We Fund Community Organizing
North Star Fund supports organizations that are community-based and use community organizing to achieve their goals in New York City and the Hudson Valley.
We recognize that there are many ways of making change happen and achieving important social justice victories. We prioritize community organizing because we believe that lasting change comes from the bottom up, affecting not just the political and economic system, but also the culture of communities. We also believe that community organizing involves the most people, allowing for the greatest diversity and number of perspectives to be expressed.
The organization is led by the people most directly impacted by the issues the organization works on, and those members have clear decision-making power
North Star Fund believes that people most directly impacted by a problem know the most about what changes need to happen to correct the problem for the long term. We fund communities pushed to the margins by institutions and greed, including people of color, immigrants, low-income people, people with disabilities, women, youth, LGBTQ+ people, seniors, Muslims, and long-time residents of gentrifying neighborhoods.
We prioritize member leadership, where those people directly impacted by injustice have clear decision-making power over the strategy and direction, the programmatic work, and the money of the organization.
Brings people together and develops the leadership capacity of the people they work with
North Star Fund supports organizations that build “people power.” We aren’t just looking for a charismatic leader, but a growing “base” or group of people that works together over time to hold decision-makers accountable.
Community members may need support to step into leadership roles, and the organization invests in leadership skills such as public speaking, meeting facilitation, outreach, fundraising, and other skills so community members can excel in leadership roles.
Works to identify, articulate and address the root causes of the problems they work on, not just the symptoms
North Star Fund believes that creating lasting change means addressing the root causes of injustice. We support organizations that give their communities access to information and analysis about the forces of oppression that impact their lives.
We appreciate the importance of strategies to meet people’s basic immediate needs (direct services) and work to support individuals in developing new skills to navigate daily life and frustrating bureaucracies. However, our focus is not on individual change, but people working together to change policies or institutions that impact a broad group of people. For example, an organization giving young women sexuality education would not address the root causes, but a group of young women demanding that their school include comprehensive sex ed would.
We believe that issues of unequal power and privilege come up within social justice organizations, even while fighting against injustice, and we support organizations to address these forces internally as well as externally.
Creates systemic change through “campaigns,” a planned series of events or activities that alter unjust power relationships
“Power concedes nothing without a demand,” according to Frederick Douglass, after whose abolitionist newspaper North Star Fund was named. North Star Fund believes that social change happens when communities pushed to the margins make it politically impossible for decision makers to continue the damaging status quo.
Grassroots organizations need a plan to achieve their goals for big-picture change. It might include marches and rallies, or lobbying visits, or civil disobedience, or town hall meetings, or any number of activities that put pressure on those in power. In a campaign, these activities build on one another to increase the amount of pressure the decision-maker(s) feel to make the change we know is needed.
Has a strong vision for social justice and is committed to working towards a larger movement
North Star Fund supports grassroots organizations to make connections between the issues and problems confronting their constituencies and other communities that are targeted by the same unjust systems and institutions. For example, a group of restaurant workers fighting for fair wages has overlapping concerns with a group of tenants working towards more affordable housing – the same real estate industry and restaurant owner elites are benefitting from housing for profit and keeping wages down.
A strong social justice vision also means that we keep the blame for unjust policies where it belongs – on the decision makers and institutions creating and enforcing those policies. We avoid funding organizations that encourage people impacted by injustice to change their behavior or identity to avoid prejudice. For example, the responsibility to end police violence lies with the police, not with the clothing choices of young men of color.
Of course, organizations disagree sometimes on policies and strategies. We support organizations to engage in principled struggle and to challenge each other without perpetuating harm.
Organizations That Don't Do Community Organizing
In addition to groups using community organizing, we provide a limited number of grants to organizations that support the ecosystem of social justice work, including training and resources, arts and media work, and building alternative institutions. Check out our Innovative Activism grants category for more information.