Catalyzing meaningful community results takes more than money.
Experienced philanthropists know that their money and influence, even if significant, won’t go far enough to create lasting change. Some of the most effective foundations and donors I’ve met have learned to connect their hopes for improving the world with broader social movements. These movements help connect a broad base of people to action around a well-crafted and well-researched vision.
But knowing how to work with (or against) social movements can be tricky as a donor, foundation, or nonprofit.
Fortunately, The California Endowment and University of Southern California published a thoughtful guide on the subject, Making Change: How Social Movements Work and How to Support Them, this past March.
The 62-page report provides a brief history of types of social movements and examines what has made both conservative and progressive movements work. The authors outline:
- Ten key elements of successful social movements
- Six key capacities that allow social movements to sustain themselves
- Three things foundations or donors should not do to help, and
- Three key areas where foundations can invest to best help.
The authors note that social movements help expand and connect the work of grassroots- or neighborhood-oriented funders, and help deepen the chance of success for more policy-driven funders. They note that funding social movements may even be more important given the economic and other problems our country faces:
“…people are looking for a broader [communications] frame and a broader solution than typical politics can offer. Getting to this broader conversation – and making real change – will require groups that are willing to challenge power as well as policy, values as well as legislation. Social movement thinking and doing will be a key element for both [philanthropic] strategy and giving.”
This guide would have been a great orientation when I was new to grantmaking in state government, and then again when I was a newby foundation program officer. Kudos to The California Endowment for supporting the creation and dissemination of this guide. It deserves a wider discussion in the donor, foundation, and nonprofit worlds.