Making the Case for Equity and Grassroots Organizing: Funder stories and strategies to build institutional commitment for powerful movements

Event Type: 
This is a HEFN event.
Major Issue: 
Geographic Focus: 
October 23, 2018 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Philanthropy is abuzz right now about racial and gender equity and the grassroots. Some of this reflects deepening recognition of moral and political imperatives. For funders focused on issues like toxics, fracking, or drinking water, it also reflects experience seeing many groups of impacted people act as whistle-blowers, community scientists, powerful advocates, valued allies, and innovative problem-solvers. That experience aligns with the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s reports of $1 invested in organizing and advocacy yielding $115 or more in societal benefits.   

Amidst the buzz, we also see funders facing challenges in actually moving more money into impacted communities. Join us for a webinar on Oct. 23 (2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT) to learn from and talk with colleagues who’ve been building their chops at making those money-moving cases.  

The webinar will feature participants in HEFN’s 2018 community of practice program on “Making the Case for Advancing Racial and Gender Equity and Grassroots Organizing” which worked closely with HEFN staff and expert coaches from the Justice Funders. The October 23 conversation will offer lessons about how varied funder decision-makers see the value of equity-advancing grants in the context of foundation goals. Presenters will share strategies they’ve used to navigate challenges in their own case-making, as well as reports on how this is playing out in their grantmaking.


Juliet Christian-Smith, Water Foundation, Senior Program Officer

Juliet has more than a decade of scientific research and policy analysis experience with expertise in water, climate and sustainability issues. Prior to coming to the Water Foundation, she worked with the Union of Concerned Scientists where she helped lead water and climate work as a Senior Climate Scientist. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to study the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive in Portugal and was a Murray Darling Basin Futures Fellow in Australia. Juliet has a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from UC Berkeley.

Kathryn Gilje, Ceres Trust, Executive Director

An agronomist and community organizer trained by Voices for Racial Justice in Minnesota, Kat previously was co–director of Pesticide Action Network North America; co–founder/director of Centro Campesino; and senior associate at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. She serves on the steering committee of Justice Funders, the Health and Environmental Funders Network, and chairs the Funder Allies Caucus of the Building Equity and Alignment for Impact project. Kat graduated from the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

Dana Kawaoka-Chen, Justice Funders, Executive Director

Dana has been leading Justice Funders (previously Bay Area Justice Funders Network) since 2010. Dana and the Justice Funders team serve as partners and guides for philanthropy in reimagining practices that advance a thriving and just world. Co-author of “The Choir Book: A Framework for Social Justice Philanthropy,” Dana frequently serves as a trainer and facilitator for values-aligned practice in philanthropy. She has a Master’s of Science degree in Organization Development from the University of San Francisco, Bachelor of Arts degrees in American Studies and Visual Art from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and Non-Profit Management Certification from San Jose State University.

Cynthia Renfro, BEA (Building Equity and Alignment for Impact) Fund

Cynthia is principal/CEO at Civis Consulting LLC, which supports social justice philanthropy and community organizations. Current projects include the BEA Fund, bringing together dynamic grassroots organizing groups, effective national green organizations, and innovators in philanthropy to advance the progress of the environmental movement towards a just transition and directly confront powerful polluters. Prior to Civis, she was a director of programs at the Marguerite Casey Foundation and the Turner Foundation; and staffed the Beldon Fund.

Kathy Sessions, HEFN, Executive Director

Kathy helped funders create HEFN in 1999 and has worked to build HEFN and environmental health and justice philanthropy ever since. Kathy represents HEFN on the National Environmental Health Partnership Council and on the Climate for Health Leadership Circle. Kathy earned an MPA. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton, and an AB, magna cum laude, in Social Studies from Harvard.

Hosted by HEFN featuring the Justice Funders, and co-sponsored by Philanthropy New York.

Connect with HEFN or the Justice Funders for help in your own equity-advancing grantmaking.

Issue Area: 
Environmental & Social Justice

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