Surdna Foundation and Andrus Family Show Commitment to Next Generation of Progressive Philanthropists
Over a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, it can be tempting to see recent progressive philanthropy as a whole lot of rapid response. From standing up for immigrants to safeguarding the environment, from confronting hate to protecting gains for women and the LGBTQ community, that has been a major part of the story. But the national climate has also pushed many social justice-oriented funders toward a more considered and strategic view of the long term.
Movement building is a growing priority, and funders are thinking harder about how to move power into the hands of vulnerable communities and populations. Talk of intersectionality—ever the social sector buzzword—has taken on new urgency as groups that have come under attack find ways to band together.
This is only one part of the broader philanthropic ecosystem, but it’s a highly politicized space that's primed for growth in a polarized era of high anxiety.
An important niche in the new funding around movement building is focusing on younger activists. While conversations about generational change are hardly new to progressive circles, these issues have taken on new urgency in a more dire political moment and as issues of race have moved to the forefront—spotlighting the need for faster change in organizational leadership, which tends to skew older and whiter. We've reported on several grantmaking initiatives where funders have supported diverse young activists who are battling Trump policies, but who are also seen as tomorrow's leaders.
In this kind of environment, it makes sense to see a social justice stalwart like the Surdna Foundation roll out a new set of grants with an eye on the long-term future of progressive movement building. But this effort has an unusual twist, zeroing in on work that's often been called "donor organizing."
This month, the Surdna Foundation and the Andrus Family Fund pledged $800,000 to 21 organizations representing “next-generation social justice philanthropy.” Surdna is invoking the phrase “next-generation” in a very literal sense. These grants are meant to foster a progressive tilt among “younger generations of philanthropists—whether they are high-net-worth individuals or trustees of family foundations.” Surdna celebrated its centennial as a grantmaker in 2017, and the involvement of the Andrus Family Fund, which engages hundreds of extended family members in social service work, is no accident. Surdna wants to pass the baton to well-off youngsters whose left-leaning views may soon find expression in their giving.
A large-scale generational transfer of wealth from the boomers to the millennials has begun, and it coincides with sky-high levels of wealth inequality. That means there will be plenty of rich heirs around in the years to come—heirs are often more progressive than their parents for a number of reasons. While wealth is typically made by business people who had to battle their way upward, and who believe in the market economy, it's inherited by children and grandchildren who are shaped by a very different set of life experiences, including elite educations at liberal private schools and elite colleges. Heirs are more likely to be skeptical of the economic status quo and more willing to use wealth that feels undeserved to challenge that system. Millennial heirs, like younger people in general, are more likely to hold progressive views on race and sexuality...