I am truly honored to be a member of North Star Fund’s Community Funding Committee and part of a grantmaking model that is activist-led and participatory. When it comes to making its grants, North Star Fund turns to the people who are working on the ground, who know the issues, and who bring the expertise of knowing firsthand what kind of change is needed. These leaders who sit on the Community Funding Committee run organizations whose members are most affected by systemic discrimination and injustice. Their perspective is invaluable.
If you asked me about whether it’s best to fund a particular organization that you care about directly or North Star Fund, I would say do both! North Star has a deep understanding of the grassroots organizations in this city, and as a foundation they can provide other supports to them in addition to money: capacity building to develop their leadership, technical assistance to confront the challenges facing grassroots organizations, and the chance to be part of a larger convening of organizations thinking strategically about how to create change.
Once you choose to give to a public Fund, you make a choice as donor to give up some control—which is a healthy challenge to one’s sense of individual expertise and privilege. Having financial resources doesn’t mean that you have a more intelligent or knowledgeable approach to funding effectively or powerfully. And while it’s obvious to say that, so many of the traditional philanthropic models and donor relationships out there embody the opposite approach. North Star helps donors become more conscientious in their giving so that both the money they give and they way they give reflects their commitment to social justice.
When I came back to New York City four years ago, after several years away, it was great to find in North Star access to the world of grassroots and social justice organizations working to build change in my hometown. It’s been inspiring to be back and contribute to the movement.
I’ve also greatly appreciated getting to know the staff over the years. They take their work really seriously. It’s not just their day job. They are politically engaged in every aspect of their lives. North Star has this sense of humility. There are no pretenses. And that is not that common in this town.