Dear friend,

I became NFG’s Communications Manager a few months ago. It was the middle of January — the start of a new year and a new chapter of my career. From the interview process, to check-ins with my manager and teammates, to the staff and board gathering we held in March, I have learned so much about NFG and its history in a relatively short period of time. One thing that my early days at NFG taught me is that our biennial convening is a treasured space to gather in community with joy and purpose. 

Before NFG’s 2023 National Convening last month, I had never been to a conference. I came to the field of philanthropy in the summer of 2021 as a bartender and a recently-graduated college student. I became politicized by socio-legal studies, specifically through tracing the long historical arc of racial violence in America’s political and carceral development, as well as Black Radical Traditions. I found the trappings of freedom, but mostly marginalization in the policies, legislation, and court decisions that organize our society. I was introduced to the philanthropic sector through a senior seminar course which hinged on philanthropic movement capture. During my first role in philanthropy, I remember feeling intimidated by the sheer amount of wealth that was being housed in foundations across the country. I also remember feeling unsure about how much durable change could be made to our social, political, and economic systems with the fraction of a fraction of the money being granted out of foundation endowments. When I was first introduced to NFG, I was looking for my place in philanthropy, for a workplace that lived its mission and continually worked to shrink the gap between its values and its praxis.

It had been explained to me that NFG’s convenings served as an entry point into NFG for funders seeking a political home for learning and action + a place to organize and radically re-imagine the sector. I was excited to learn that I would have the opportunity to witness and participate in the first in-person convening NFG had hosted since 2018 just a few months after my start date. Now that I have experienced a NFG convening, I can say that I understand the magic which had been described to me.

During our convening week in Wilmington, I realized that even as a relative newcomer to organized philanthropy, the questions, tensions, and concerns I have been holding were very much alive for funders across the spectrum of grantmaking experience. In lieu of the expertise culture that often characterizes philanthropy, I observed funders earnestly grappling with the challenges and opportunities presented within the program’s plenaries and sessions, leading with genuine curiosity, and explicitly recognizing of how much more there is to learn and do — especially in geographic areas that are historically overlooked by grantmakers. I witnessed the many ways in which attendees embodied their full selves from beautifully colorful clothes, to echoing belly laughs, to unapologetically naming our sector’s needs to support Black and women of color leaders.

With swiftness and clarity, I listened to the NFG community reject two fundamental assertions of the now well-known op-ed “We Disagree on Many Things, but We Speak With One Voice in Support of Philanthropic Pluralism.” The accumulation of “private financial capital” and the marketplace of ideas does not, and has never, existed without a history of violent land expropriation and labor exploitation, nor the erasure and exclusion of voices better left unheard. And it is a dangerous notion that the forces actively working to curtail the self-determination of BIPOC and low-income communities ought to receive the same considerations as Black liberation projects, those defending gender affirming healthcare, or worker-led movements for unionization. To be clear, both-side-isms like this make it more unsafe for all of us to move throughout this world as our most authentic selves. There is too much at stake — namely the lives of — communities of color, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming folks, and low-income people and families for philanthropy to be playing it small or acting as though the upholders of white supremacy and organizers for social justice are equally “divisive.” (ICYMI: CHANGE Philanthropy's coalition partners released a new statement on philanthropic pluralism! Read "Philanthropy’s Bridge Bends Toward Justice, Not Cooperation" here.)  

As I moved throughout the convening, I began hearing different variations of “NFG’s convenings are a space I look forward to, unlike any other in the sector.” In those informal pieces of feedback, I could feel the buzz of connection to peers and place, gratitude that this container offered a safe space to be our real, whole selves, and a yearning for more gatherings like this. I could also feel a sense of urgency, a craving to leverage the information and strategies we learned together out in the field.

At NFG, co-creation is an intentional practice that invites us to collaborate through shared leadership. I am reminded of Amy’s appreciation for the energy and enthusiasm of the first-timers who attended the 2023 National Convening. When I think about the future of NFG’s convenings, and conferences across the sector, collective organizing for the future we want to see is an imperative. Affirming, generative, liberatory spaces in philanthropy can be achieved, they can be the standard, if we build them together.

NFG has helped me find a workplace and political home in philanthropy. If you are interested in finding your own co-conspirators in this work, I encourage you to learn more about our programs, become a member, or say hello! Our team wants to know you and organize with you to liberate philanthropic assets so that BIPOC and low-income communities have power to self-determine their futures. I look forward to building more relationships within the NFG community, and leveraging my role to tell your stories of liberating philanthropic assets and being accountable to BIPOC and low-income communities.

In solidarity,

A photo of the NFG Membership and Communications Team. Pictured left to right: Lauren Goudeaux in a coral and green short sleeved blouse and jeans, Hallie McClain in an orange dress, and Courtney Banayad in a hot pink and purple short sleeved dress.
Pictured left to right: Lauren Goudeaux, Hallie McClain, and Courtney Banayad — NFG's Membership and Communications team.