It’s not about you, “Philanthropy.” Philanthropic work is not about showing how smart you are, it is about empowering and liberating the people. Those who seek to help must respect the community as experts in order to drive solutions that work for the world that they know best. Whether it’s musicians, neighborhood leaders, youth or teachers, our work does not exist in a vacuum. We need as many voices in the room to represent the true needs and interest that our work aims to be in service to.
Brace yourself for difficult conversations. Be prepared to take a lot of heat when you start to talk about moving money and shifting power. It’s a zero sum game. As an organization based in the racialized south, the inherent mores of this region’s historical legacy play out on a daily basis. In order to move through and past those dynamics, there has to be some frank and honest recogni-tion of the institutional practices and structures that have led to the historical neglect of black and brown led organizations and communities. It requires deep thinking about the equitable practices you employ, on every level of your work.
“Relationships are the new grant application.” This premise was inspired by a colleague and friend in equity and community based work Takema Robinson, Principal of Converge in New Orleans. MMI will be grantee report and application free by 2019. We are transitioning from shorter applications to verbal site visit based reporting in an effort to rethink the weight of infor-mation that is needed form our partners. MMI consciously funds, engages and partners with or-ganizations no matter where they are on the organizational development continuum. In some in-stances, that has required peeling back the onion on the level of paperwork we require. By meet-ing organizations where they are and dispensing with traditional grantmaking trappings, our part-ners can focus more on their missions and their innate ability to engage black and brown youth.
Impatience and comfort zones are enemies of impact. This work must be different, and that means focusing on long term effort/results and re-evaluation of our relationship with the words “data” and “evaluation”. Along the way there may be bumps and detours, but the pursuit is none-theless as urgent. What has traditionally captured impact for funders does not have to be the on-ly way to measure the depth of success in this work. Namely because, it has taken many years to ingrain the practices that perpetuate disparities and unequal distribution of resources, so in turn it will take some time and different tactics to reverse the tide.
Stop centering whiteness in DEI efforts. This also means any singular group – including gender, sexual orientation, or class – who has traditionally been at the head of a power dynamic in diver-sity, equity and inclusion efforts. MMI is led largely by leaders of color and in our work we inten-tionally empower and create pathways for other leaders of color in arts organizations to have voice in the philanthropic landscape. As we honor organizations for their individual programmat-ic gifts, we recognize and encourage leaders of color to build relationships and foster partner-ships to support and encourage one another in the work for the greater good.