Novo Foundation's Push For Bottom-Up Power

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Novo Foundation's Push For Bottom-Up Power

We keep a close eye on the NoVo Foundation, both for the deep pockets of the Buffett family to which it’s connected, and for its hard-charging approach to social justice, particularly for young women and girls of color.

It’s unusual to find a funder with NoVo’s combination of radical sensibilities and major financial resources. Fueled by steady infusions of Berkshire Hathaway stock, NoVo’s annual giving has doubled in the past six or seven years—it reported $123.8 million in grants in a recent year—allowing the foundation to place ever-greater bets on grassroots-driven work that it believes can be transformative.

Which brings us to the latest news: NoVo recently announced $34 million in grants to 19 groups doing social justice work in the U.S. and around the globe. The grants, which NoVo calls the “Radical Hope Fund,” well exceed the $20 million original commitment.

The Radical Hope Fund embodies NoVo’s bottom-up approach, seeking to elevate leaders in the communities to which funding is flowing.

“While projects that center around the leadership of marginalized communities can take many different forms, they share a similar approach: ensuring that marginalized voices, and the wisdom of their lived experience, are at the center of decision making from start to finish. That’s something all of the Radical Hope Fund projects share,” NoVo Executive Director Pamela Shifman told Inside Philanthropy.

Another overall aim of the grants is increased responsiveness to community-led efforts in the U.S. and around the world at a moment when many groups feel deeply threatened. We’ve reported on a number of rapid response funds that foundations have created since the 2016 election. And we’ve also noted that one positive outcome of this moment is that it’s pushed funders to become more nimble and accelerate efforts at intersectional collaboration...

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