Last year, the Andrus Family Fund launched a strategic refresh that boldly centers abolition. Since the launch, the AFF board has fully supported the shift in AFF’s grantmaking priorities to resource organizations that build community power and are organizing to transform (and ultimately abolish) disruptive systems. Coming to embrace abolition was an evolutionary process that entailed learning from and ceding power to our movement partners.
I witnessed this evolution firsthand over the course of my tenure. AFF started providing more general operating grants and streamlined the application process to reduce the time, emotional and financial burden we place on partners. We stopped relying on traditional metrics to measure success. All of these decisions were made with an understanding that we must base long-term partnerships on trust.
Trust is something AFF fosters from the inside out. As a family board, we realize the importance of bringing partners to the decision making table. Sharing power with community board members and the Movement Partner Advisory Council (MPAC) is key to our accountability as a funder. We value our collective humanity, which allows us to sit in discomfort together and be emotionally vulnerable with each other in order to work through difficult situations.
I am proud to share leadership with a new cohort of board officers, including my co-chair Ray Holgado, vice chair Meg Belais, secretary Daryl Hannah and treasurer Zelpha Williams. This new cohort represents many firsts for AFF. Two officer positions are now held by community board members. We have adopted a co-chair leadership model. And, I am the first trans person to be in a position of leadership on the board. Trans representation is often lacking, or non-existent, in family foundations. So, it’s important for me to be an advocate for my community — especially as a social justice funder.
As AFF continues to embrace abolition as a funder, I hope we can also evaluate ways in which we can help transform philanthropy’s power structure. What would it look like to decentralize a family board? Should we work towards having community board members comprise most or all of our board? Can we encourage more funders to assume more financial risk and to reallocate more of their resources? I look forward to engaging with my colleagues and other family boards about the barriers present within philanthropy and disrupting norms to better serve our grantee partners.
Erin Miles Cloud of Movement for Family Power explains how dismantling the child welfare system fits within the wider abolitionist movement and the intergenerational impact of supporting families through community investment.
In 2017, the Andrus Family Fund welcomed our first cohort of community members, ushering in a new era of next-gen philanthropic leadership. We have since elected our first community member, C’Ardiss “CC” Gardner Gleser, to serve as Board Chair — the only Black woman to do so in AFF history. Under her leadership, AFF family and community board members have continued to advance trust-based philanthropic practices, racial equity and social justice grantmaking led by youth impacted by child welfare, youth justice and other harmful systems. Now, we have the opportunity to bring even more wisdom and lived experiences to the table by inviting four new community members, as well as one family member, to our board.
“The fight for racial justice requires all hands on deck, and it is integral that BIPOC, directly impacted, next-generation leaders are in a position to strategically direct the flow of philanthropic resources to communities. I am proud of the Andrus Family Fund’s commitment to sharing power and stepping into more accountability through these newly elected board members. These inspiring leaders embody a deep dedication to youth, transformative change and true power building.” — Manuela Arciniegas, Director of the Andrus Family Fund
This new chapter at the Andrus Family Fund is a testament of our commitment to lean into more participatory grantmaking in order to shift power to directly-impacted leaders. Our board is a reflection of that commitment. As we continue to evolve as a funder, building a more inclusive board will make us more accountable to the communities we serve.
“One of the most powerful actions a family foundation board can take is to share its power with community members. It allows your foundation to be more responsive to grantee needs and move resources precisely where communities need them. The Andrus Family Fund has reimagined its board in service of its mission. It’s an innovative governance model for family philanthropy that centers racial equity in a concrete and authentic way.” — Kelly Nowlin, Chair of the Andrus Family Philanthropy Program and Surdna Board Member
We entrusted two consulting firms founded and led by women of color to aid us in our nationwide search for community members: Forward Movement and Movement Talent. We are grateful that they introduced us to our 2021 cohort of social justice leaders.
Jesus Gonzalez Jesus is a social political analyst, organizing strategist and Puerto Rican activist. He is one of the founding members of Make the Road New York (an AFF grantee partner), where he began as a Youth Organizer and later as its Political Director. Jesus currently serves as the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Center for Popular Democracy (also an AFF grantee partner).
“Youth organizing has consistently been the spark that lights the flame in social justice movements. That fire that’s needed to make the necessary changes for communities of color throughout our country. Andrus is right there beside them, to nurture and support their leadership. I’m honored to join the board and help amplify the fund’s mission.”
Daryl is the Senior Director for Narrative Strategy with the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity (AFRE). Prior to joining AFRE, Daryl was a Vice President at BerlinRosen, where he led strategic arts, media and culture campaigns to advance racial equity for non-profits, international foundations and cultural institutions.
“At a time when the dignity and rights of young people of color are under attack, it’s more important than ever to support organizations leading direct service, community organizing, advocacy and other capacity building efforts that connect young people to the positive supports and resources needed for long and successful lives. I’m honored to join the AFF board and to support the Fund’s bold reimagining of philanthropy and social justice.”
Elizabeth Olsson Elizabeth has over 15 years of experience working with diverse groups of stakeholders to advance education equity and improve outcomes for marginalized children and youth. She recently served as a Senior Program and Policy Specialist for the National Education Association (NEA). Elizabeth earned a Master of Public Administration from New York University and a Master of Teaching from PACE University.
“I’m excited by AFF’s mission to foster just and sustainable change by supporting organizations working to improve outcomes for vulnerable youth. I’m eager to leverage my experience working with directly impacted youth and families to advance systems change to inform and support the Fund’s strategic direction as a community board member.”
Marcus is the Vice President of Youthprise in Minnesota, where he oversees grantmaking, development, policy advocacy, communications and special initiatives in service of young people. He currently sits on the board of directors for the Minnesota Council on Foundations and the Mardag Foundation, serves as Trustee for Wallin Education Partners, the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, Co-chair of the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood Community Council, and member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the U of M College of Education and Human Development (CEHD).
“It’s an honor to serve as a new board member for the Andrus Family Fund. I look forward to helping advance the Fund’s inspiring work that is truly a game changer for promising youth and the organizations that serve them.”
Zelpha Williams Zelpha is a family member who participated in the Andrus Family Philanthropy Program, BETs, twice. She is a Johns Hopkins University graduate and taught high school mathematics through Teach for America at City on a Hill Charter School in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Zelpha is currently pursuing a law degree at the Chicago-Kent College of Law.
“When it comes to advancing racial justice, it’s not only about what you fund; it’s also about how you fund and who is at the table. I’m delighted to welcome the Andrus Family Fund’s newest community and family board members. Together they bring the knowledge, community connections and diverse perspectives to make AFF’s grantmaking even more impactful.” — Don Chen, President of the Surdna Foundation