing, and learning.

Onward,

Don Chen
President
Surdna Foundation

Surdna and the Andrus Family Fund Join Foundations and Donors in Pledging to Redouble Commitments to Puerto Rico

New York, NY (September 30, 2020) – Today, 22 foundations and major donors signed a joint pledge to redouble their commitments to Puerto Rico as the island and its people continue to recover from 2017’s Hurricane Maria, ongoing natural disasters, and the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AFF Statement on Racial Justice

The Andrus Family Fund (AFF) stands in solidarity with our grantee partners and the movement for Black lives—a movement recently pushed forward by the gruesome murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police. We recognize the countless other Black and Brown lives taken by systemic racism and discrimination leading up to—and since—this current moment. We also work to shine a spotlight on the especially targeted members of the Black, Brown, Native, Women/Girls and Trans communities who experience extreme violence and erasure—people like Breonna Taylor, whose experiences are readily forgotten, not centered, and to whom justice is not delivered.  We are committed to dismantling white supremacy in order to promote and uphold racial equity. We will not forget. 

As a social justice philanthropy, with a focus on racial justice and the liberation of youth, we recognize elements of power and privilege at play, notably in relationships with trusted grantee partners. It is these partners who have been leading on-the-ground organizing, advocacy and service work. Partners such as Youth First, aiming to close youth prisons which disproportionately impact Black youth, The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), mobilizing individuals and Black organizations to create a shared vision and agenda that defends Black lives, and Dream Defenders, an organization founded after the killing of Trayvon Martin to promote the organizing of Black and Brown youth and restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people. We support you and stand in solidarity with our resources and connections to help you continue to build power for directly impacted youth in this current moment and for the long haul.  

Now is the time to collectively re-imagine a just society—a society where the work of AFF and its partners would not be necessary. Our mere existence as a foundation is evidence enough that justice is not a lived experience for many of the communities we aim to support. In order for this vision of justice—a vision that so many of our movement partners hold—to become reality, this moment is requiring more from all of us.  

Given the need for immediate action and response, AFF has shifted various grantmaking practices toward trust-based philanthropy models in order to move increased dollars more quickly to the field. We are also organizing with other funders and internally to educate family members about the systems, policies and biases upholding racial injustice that are pervasive in today’s society.  

In this critical moment, we invite other foundation boards to respond to the moral imperative presented by this moment. This is not a time to center white fragility and turn away from the sorrow, maintain status quo practices and funding levels, or ignore the urgent demands and needs of grantee partners. Instead, this is a time to commit to funding Black-led organizations, engage in deep education to undo racism at the levels of boards and senior leadership across foundations, diversify foundation boards, lean into trust-based philanthropic practices by removing barriers to funding, and organize other foundations to robustly fund groups at a level and scale “like we want them to win” (in the words of Ash-lee Henderson, Co-Executive Director of the Highlander Center). This is a time to explore what accountability to social justice movements can look like. Foundation boards unilaterally have the power to vote and implement these powerful changes immediately. Bold, courageous action, like the actions being taken by frontline Black and Brown communities. 

We recognize the need to do more—that this moment requires more from us—and ask ourselves “if not now, then when?” This is our moment. We must act now. 

The AFF board resoundingly supports following the lead of our grantee partners and our nation’s young people committed to racial and social justice, and urges us all to stand behind them.  

In Solidarity,

The AFF Board & Staff

The Andrus Family Fund Announces New Program Officer, Nyoka Acevedo

The Andrus Family Fund (AFF) welcomed Nyoka Acevedo as its new program officer on February 4, 2020. In her role as program officer, Nyoka will help manage a $4 million national portfolio of more than 50 grantee partners. Her experience in education, restorative justice, community organizing, direct service, policy and grants management give her a diverse skill set that contributes to AFF’s unique approach of building deep, trusting relationships with grantee partners. 

“I am thrilled to work within a foundation committed to creating an equitable world for young people as they lead the change for future generations,” Nyoka said. “Andrus Family Fund’s commitment to racial justice and equity-based work is exactly what is needed to bridge the gap between the philanthropic sector and grassroots organizations as we all work towards creating a just society.”

Nyoka brings more than 15 years of experience in the field of program development, management, grant-making and education, all in service of creating social change and advancing outcomes for our nation’s most vulnerable youth and communities. She has trained hundreds of educators in New York and Los Angeles on restorative practices through a racial justice framework. Her leadership has helped advance safety and healing while moving communities away from punitive practices that drive mass incarceration. She has worked with the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, Red Hook Initiative, Urban Arts Partnership and The Future Project. Nyoka also served as the Grants Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, working alongside more than 30 grassroots organizations nationally to advance public policy that combats the war on drugs and ends the criminalization of Black and Latinx communities. 

A deep listener and life-long participant in the social justice movement, Nyoka believes that change starts by listening to the needs of those most impacted—which aligns with AFF’s values. “Centering the needs of those most harmed is a central tenet of the restorative justice practices that I hope to bring to this work as a program officer,” she said. “By continuing to listen to our partners, we will gain greater insight on how to best use our resources to leverage long-lasting change in our communities, especially for our young people.” 

Nyoka holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the School of Professional Studies, City University of New York. A born-and-raised New Yorker, she likes to get away from the city sometimes to hike and explore nature with her son and extended family.