PHOTO: Courtesy of Sandra M. Ramirez, December 2, 2022 at RYSE Center in Richmond, Calif. 

For many decades, East Bay communities have harnessed the strength in community organizing and movement building to address systemic challenges and drive sustainable change and racial equity. By partnering with frontline power building organizations and providing unrestricted funds, foundations and donors can support communities most impacted to create the equitable society that they envision. 

Advancing an Inclusive Democracy 

As a community foundation, East Bay Community Foundation strives to support BIPOC-led power building organizations through long-term, trust-based partnerships. By growing its capacity to resource these organizations, the Foundation is able to support movement leaders in their efforts to address the systemic injustices facing local communities and create a prosperous and inclusive future that serves everyone. EBCF firmly believes that social movements led by those most impacted by injustice are the most effective drivers of change, and it is the goal of the Community Organizing, Power Building, and Movement Building program strategy to support those who work to create a more just and equitable society for all who call the East Bay home. The program strategy announced its first round of grants in 2019 and deployed its latest round at the beginning of March.  

Hannah Garcia and Joshua Lee, senior program officers spearheading the program strategy, strive to act in partnership with nonprofit organization leaders to transform communities and bring about unflinching positive change.  

Community organizing and movement building are strategies rooted in building power with impacted communities to create social change. Community organizing is the process of bringing together community members, developing leadership, and taking collective action on issues that impact the community. This approach recognizes that the people who are most affected by social, economic, and political issues are the best positioned to create solutions. Tactics that organizations engage in may include direct action, legislative advocacy, corporate accountability campaigns, and electoral engagement, among many others. These actions and demands apply pressure to decision makers to side with the community when they might not otherwise while advancing community-generated policies and solutions. The goal of supporting this work is to create lasting change by resourcing the mobilization of communities and advancing greater equity and justice, core to achieving a multiracial and inclusive democracy in the East Bay. 

In a recent interview, Garcia framed the relationship between these strategies: “We see community organizing as the foundation of social change because it 1) centers communities most impacted in designing solutions and 2) builds the people power necessary for effective social movements, whereas movement building provides the glue or the connective tissue that supports all of these organizations working towards collective power and change. Organizing is the guiding voice, it’s the driver of social change.” 

Lessons from a Grantee Gathering 

As the third calendar year of the COVID-19 pandemic came to a close last December, Garcia and Lee organized the very first convening for all the grantee partners of EBCF’s Community Organizing, Power Building and Movement Building strategy, in hopes to create a space where organizational leaders could reconnect and reflect with one another after years of isolation due to the pandemic. They also saw it as a great opportunity to ask grantee partners what funders could do to be truly helpful, beyond a grant check. “Our belief is that those that are most impacted by issues have the strongest solutions to the problems,” Lee explained. “That said, the gathering was made optional out of consideration for the partners’ capacity, and the Foundation was clear that showing up wasn’t a requirement to receive renewed funding.”  

Representatives from 20 grantee partner organizations gathered on December 2, 2022, at RYSE Commons newly expanded campus in Richmond.  

In the interest of nurturing EBCF’s trust-based approach to philanthropy, Garcia and Lee focused on showing up as partners to the grantee organizations, rather than just funders. The convening was designed to create an environment where grantee partners could engage in:  

  • A shared understanding of how they are contending for power in the East Bay 
  • Strategic priorities and funding gaps 
  • Relationship-building across grantee organizations 

The half-day convening was successful in bringing people together and identifying common concerns, goals, and ongoing needs. The gathering highlighted the ongoing gap and importance of funders providing multi-year and unrestricted operating support to partners, the need to address burnout, and better sustain people in the movement and power building work. The consensus was that attendees wished they had more time to reflect and collaborate, suggesting the need for future convenings down the road.  

According to one attendee, Mariana Moore, Senior Director of Ensuring Opportunity Campaign to End Poverty in Contra Costa, “EBCF’s core values came through, and I deeply appreciate the ‘no grant report needed’ shift you have made. That shows deep trust and a true partnership.” 

The session was co-facilitated by Garcia, Lee, and Dana Ginn Paredes, a facilitator with Momentum For, LLC. As grantee partner, Ysrael Quezon of Filipino Advocates for Justice said, “I’m grateful to be in-person with the other Power Building grantees. I commend the shared facilitation by Dana, Hannah, and Josh and how they provided support and context. I’m looking forward to how we and EBCF can partner in sustaining what our organizations have already built throughout the pandemic. With the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic, my hope is that EBCF can be agile with the community orgs in addressing the needs of those on the ground.” 

The Power of Funding Justice and Social Equity 

Burnout and staff capacity are historic and increasingly pressing issues in movement building work, and the pandemic has heightened the need for healing and wellness. Organizations are eager to learn more about what it takes to sustain people.  

“It’s always been about people power,” said Lee. “People power has been one of the most effective strategies towards achieving social justice in the Bay Area for decades, I’m thinking about the legacy of Black and Indigenous resistance in this region spanning back to the 1960s and 70s, for example. We are now in an era where funders and donors are beginning to better understand the value of supporting this work, our hope is that this leads to more sustainability for organizers in the East Bay.”   

Funders and donors have an opportunity to bolster this work through EBCF’s Community Organizing, Power Building and Movement Building program, and it’s critical to create a deeper understanding and urgency around what fuels effective organizing and power building. By doing so, funders and donors can continue to address the systemic inequities in the East Bay and help transform communities to realize a just and equitable future for all.  

Keep Reading 

Learn more about the Community Organizing, Power Building, and Movement Building program and the funds supporting it on the program strategy page. Information about the organizations receiving grants through the program appears on the Core Grantee page