Social-justice funding on upswing

Social justice is gaining new prominence among U.S. funders after several years of declining importance, a new report says.

The resurgence in the field is due in part to the new political climate and the breadth and success of community organizing in the 2008 election, says the report from the Foundation Center.

However, some of the renewed interest began before the 2008 election, the report says, with social-justice giving increasing almost 31 percent to $2.3 billion from 2002 to 2006, outpacing the 20 percent growth in overall giving during the same period.

While the over half of the increase can be attributed to the grants awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, social-justice funding outpaced overall giving even without Gates grants.

“In 2005 many of us wondered about the prospects for social-justice philanthropy because the field itself was so pessimistic about is future,” Bradford Smith, president of the center, says in a statement. “Today, social justice is experiencing a resurgence, fueled by philanthropists whose passion won’t let them stand by when there is injustice and whose pragmatism demands results.”

The upward trend continued in 2007, with social-justice funding reaching $3 billion, the equivalent of 13.7 percent of overall grantmaking.

While the economic climate is expected to negatively affect social-just giving for this 2008 and beyond, the impact should be no greater than for other funding areas, the report says.

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