FROM THE PRESIDENT AND CEO
JUNE 2021

AFN is the leading membership philanthropy serving organization committed to engaging grantmakers, leading practitioners, and researchers to lift up strategies for funders (philanthropic, corporate and financial institutions) with their grantees, to lead efforts advancing and reimagining a rebuild with a more racially equitable and resilient economy. AFN raises challenging questions, elevates approaches that members or their have tried, discusses what works and what does not to change systems, and supports the voices for change of both our members in philanthropy and other stakeholders to help build lasting, systemic equitable wealth building. That is our mission driven path to asset building path to economic justice.

That approach led to our recent brief and related case studies: From Relief to Resilience: Reimagining Investments. There we elevated ideas, defined language, and described an array of strategies to foster greater common understanding as we work together and in parallel to identify root causes and reduce the economic legacies of discriminatory legislated or practiced racism and sexism.

AFN and its members are also engaging to lift up their evolving, active engagements and investments to build greater support for efforts to advocate for different results from private and governmental practice through administrative and legislative change. I encourage you to register now for our webinars. We also will continue to explore the impact of efforts to center wealth equity through our regional chapters and members, using case studies to identify the various roles of philanthropy.

With an array of partners and AFN members, we continue to support rebuilding greater economic security through efforts to build greater civic engagement and storytelling to change the assumptions and myths about the economy. A goal from which we will all benefit is the effort to change employer practices to get back to a point where a job provides enough income to support a family and to build assets as it has for the working and middle class of the past.  A key is the need to value the care economy.  Its workers are an essential underpinning of our economy and well-being. To achieve this, we need to be vigilant to call out and dismantle the vestiges of practices that devalued the work of people under slavery, Jim Crow, immigration bias, and sexism. Read our new brief, developed in partnership with Economic Opportunity Funders, to learn about what the care economy is and why we should care.

We also need to look inward both as organizations and funders. AFN and its members are asking, among many questions – How are we intentionally advancing equity? What can we identify that we are doing to uproot and eliminate the internal and external practices and systems that preserve the racialized economic advantage of white people over people of color? This internal examination requires thinking through internal processes and their effect on external impact. The changes needed are both concrete and conceptually transformative if acted upon. Their focus is not just DEI, nor anti-poverty work – which are very important, but is very much about whether our investments support short and long term thriving with equitable wealth building that focuses on systems and Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander led organizations and communities of color. While there is much to do, we are advancing approaches and ideas both within AFN’s seven issue areas and intersectionally in our Economic Justice Project. The Project has several phases in development. The upcoming start of the equity amplifier will allow AFN members to regularly lift up work of BIPOC led grantees showcase their effort, to learn, and to hopefully inspire support to scale or replicate the work.

Our efforts are evolving to showcase how asset building is fundamental to building an economy with equity and economic justice as its centerpiece. We encourage you to participate, to raise ideas, to ask questions, and to help build the momentum. Funders can do a great deal to move the policy and cultural discourse from austerity and resistance to change to one that highlights the resilience of our economy and its potential for expansion resulting in abundance where everyone has real achievable ways to thrive. As Chicago’s Woodstock Institute noted recently, “levelling the playing field is not the same as wiping the slate clean.”  We can’t just level the playing field to achieve justice, we need to each identify what we can do to advance that goal

Join AFN, help start a new chapter to focus on what your community needs, and share your ideas. Let’s get there together.