Going PLACES | Reflections from Vermont: What can philanthropy do better?

BY Jennifer Pereira, PLACES Fellow

Arriving in Burlington, Vt., after a five-hour car ride from Rhode Island, I was struck by the beauty of the landscape: the sun shining on Lake Champlain, surrounded by mountains. I was in Vermont for the first of three site visits as one of sixteen PLACES Fellows. PLACES is designed for participants to use learning, coaching and reflections onsite to explore structural racism, community empowerment and grantmaking practices that have equity at their core. At first glance, Vermont about 94% white and a population of about 624,000 people (a little over half the population of Rhode Island), spread out among a primarily rural context did not seem the obvious choice to start this conversation.  But wait… 

Our first meeting was with the Vermont Community Foundation, a community foundation based in Burlington. A person new to the organization told us about the foundation’s development of a new impact area that will focus on equity, anti-racism and democracy as a result of its experience with COVID-19 response grantmaking.The speakers that followed from the Vermont Land Trust and the Intervale Center spoke about land, land ownership, access, and asking themselves the question “who benefits” from their work. Both speakers were candid about the need to grow and apply a strong racial equity focus on their role in land ownership that fundamental inequity that underlies persistent, systemic injustices. The Land Trust engages in land return projects with Indigenous bands; there were three Abenaki nominees for the Vermont Land Trust board this year. The 4,000-acre Intervale Center is historically rich and significant land for the Abenaki, who lead land recognition ceremonies on the property. When we asked members of the organizations what philanthropy can do better to support these efforts, we received these response:“Look in the mirror and recognize the power dynamic.”  “Fund organizations that are led by and represent the community being served.” 

PLACES 2023 Fellows gathers in Burlington, Vt., for their first site visit of 2022.

On our second day, we had a thought-provoking conversation focused on environmental justice with State Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale of the Vermont General Assembly; Ginny McGinn, executive director off the Center for Whole Communities; and Kiah Morris, executive director of Rights & Democracy. These three impressive speakers talked about successes and models from their work,including the passage of the first environmental justice law in Vermont in 2022 and the creation of REJOICE (Rural Environmental Justice Opportunities Informed by Community Expertise) to engage people most impacted by environmental injustice in policy change. This and the Climate Council raised the importance of compensating people for their time and valuing community expertise.  They also spoke about the challenges: Burlington sees huge racial disparities in outcomes for white people and communities of color, notably in homeownership. Only 21.1% of the Black population in Burlington owns their own home, far below the national numbers. 

When asked, what can philanthropy do better? 

  • Unrestricted funds are a blessing 
  • Trust the people doing the work 
  • Show up, step back, and trust 
  • Support healing and self-care for frontline advocates 
  • Step up, not lean away, from funding racial and social justice

A conversation with City Councilor Ali Dieng, who cofounded the New American Advisory Council, and Brian Pine from the City of Burlington’s economic development office, focused on housing and included a discussion of the Community Land Trust model. This model provides a pathway to homeownership for historically marginalized communities, including the New American population. 

The visits and conversations told us a different story about Vermont than is evident at a first glance and demonstrated the complexities of place. Of community. The people we met were inspiring  and exhausted. Over the course of about 56 hours in Vermont, multiple site visits and presentations, and provoking debriefs with my companions on this year-long Fellowship journey: fifteen remarkable individuals and our fearless and supportive guides, one recurring message kept playing out in these discussions and in my thoughts:  What can philanthropy do better? 

PLACES site visit facilitator Bina Patel (center) leads the Fellows in an outdoor group exercise in Burlington.

All of our site visits were unpacked and examined through conversations among the Fellows, facilitated by the gifted Bina Patel. What can philanthropy do better? We need to ask the question, how does the community envision how they can thrive? We can ask this question, and listen and heed the response.  We need to do better, “because we bear witness.. 

 This first PLACES site visit gave me the opportunity to challenge assumptions, learn new perspectives, and reflect on what I, in my role in philanthropy, can do better.  In Vermont, 94% of the population is white, and we learned that 75% of traffic stops are of Black men; In Rhode Island, the racial gap in homeownership is wider than the national average; Black and Hispanic children in Rhode Island are more likely than White children to live in neighborhoods that lack the resources needed for them to grow up healthy and successful. These systemic inequities are real, deeply rooted, and are the cause of unspeakable trauma and harm to people the people we met in Vermontnd the people we know in our communities. From re-orienting the conversation so that it is community-led and driven, to showing up in the difficult conversations, I’ll carry this experience with me and focus on action. 

What will I do better? 


About the Author


Jennifer Pereira is Vice President of Grants & Community Investments at the Rhode Island Foundation. She is also a member of TFN's 2022 PLACES Fellowship cohort.

Congratulations to our Partners for Places Mini Grantees!


The Funders Network, in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, is excited to announce the latest round of Partners for Places Mini Grants. These grants are intended to help local governments, place-based funders and frontline communities build relationships, align project ideas, and center racial equity in water, sustainability and climate action work.

The Partners for Places Mini Grants are designed to spark new relationships or deepen existing connections that will help communities develop a successful Partners for Places project application in the future.

Partners for Places is a matching grant program that improves U.S. and Canadian communities by building partnerships between local government leaders, community groups and place-based funders. National funders invest in local projects developed through these partnerships to advance efforts to create communities that are sustainable, prosperous and just. These sustainability efforts take place from coast to coast, in communities both large and small, and focus largely on empowering and engaging low-income neighborhoods.


These six communities are the latest recipients of the Partners for Places Mini Grants: 

Ann Arbor, Mich.:Amount: $15,200

Project title: Developing Legal Services Models for Community Stabilization

Project description: “Partners will develop a shared model of legal counseling for income-qualified homeowners to stabilize families by reducing the risks of displacement and asset loss while maintaining weatherization investments. Outreach strategies that build trust and participation will be developed with the frontline community and test participants.”

Frontline community groups: Legal Services of South Central MichiganCommunity Action Network’s Bryant Community Center, and Housing Bureau for Seniors, Michigan Medicine

Funder partner: Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation


Benton Harbor, Mich.:

Amount: $15,000

Project title: Sustainability Office in Community Impacted by Emergency Management

Project description: “To facilitate stakeholder engagement and strategic planning for creation of a sustainability office that will provide local and regional leadership on GSI implementation, climate resilience, restorative community partnerships, and Justice40 execution in an environmental justice community.”

Frontline community groups: Project NEED Foundation and Michigan Sustainable Business Forum

Funder partner: Americana Foundation


Bridgeport, Conn.:

Amount: $20,000

Project title: Changeport: Accelerating Environmental Justice in Bridgeport & Beyond

Project description: “Seaside Sounds Club, with its multitude of collaborators, will innovate community engagement and bi-directional educational outreach in Bridgeport, Conn., and beyond, to powerbuild and prepare frontline communities to apply for newly available federal and state funds for environmental justice and climate resilience projects.”

Frontline community group: Seaside Sounds Club

Funder partners: Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and Sustainable CT: Community Match Fund


Flagstaff, Ariz.:

Amount: $20,000

Project title: Mapping Flagstaff’s Green Spaces and Schoolyards

Project description: “Project partners will map and assess community infrastructure, access and needs in relation to green spaces/schoolyards. In response to Flagstaff’s Climate Action and Neutrality plans, this project will advance policies that promote racial and socioeconomic equity for the most vulnerable segments of our community to ensure climate justice for all.”

Frontline community groups: Ita Hopi Lavayi, Flagstaff Unified School District, and Terra BIRDS

Funder partner: Arizona Community Foundation of Flagstaff


Harris County, Texas:

Amount: $20,000

Project title: Equitable Climate Justice Partnerships in Harris County

Project description: “First, funding will go towards a local expert to help the three partners build a foundation of equitable collaboration. Second, funding will go towards the co-production of an equity framework and co-hosting preliminary community conversations for the soon-to-be developed Harris County Climate Justice Action Plan.”

Frontline community groups: The Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience (CEER) 

Funder partner: Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation


Kansas City, Mo.:

Amount: $20,000

Project title: From Coal to Solar in KC’s Historic Northeast

Project description: “In response to Kansas City’s Climate Protection and Resiliency Plan, the purpose of this grant is to form a coalition to expand solar availability to low-income residents who have been most impacted by Kansas City’s only operating coal-fired power plant.”

Frontline community group: Jerusalem Farm

Funder partner: Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation



Partners for Places matching funds will help turn Chicago schoolyards into vibrant green spaces for play and learning. Credit: Space to Grow.

To date, Partners for Places has awarded more than $9 million across the U.S. and Canada in this successful matching grant program, leading to more than $19 million in investments.

The matching grant program brings national funder investors together with place-based funders to support equitable and sustainable climate action and green stormwater infrastructure projects. The program is currently supported by six investor foundations:  The Allen H. and Selma W. Berkman Charitable Trust, The JPB FoundationThe Kendeda FundThe Kresge Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and the Pisces Foundation.

Read about the latest round of Partners for Places matching grant recipients here.

To learn about the previous round of Partners for Places Mini Grants, visit here. (All grant announcements can be found on the Partners for Places webpage.)

For questions about the Partners for Places Mini Grants or matching grants program, please reach out to Ashley Quintana.


→ Where is Partners for Places making an impact? 
Read previous grant announcements and explore the Partners for Places Grantee Map here.

→ Where can I learn about completed Partners for Places projects? 
Visit the Partners for Places Idea Bank to explore what grantees are doing, learning and sharing.

For more information about Partners for Places, please reach out to Ashley Quintana, ashley@fundersnetwork.org.


Are you the Future of Philanthropy? Become a TFN 2023 PLACES Fellow - Applications Now Open!


We’re thrilled to announce that applications for TFN's 2023 PLACES Fellowship are now open!

PLACES — which stands for Professionals Learning About Community, Equity and Sustainability — is a year-long learning journey designed to help grantmakers embed the values and practices of environmental, economic and racial justice into their work.

We encourage you to apply for the PLACES Fellowship if you’re looking to:

  • Expand your understanding of systemic racial, social and economic inequities and their impacts on policy, culture, communities and climate.
  • Acquire the tools and resources to embed the values of equity and justice in your work as a grantmaker.
  • Explore and challenge your own biases and blind spots, regardless of your background, about who you are and how you create change.
  • Forge deep connections with other leaders in philanthropy who are deeply committed to turning ideals into outcomes.
  • Invest in your personal and professional leadership growth.

The deadline to apply is Nov. 18, 2022 

→  View application and apply today!

About the 2023 PLACES Fellowship

The 2023 PLACES Fellowship will be an in-person experience, although we recognize that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic may require us to be flexible. (Applicants will be asked to complete a short COVID-19 Comfort and Safety Survey as part of their application.)

Key 2023 Fellowship Dates*

March 20-22: TFN Annual Conference, New Orleans

April 19-21: Kickoff Site Visit

June 21-23: Site Visit #2

Sept. 20-22: Site Visit #3

Nov. 15-17: Site Visit #4

*Dates are subject to change. Locations TBD.  

Fellowship Fees

For accepted participants, the following fees will apply:

TFN Members: $750

Non-members: $1,250

Fees help support the programmatic and operational costs associated with the fellowship, including but not limited to, speaker honoraria, facilitator fees and group transportation. Fellows will be responsible for travel costs and hotel accommodations for site visits. (Limited travel sponsorships will be available to offset travel costs and are subject to availability.)

COVID Contingencies

Given the uncertainties of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, TFN remains committed to prioritizing the safety of our fellows and the communities they serve.

We will be closely monitoring recommendations and mandates from local health officials as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as we plan for the 2023 PLACES Fellowship.

Please review TFN’s Covid Health & Safety Protocols for more information about our current policies.


TFN’s mission is to leverage philanthropy’s unique potential to help create communities and regions that are sustainable, prosperous and justice.

A key element to this organizational commitment: creating generations of courageous philanthropic leaders who are engaged, emboldened and equipped to bring about meaningful change.

Over the past decade, PLACES has welcomed 180 leaders in philanthropy committed to deepening their understanding of environmental, economic and racial justice. Translating those skills and knowledge into grantmaking and community engagement practices has taken on increased urgency as we navigate multiple, intersecting challenges: an escalating climate crisis, an ongoing pandemic and a widening wealth gap, all of which are causing disproportionate harm to communities of color.

Recent cohorts have addressed issues impacting disenfranchised communities, including structural racism, gender justice, health equity, environmental sustainability, economic development and community engagement — asking difficult questions and exploring uncomfortable truths along the way.

→ Meet the 2022 PLACES Fellows (pictured above on their site visit to Vermont.)


Grow Your Network!

By becoming a PLACES Fellow, you’ll also have opportunities to connect and collaborate with peers in the sector through the PLACES Alumni Network.

This amazing network is comprised of alums from all corners of the United States and Canada, representing national, regional, family, corporate, and community foundations as well as philanthropy serving organizations and other funding institutions.

PLACES X: Stories of Impact


For the 10th anniversary of TFN’s PLACES Fellowship, we asked PLACES alumni to share what inspires, motivates and challenges them in their efforts to embed the values of racial, social and economic equity into their work.

They shared their experiences through PLACES X: Stories of Impact, which includes essays and videos.

→  Explore the full multimedia project here.


Going PLACES Blogs

2018 PLACES fellows Andrea Hulighan, Kumar Raj and Suganthi Simon at their Vancouver site visit. Photo credit: Andrea Hulighan

After each PLACES site visit, we ask the fellows to reflect on their experiences in our blog series Going PLACES. Check out some highlights from our PLACES alumni.


→ Going PLACES - Trading Palm Fronds for Maple Leaves: What Two Demographically Distinct States can Learn from Each Other | By Xan Avendaño, 2022 PLACES Fellow and Program Officer at The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.


→ Going PLACES: What the Newark Rebellion can teach us about Philanthropy | By Grace Chung, Senior Community Development Officer, LISC New York City and 2019 PLACES Fellow.


→ Going PLACES: Becoming A Change Agent | By Andrea Hulighan, Director, Strategic Initiatives, The Winston-Salem Foundation, and 2018 PLACES Fellow.


Making the Moment Count: Reflections on Philanthropy’s Role in Equitable Implementation of Historic Water Investments

BY KERRY HASTINGS, The Funders Network

I had the wonderful opportunity this fall of attending the US Water Alliance’s One Water Summit in Milwaukee, Wisc., joined by five of our Urban Water Funders Steering Committee members: Alex Paxton of the Water Foundation; Dana Okano of the Hawaii Community Foundation; Yeou-Rong Jih of the Kresge Foundation; Emily Warren of the Mitchell Foundation, and Maggie Rwakazina of Spring Point Partners. It was a rich time of deepening relationships, learning together, and preparing for the years ahead of historic public investment in water infrastructure.

What stood out initially was the cross-sectoral nature of the conference. To be in a room mixed with utility leaders, other municipal leadership, community advocates, NGOs and funders led to rich and well-rounded discussion. In a moment where billions of dollars will be flowing through public agencies, community voice must be centered, and the conference allowed for fruitful discussion between the various stakeholders that will be involved in making this moment count.

While the amount of federal dollars is tremendous, there are gaps and blind spots that public spending can’t or won’t address. Here are my reflections from the conference on some of the most important roles for philanthropy to play in supporting equitable implementation:

  • Frontline communities must guide the way. Federal water investments will certainly get to communities who are already well-resourced. The challenge is getting them to communities who need it most yet are least equipped to apply (such as small and/or rural communities) or those whose neighborhoods are less prioritized (such as low-wealth neighborhoods within major cities). Ensuring that community-led organizations have the resources they need to understand and advocate within the system ensures that they will see projects come to their communities that bring benefit and not harm. They can shape project proposals, apply for funding, advocate for more equitable criteria to distribute the monies, and hold elected officials accountable. In addition, their involvement is critical to think through how to avoid unintended consequences that investments often bring to low-resourced communities, such as gentrification and displacement. 
  • Supporting collaboration and stakeholder alignment. This is not an either/or moment, it is a both/and one. Funders cannot invest in just one stakeholder or strategy while ignoring the others. There are several players that will be involved in ensuring equitable implementation: states and municipalities, utilities, organizers and advocates, funders, technical assistance providers and engineers. For the most effective outcomes, communities need a healthy ecosystem where stakeholders can communicate, align and build consensus when possible. Philanthropy can play a role in helping to build this table and paying particular attention to centering community voices and ensuring that lived experience within a community is as highly valued as technical and engineering experience. While not every stakeholder can or should be funded by philanthropy’s limited dollars, investing in bringing folks together will prove valuable. 
  • The workforce conundrum is front and center. The “silver tsunami” of the water workforce is not a new challenge but has been exacerbated by COVID-related retirements. On top of that, the influx of billions of dollars means that new staff are needed: to apply for the money, manage and distribute the money, build the projects and maintain the projects. New staff are needed everywhere — within states and cities, at utilities, engineering firms, and for community-led work — and yet the water sector was already struggling to recruit and maintain a skilled workforce. Funding organizations that are focused on workforce development in partnership with the water sector can be critical for equitable implementation, so that a diverse and trained workforce can reflect the community’s values in overseeing water infrastructure projects. This investment can happen through investing in NGOs that train workers, especially those who are disenfranchised such as formerly incarcerated people. It can also build leadership for existing water leaders or help build pipelines from community colleges into the water sector.
  • Nudging Towards Nature-Based Solutions. When there is an influx of money that is expected to be used quickly, most humans would defer to what they are used to. In the water sector, that is grey infrastructure. The research show that multi-benefit, nature-based solutions such as green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) can provide ecological, economic and social benefits, yet states have previously allocated only 3% of their State Revolving Funds towards GSI. Funders can continue to support advocacy, technical assistance and other program support (such as TFN’s Partners for Places GSI grants) to continue to promote these important solutions to address flooding and provide healthy community spaces.
Former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, currently senior advisor to President Biden tapped to coordinate implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure law, and US Water Alliance CEO Mami Hara in conversation at the 2022 One Water Summit. Photo credit: US Water Alliance/@USWaterAlliance

I look forward to hearing from all of you how these resonate with your work and investments, and what other strategies you have identified as the most strategic for your foundation.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to two of this year’s Water Prize winners that were honored at the summit. Receiving the Outstanding Public Sector Organization award was the City and County of Honolulu, whose amazing work you may have heard about at our 2022 UWF/GREEN Joint Convening earlier this year. UWF Steering Committee member Dana Okano of the Hawaii Community Foundation was a key part of this work. The Outstanding Nonprofit Organization award went to Healthy Community Services in New Orleans. Healthy Community Services is  one of the frontline community groups collaborating on a project to create equitable green designs for NOLA neighborhoods, a project that has received a Partners for Places Mini Grant.

I look forward to learning together at next year’s One Water Summit in Tucson, Ariz.!


About the Author

Kerry Hastings is TFN’s program lead for Urban Water Funders and a program manager for Smart Growth California, a TFN initiative.





Featured photo credit at top: US Water Alliance/ @USWaterAlliance

Partners for Places: Eight U.S. Communities Receive nearly $1.3 million in Grants for Community-led Sustainability Projects


From helping neighbors install rain barrels in New Jersey to growing food at an urban agriculture site in Minnesota to planting native trees and community gardens on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i, the latest round of Partners for Places grants will help support efforts to create more equitable and resilient communities across the U.S.

In all, eight U.S. communities will receive nearly $1.3 million in Partners for Places matching grants to support sustainability efforts that focus largely on addressing the needs of historically marginalized communities that are disproportionately impacted by an escalating climate crisis and other environmental injustices.

By bringing together local governments, place-based funders and frontline community groups, these projects are also helping build relationships that will fuel even more action and collaboration at the grassroots level — fostering authentic engagement and input from populations and places that often bear the brunt of climate-fueled inequities but are often left out of decision-making processes.

The eight communities receiving this latest round of Partners for Places grants are: Baltimore County, Md.; Cook County, Ill.; Duluth, Minn.; Hackensack, N.J.; Kaua‘i County, Hawai‘i; Multnomah County, Ore.; Pittsburgh, Penn.; and San Diego County, Calif.  

Meet the New Grantees! 

So how will they use Partners for Places grants?

In San Diego County — where local leaders have proposed an ambitious plan to move the region toward zero-carbon emissions — the Partners for Places grant will be used to support targeted engagement of refugee, asylee and immigrant communities as part of the County’s larger regional engagement strategy, ensuring that implementation plans are equitable, prioritize community needs and offer solutions to climate change that are informed and shaped by those most impacted.

Illinois’ Cook County will use the Partners for Places funding to support a broader effort to bring together communities across racial and economic divides to share ideas, secure resources and drive large-scale projects to achieve equity and sustainability goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The project also includes efforts to increase access to electric vehicle charging stations and increase the number of commercial properties, small businesses and households that embrace solar power and other green technologies.

Fostering authentic and inclusive community engagement, especially in areas that have been racially and economically marginalized, is a critical goal fueling many Partners for Places projects.

Howard Ross, owner of Howard's Que barbecue and restaurant in Duluth, selects vegetables for a community meal at the Eco3 Farm urban agricultural site. Photo source: Ecolibrium3


In Multnomah County, home to the City of Portland, this latest round of funding will build on an earlier Partners for Places grant, addressing the need for more coordinated collaboration between municipal leaders and residents to tackle the climate crisis, including developing a steering committee composed of representatives from local government and frontline communities to guide the planning process.

Partners for Places funding will help the community of Duluth build climate resilience and address health disparities in a low-income neighborhood. The project includes supporting “neighborhood champions” that can advance the city’s climate action plan and build greater neighborhood involvement in city-led policy and project discussions. The project also includes plans to use part of an urban agricultural site as a place for learning and social connection that will increase access to healthy foods. Another goal: helping residents identify and plan their own neighborhood-based projects.

Four of the communities selected for the latest round Partners for Places will receive dedicated funding specifically for green stormwater infrastructure projects.

In Baltimore County, where Black and other communities of color are disproportionately impacted by flooding and pollution, the grant will be used to develop and deliver public outreach and education to implement recently passed environmental enforcement legislation, ensuring water quality violations are corrected in a timely manner, government is responsive and equitable, and waterways are cleaner.

In Pittsburgh, project partners hope to build a foundation for community leadership as significant riverfront planning efforts get underway in the city’s West End. Their goals include engaging young leaders and other stakeholders to outline community needs and lead a holistic, coordinated planning process that will bring people together through activities such as on-the-water tours, community meetings and workshops.


In Pittsburgh, riverfront planning efforts will include include engaging young leaders and other stakeholders  through activities such as on-the-water tours, community meetings and workshops. Photo source: Riverlife.


In Kaua‘i County, project partners will use the grant to support the installation of native trees and community gardens in Līhuʻe, the county seat, and create a partnership between county agencies, impacted community members and artists. The project includes community dinners to deepen connections and a collaborative process to identify additional green infrastructure projects. Local Kaua‘i artists will also create public murals near the proposed community gardens, designed to educate neighbors about local water issues and the benefits of green infrastructure, attract residents to use the connecting multimodal pathways, and beautify the downtown corridor.

In Hackensack, where extensive stormwater flooding coupled with a combined sewer system poses environmental and health risks particularly to Latinx, Black and other communities of color, the project seeks to build on flood-mitigation efforts by installing green infrastructure on public and private lands. The project also seeks to directly engage people from communities most impacted by flooding, involving them in green infrastructure planning and installation such as learning how to create rain gardens and install rain barrels that decrease stormwater run-off and help address flooding.

Partners for Places, led by The Funders Network (TFN) in partnership with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), will provide $652,909 in funding to these eight communities through the grant program. With contributions from local matching funders, a total of $642,909 will be committed to fund sustainability projects in these selected communities. This grant cycle includes $345,000 — plus the local matching funds — awarded to the green stormwater infrastructure projects in Baltimore, Kuau’i, Hackensack and Pittsburgh. TFN and USDN have partnered with the Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange, a practitioner network that supports communities seeking to grow green stormwater infrastructure programs, to support outreach efforts.


Extensive stormwater flooding coupled with a combined sewer system poses environmental and health risks in Hackensack. Photo credit: Hackensack Fire Department.


To date, Partners for Places has awarded more than $9 million across North America in this successful matching grant program, leading to more $19 million in investments.

The matching grant program brings national funder investors together with place-based funders to support equitable sustainable climate action and green stormwater infrastructure projects. The program is currently supported by The JPB Foundation, The Kendeda FundThe Kresge Foundation, New York Community TrustThe Allen H. and Selma W. Berkman Charitable Trust, and the Pisces Foundation.

Partners for Places will open a new round of funding for the matching grants program in winter 2022. (Applications for Partners for Places Mini Grants will be available later this summer.)

Grants at a Glance

The latest Partners for Places grant recipients, project descriptions, matching funders and frontline community groups are:


  • Baltimore County, Md. ($35,000): To build a movement of support for effective, equitable implementation of state-wide solutions addressing environmental response to climate change. Frontline community groups: Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Gunpowder Riverkeeper, and Blue Water Baltimore. Matching funder: Abell Foundation ($35,000).


  • Cook County, Ill. ($97,909): To support building additional partners in Cross-Community Climate Collaboration (C4), implement structures for communication and collaboration within and across communities, and implement specific equitable climate projects. Frontline community group: Urban Efficiency Group. Matching funder: Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation ($97,909).


  • Duluth, Minn. ($75,000): To build climate resilience and address health disparities in a low-income neighborhood through creative placemaking and collaborative partnership development. Frontline community group: Matching funder: Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation ($75,000).


  • Hackensack, N.J. ($75,000): To enhance existing combined sewer separation plans with community-designed green infrastructure to mitigate stormwater flooding in low-income neighborhoods, addressing environmental justice issues. Frontline community group: Greater Bergen Community Action. Matching funder: Northern New Jersey Community Foundation ($75,000).


  • Kaua‘i County, Hawai‘i ($85,000): To support the installation of native street trees and community gardens in Līhuʻe and create a plan/partnership framework for future green infrastructure. Frontline community groups: Better Block Hawaiʻi and Rice Street Business Association. Matching funder: Anonymous ($85,000).


  • Multnomah County, Ore. ($50,000): To develop a frontline community-centered vision of climate justice that will serve as the foundation for a Multnomah County government and community climate justice plan. Frontline community group: Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC). Matching funder: Meyer Memorial Trust ($50,000).


  • Pittsburgh, Penn. ($150,000): To build a foundation for community leadership as significant riverfront planning efforts get underway in Pittsburgh’s West End. Frontline community groups:O.P.E. for Tomorrow Inc., West End Community Group, and Riverlife. Matching funder: Heinz Endowments ($150,000).


  • San Diego County, Calif. ($85,000): To develop an equitable, inclusive community engagement process that supports the engagement of impacted refugee, asylee and immigrant communities in the implementation of San Diego County’s Regional Decarbonization Framework. Frontline community group: Confirmation pending. Matching funder: The San Diego Foundation ($75,000).


Cook County, Ill., recently celebrated the launch of its Cross-Community Climate Collaboration (C4) project. Photo source: Seven Generations Ahead.

About Partners for Places

A joint project of The Funders Network and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, Partners for Places is a successful matching grant program that improves U.S. and Canadian communities by building partnerships between local government sustainability leaders, place-based funders and frontline community groups. National funders invest in local projects developed through these partnerships to advance efforts to create communities that are sustainable, prosperous and just. Through these investments, Partners for Places fosters long-term relationships that make our communities more sustainable, prosperous and equitable. For more information on Partners for Places, visit fundersnetwork.org/partners-for-places/

About The Funders Network

The Funders Network (TFN) is a mission-driven network of grantmakers across North America that seeks to create impact at the intersection of environment, economy and equity. TFN works to inspire, strengthen and expand funding and philanthropic leadership that yields sustainable, prosperous and just regions and communities.

About The Urban Sustainability Directors Network

The Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) a network of local government professionals across the United States and Canada dedicated to create equitable, resilient, and sustainable communities by advancing the field of local government sustainability and equipping practitioners to be catalysts of transformative change.



We Have so Much Work to Do: TFN's Pat Smith statement on Uvalde tragedy, plus advocacy resources for funders


Last week in Uvalde, Texas, an 18-year-old armed with an AR-15 rifle and high-capacity magazines with hundreds of rounds of ammunition walked into a school and murdered 19 fourth graders and two teachers.

We’re still learning more about how the tragedy in Uvalde unfolded. But we know that solutions need to go deeper than hearts-and-prayer tweets or political posturing.

We must look past the headlines and social media noise and ask ourselves: What is philanthropy going to do about this?

• There are more guns than people in the United States. A 2018 report estimated that there are 393.3 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, enough guns for every single adult and child to own one — and still have 60 million guns spare.

• So far this year, there have been 200 mass shootings in the U.S., an average of more than one a day. The violence in Uvalde came just 10 days after the racist rampage in Buffalo at a neighborhood grocery store and nine days after the shooting at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in southern California. Since last week’s shooting in Texas, there have been at least 11 other mass shootings in the U.S.

• The AR 15-style rifle, dubbed “modern sporting rifles” by the gun industry and which the shooters used in Uvalde and Buffalo to slaughter more than 30 people, is now the most popular rifle in the country.

• More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine. In 2020, firearms became the leading cause of death among children and teens nationally. Tragically, there are children dying every day in rural, suburban and urban communities from incidents of gun violence that rarely make the national news.

• And communities of color are disproportionally impacted by gun violence. A 2020 report from the John Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions noted that Blacks are more than 12 times more likely to be victims of gun homicides than white people. Native Americans/Alaska Natives are nearly four times as likely than their white counterparts. People of Hispanic or Latin American descent are twice as likely to die than non-Hispanic/Latino whites.

Let all this sink in for just a moment.

In the coming weeks, our nation’s gun laws will be debated once again. It’s my deep hope that we support those working to enact policy changes at the local, state and federal level. We as a sector are sometimes misinformed and a bit skittish about funding campaigns calling for legislative action.

Foundations have the power to help support research and advocacy campaigns that lobby for gun safety legislation, including banning semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 and high-capacity magazines, weapons of choice for mass murders. Congress found the will to do so for ten years, and “the body of research now increasingly suggests the 1994 law was effective in reducing mass-shooting deaths.”

Our Bolder Advocacy colleagues note that “foundation support for nonprofits that engage in advocacy, including lobbying and election-related activities, isn’t just legal — it’s important, powerful, and fundamental to democracy.”

In 2021, the gun industry set new lobbying spending record, spending  $15.8 million on lobbying compared to $2.9 million in lobbying from gun control groups. That is more than five times as much. In the first quarter of 2022, these groups have already spent $2 million and gun control groups just $609,000.

Fund for a Safer Future, an effort supported by TFN members the Kendeda Fund and Annie E. Casey Foundation, among others, pools resources to invest in targeted, practical, strategies to reduce gun injuries and deaths.

The organization will host funders-only briefing on Thursday, June 2 at 2 p.m. ET. The briefing is open to all members of the philanthropic community who are interested in learning more about solutions to the growing public health crisis of gun violence and its devastating impacts on American life.

For more information about efforts to stem the tide of guns in America, here are policy agendas and other resources from Everytown for Gun Safety, which works with local, federal, and state governments to enact and implement policies that reduce gun violence; Moms Demand Action, which came about in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and is part of Everytown for Gun Safety; and March For Our Lives, created by young survivors of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

TFN’s staff team, all of us women, includes many mothers of young children. They are having yet another series of difficult conversations with their kids about what to do if a “bad guy” comes into their school. When checking in with these TFN moms last week, I was so dismayed to realize how routine mass shooter drills are for this generation of little kids, some barely toddlers, who are coming of age in the 10 years since Sandy Hook.

Our children deserve better from this world. Better from us.

We have so much work to do.

How to Help

Family and community members attend a vigil in Uvalde on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Photo by Gabriel Romero/ MySA.com

Uvalde Strong Survivors Fund will provide direct financial assistance to the survivors of the deceased and those directly affected by this tragedy. One hundred percent of the contributions donated to this fund will go directly to victims and survivors of this atrocity in partnership with National Compassion Fund. Donate here.

Uvalde Strong Fund is an emergency relief fund to support area nonprofits that will provide long-term assistance, including mental health services, in the Uvalde community. Donate here.

Additional Resources: 

Lessons from Atlanta & Milwaukee | Improving Community Safety Through Public Health Strategies, The Annie E. Casey Foundation


Featured image at top: Jordan Vonderhaar/ Getty Images

'The Pain is in our DNA': TFN's statement on the Buffalo shooting - and how funders can help


Margus Morrison was picking up snacks for a weekly movie date night with his wife.Celestine Chaney had stopped in with her sister to buy strawberries for a shortcake recipe.Andre Mackneill was there to get a surprise birthday cake for his young son. And in a matter of seconds, they — and seven others — were gone. Ten lives cut short by a racist gunman who targeted their neighborhood grocery store in order to carry out an act of inexplicable violence. Inexplicable. But not unfamiliar. This Saturday, the Masten Park neighborhood of East Buffalo became the latest community terrorized by a radicalized white supremacist, a list that includes CharlestonEl Paso and Christchurch.I can’t look at the faces of those killed without seeing someone who looks like my brother, my grandmother, my nieces. Without seeing someone who looks like me.It’s almost too much to process.  So as this sad and heavy week comes to an end, let’s start with the easiest part: How you can help the Buffalo community and survivors of this racist act of violence. The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, a member of The Funders Network, has created The Buffalo Together Community Response Fund, in partnership with the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County and other philanthropic partners, to help address immediate community needs, long-term rebuilding and systemic issues in the aftermath of the the shooting.  Additionally, the Tops grocery chain and the National Compassion Fund has established the Buffalo 5/14 Survivors Fund to provide direct financial assistance to the survivors of the deceased and those directly affected by this tragedy. (You can find additional information on both of these efforts on the Buffalo Together webpage.)Although this was the action of a lone gunman, this violence was not born in a vacuum. America’s history is steeped in racialized violence. And at just 18 years this gunman was already sufficiently immersed in the anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and anti-Black language of replacement theory, which posits that malign forces are bent on replacing white people and stripping them of their innate power and privileges.Once relegated to the dark fringes of the internet, this conspiracy theory has gone disturbingly mainstream with echoes of this madness coming from cable TV hosts and elected leaders.As leaders in the philanthropic sector, I implore you to continue to invest in historically disempowered communities impacted by racism and support frontline, grassroot organizations through unrestricted funds and capacity-building resources.

Because racial violence can be inflicted not just by a lone gunman, but by systemic, racist policies and practices as well.

A recent New York Times story points out that Buffalo “is split into two vastly different worlds, the East and West Sides. About 85 percent of Black Buffalo residents live in East Buffalo, and researchers have mapped the effects of the split on nearly every aspect of life, including education, job opportunities, housing and even life expectancy, according to a 2018 report from the Partnership for the Public Good.”Black people in Buffalo live an average of five fewer years than white residents. (The national gap between white and Black life spans is an average of 3.6 years.)“The pain is in our DNA at this point,” 64-year-old Earlene Patterson told the Times. “It’s in my great-grandfather, my father. It’s in me.”This is the very community this gunman was drawn to, driving three hours to inflict even more racial trauma on the Black people of East Buffalo.Investigators and pundits will surely pore over the motives of this terrorist, whose name I will not type much less utter out loud. Instead, I’ll share this image created by artist Jen White-Johnson and posted on social media by our friends at The California Endowment, with the all-too-frequent reminder that comes after an act of racial violence: Say Their Names. When you have a quiet moment, please reflect on these 10 souls whose lives deserve to be remembered as more than just a tragic data point.

Roberta A. Drury, 32
Margus D. Morrison, 52
Andre Mackneil, 53
Aaron Salter, 55
Geraldine Talley, 62
Celestine Chaney, 65
Heyward Patterson, 67
Katherine Massey, 72
Pearl Young, 77
Ruth Whitfield, 86

Say their names. Tell their stories. And may their memories fuel not only tears and fury, but action. Because it’s only through action that we’ll find any meaningful hope for change.

Image credits: (Top photo) Tina MacIntyre-Yee/ Rochester Democrat and Chronicle; (Illustration) Jen White-Johnson/ @jtknoxroxs

Welcome & Congrats: TFN Board of Directors' New Members & Officers

BY Patricia L. Smith, TFN President & CEO

I'm excited to share the election of our 2022-2024 slate of TFN’s Board of Directors, which includes four new additions to our phenomenal board.

This year's election was conducted via electronic ballot, with the results shared at TFN's Annual Meeting during our recent Annual Conference: Seize the Moment in San Diego.

At our meeting, we also celebrated the election of our new TFN board officers and bid a fond farewell to those board members who concluded their service in March.

I want to offer my deepest gratitude to these board members for their service over the years: Neelima Shah of the Bullitt Foundation (and most recent TFN board treasurer), Eric Muschler, of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund; and Kellie Terry of the Surdna Foundation.

While he remains on TFN's board, I also want to share my heartfelt thanks to Craig Martinez of The California Endowment, who concluded his two-year term as board chairperson in March — a tour of duty that coincided with the the most severe period of the coronavirus pandemic.

As chair, Craig — along with the rest of the board — helped guide TFN through this challenging period as our team navigated the impacts of the pandemic and how best to be of service to the broader TFN community.

I'm excited to share that Don Hickman of the Initiative Foundation has been elected as the new chairperson of TFN's Board of Directors. Don has been an invaluable member of TFN's funder community for many years, and currently sits on the PPREP Steering Committee. (You can learn more about Don and the Initiative Foundation in this TFN Know Your Network blog post.)

I'm also thrilled to note that our board now includes six TFN PLACES alums, the most we've ever had! We are so proud of the cadre of philanthropic leaders that make up the PLACES Alumni Network, and are grateful for their continued support of TFN's mission. (You can read about the newly announced 2022 PLACES Cohort here.)

Join me in congratulating these new and returning board members, as well as our newly elected board officers.
During our virtual election, which concluded March 7, TFN members elected the Board of Directors class of 2022 – 2024. Please note that the first four candidates are being elected to a first term of office. The remainder are current directors who are renewing a term of office.

TFN Board of Directors Class of 2022 – 202

Chan Brown
Program Officer
Kansas Health Foundation and TFN PLACES Alum
(First term, 2022 – 2024)

Janel M. Hines
Vice President, Community Impact
Greater Milwaukee Foundation and TFN PLACES Alum
(First term, 2022 – 2024)

Kaying Hang
Senior Vice President of Programs and Partnerships
Sierra Health Foundation
(First term, 2022 – 2024)

Surabhi Pandit
Director, Human Services Initiatives
Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and TFN PLACES Alum
(First term, 2022 – 2024)

Michael Coffey
Director, Racial Justice Fund
Greater Cincinnati Foundation and TFN PLACES Alum
(Second term, 2022 – 2024)

Karla Twedt-Ball
Senior Vice President, Programs and Community Investment
Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation
(Second term, 2022 – 2024)

Jessica Boehland
Senior Program Officer, Environment
The Kresge Foundation
(Third term, 2022 – 2024)

Don Hickman
Vice President for Community and Workforce Development
Initiative Foundation
(Third term, 2022 – 2024)

Elizabeth Love
Chief Executive Officer
Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation
(Third term, 2022 – 2024)

Shawn Escoffery
Executive Director
Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation
(Fourth term, 2022 – 2024)

Additional Board Members

In addition to the directors just elected to a new term, there are four directors who are in the middle of serving a two-year term as part of the 2021 - 2023 class.

Michelle Knapik
Craig Martinez
Program Manager
The California Endowment and and TFN PLACES Alum
Sheena Solomon
Executive Director 
The Gifford Foundation
Scot Spencer
Associate Director, Local Policy
Annie E. Casey Foundation

Election of Officers

TFN is pleased to announce that at its January 2022 meeting, the TFN Board of Directors elected the following individuals to serve as its officers. Officers are elected for a one-year term, except the chairperson, which has a two-year term.


Don Hickman
Vice President for Community and Workforce Development
Initiative Foundation

Vice Chairperson

Sheena Solomon
Executive Director 
The Gifford Foundation


Michael Coffey
Director, Racial Justice Fund
Greater Cincinnati Foundation

Elizabeth Love
Chief Executive Officer
Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation

Open Letter: Climate Funders Need to Re-think their Giving and Invest More in Clean Transportation to Curb Greenhouse Gases


More than 35 leading climate justice, environmental, civil rights and philanthropic leaders are calling on climate funders to re-think their giving and for far greater philanthropic investment in ending greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. The open letter to funders comes after the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill which commits nearly $90 billion in guaranteed funding for public transit over the next five years — the largest federal investment in public transit in history.

In addition to Pat Smith, president and CEO of The Funders Network, the large and diverse coalition releasing the open letter includes signatories from the NAACP, Urban Institute, 350.org, TransitCenter, Sierra Club, Summit Foundation, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Bullitt Foundation, Labor Network for Sustainability, Alliance for a Just Society, Merck Family Fund, U.S.PIRG, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, TFN’s Smart Growth California and Mobility and Access Collaborative initiatives, and many others.

The letter is being delivered to climate foundations with the expectation that they will increase funding to advocates to push for the greenhouse gas reductions necessary to address the nation’s transportation system impacts on climate, equity, and health.

If you or your organization would like to sign on to this letter, click here.

Please reach out to either Martha Roskowski, program lead for the Mobility and Access Collaborative, Darryl Young of the Summit Foundation, or David Bragdon of TransitCenter if you have any questions about this effort.

Read the full letter below.

Open Letter: Investing in Multimodal Transportation

Dear Philanthropic Community,

We share your commitment to tackling the climate crisis and promoting racial justice. We believe that multimodal transportation is key to advancing these crucial goals. Yet, despite the fact that transportation accounts for the greatest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., transportation is vastly underfunded in climate philanthropy (accounting for less than 10 percent of climate funding) and the frontline organizations fighting for a just, multimodal future are campaigning on shoestring budgets.

We urge leaders in climate funding to invest in community-based groups who fight for better transportation. We further urge leaders in funding of electric vehicles to make supplementary investments in civic advocacy for public transit and other alternative climate-friendly modes of transportation. We urge leaders to boost the sum total of transportation investments. Specifically, we believe an additional investment of $200 million in transportation organizing is needed to transform the way Americans move, replacing our dependence on highways and roads with an approach to transportation and land use that includes transit, electric trucks and cars, biking, walking, and more.

Public transit is often overlooked as a means for tackling climate change and promoting racial equity. This is a grave mistake. Buses and trains provide mobility across race and class, to people in rural and urban communities alike, and to seniors and people with disabilities. Paired with biking and walking, transit reduces sprawl, improves health, and lowers transportation expenses.

Meanwhile, highway construction and widening continue at a breakneck pace, despite the extreme environmental costs and the catastrophe that highways have long represented for communities of color. Perversely, highway widening has been promoted as a means of reducing congestion and carbon emissions though it does the opposite and even though highway projects continue to harm communities of color. The $135 billion allocated for 58 major highway expansion projects since 2014 could have funded more than 250,000 electric buses.

Every five years Congress reconsiders transportation priorities. We must do two things between now and the next reauthorization: we must not only shape a better context for the 2026 legislation, but we must also influence the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to ensure that we make progress on climate and equity rather than move backward. Successfully influencing implementation of the IIJA, in turn, will help us build power and momentum towards a better reauthorization in 2026. This requires effective grassroots pressure, and creating that pressure requires robust collaboration from philanthropy.

Philanthropy can help unlock the latent power of riders by supporting the frontline organizations that are building a social justice movement for multimodal transportation and transit-oriented development. We’ve already seen the difference this untapped constituency can make. The examples below show effective community-based advocacy is essential to winning less carbon-intensive infrastructure investments:

In the Seattle region, a broad network of groups organized by the Transportation Choices Coalition led to creation and passage of a ballot measure that raised $54 billion in new revenues for a vast expansion of the light rail and bus systems.

In Houston, the Texas Department of Transportations threatens to destroy over a thousand homes and businesses in low-income neighborhoods of color. With its partners, the civic group LINK Houston, funded by philanthropy, organized the opposition and currently has prevailed on the U.S. DOT to temporarily pause the project due to its likely civil rights violations.

In New York City, a diversity of groups originally convened under the initiative of Mayor Michael Bloomberg pressed the legislature for years to adopt decongestion pricing, which will reduce emissions and generate $1 billion per year for transit improvements. Local foundations funded the Riders Alliance and others to accomplish this victory.

In Los Angeles, bus riders are predominantly low-income people of color, and many are “essential workers,” yet at the height of COVID LA Metro proposed disproportionate cuts interfering with their ability to get to work. Civic groups including ACT LA, Investing in Place, and Move LA, pressured the LA Metro board to restore service that was fairer and more responsive to need.

Organizations like these took a tremendous leap amid the pandemic, campaigning in coordination for the first time to win historic federal investment in transit. Specifically, the American Rescue Plan and Build Back Better Act deliver federal operating assistance for transit for the first time, and the IIJA includes an unprecedented $107 billion in transit funding. Yet, the groups fell short of stopping the IIJA’s increased highway funding, and failed to achieve the transformational goals of ending the 80/20 spending split and securing significant new investments to allow more people to move out of cars.

Undeterred, these groups are now focusing on local, regional and statewide agencies, advocating for federal dollars to be used to improve transit service, stop highway expansions, and build better places to walk and bike, particularly in frontline communities. In the process, these organizations are honing the advocacy muscle necessary to fundamentally restructure our transportation priorities. These efforts should command the full backing of philanthropy. Instead, organizers and grassroots leaders are winning what they can with extremely limited resources.

A $200 million philanthropic investment over the next five years would empower local groups to build a robust, coordinated field to win local battles, direct the coming surge of federal funding and prepare for reauthorization. With this funding, frontline organizations will reduce greenhouse gases in their communities and be ready to win a transformational reauthorization fight in 2026.

Funding local and regional organizing for multimodal transportation is crucial to achieve our shared goals of climate justice and racial equity. We look forward to collaborating with you to build a more sustainable and equitable future.


David Bragdon, Executive Director, TransitCenter
Michael Leon Guerrero, Executive Director, Labor Network for Sustainability
LeeAnn Hall, Executive Director, Alliance for a Just Society
Martha Roskowski, Coordinator, Mobility and Access Collaborative
Darryl Young, Sustainable Cities Program Director, Summit Foundation
(initial signers)

Jenny Russell, Executive Director, Merck Family Fund
Elizabeth Love, CEO, Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation
Johanna Bozuwa, Executive Director, Climate and Community Project
Beth Osborne, Director, Transportation for America
Charles Brown, President and CEO, Equitable Cities LLC
Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP
May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org
Mike Pratt, President & Executive Director, Scherman Foundation
Varshini Prakash, Executive Director, Sunrise Movement
Ron Milam, Director, Smart Growth California
Pat Smith, President and CEO, The Funders Network
Dan Chu, Acting Executive Director, Sierra Club
Lisa Jacobson, Senior Program Officer, Mobility, Barr Foundation
Corinne Kisner, Executive Director, NACTO (National Assoc. of City Transportation Officials)
Matt Casale, Environment Campaigns Director, PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups)
Bill Nesper, Executive Director, League of American Bicyclists
Kevin Mills, Vice President of Policy, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Amy Hennessey, Senior VP, Communications & External Affairs, Ulupono Initiative
Robert Dean, CEO, Center for Neighborhood Technology
Fletcher Harper, Executive Director, GreenFaith
Judith LeBlanc, Executive Director, Native Organizers Alliance
Jerry Maldonado, Vice President of Programs, PolicyLink
David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, United Philanthropy Forum
Ben Crowther, Highways to Boulevards Director, Congress for the New Urbanism
Michael Kodransky, US Director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)
Joel Espino, Transportation Equity Lead, Wend Collective
Aaron Dorfman, President & CEO, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
Manish Bapna, President & CEO, Natural Resources Defense Council
Denis Hayes, CEO, Bullitt Foundation
Rushad Nanavatty, Managing Director, Urban Transformation, RMI
Shelby Scales, Director, OSDBU, USDOT*
Diane Ives, Consultant*
Tamika Butler, Tamika L Butler Consulting LLC*
Yonah Freemark, Urban Institute*
Jacqueline Patterson, Founder and Executive Director, The Chisholm Legacy Project: A Resource Hub for Black Frontline Climate Justice Leadership*
Basav Sen, Climate Policy Director, Institute for Policy Studies*Greg LeRoy, Executive Director, Good Jobs FirstBryn Lindblad, Deputy Director, Climate ResolveBenjamin de la Peña, CEO, Shared-Use Mobility CenterRobert Puentes, President/CEO, Eno Center for Transportation

*Organization for identification

The above list reflects the signatories as of April 13. To view an updated list, or add your name as a signatory, click here.



Photo by luigi alvarez is licensed under CC0

Building Power for Community-Led Solutions: GREEN And Urban Water Funders Learning Together

BY Kerry Hastings and Ann Fowler Wallace, TFN Urban Water Funders and GREEN working groups

On February 16 and 17, funders from TFN’s GREEN and Urban Water Funders working groups came together to deepen learning and connections. This virtual gathering was the second annual convening where these two working groups met together, recognizing how interconnected their interests are. Both groups focus on disparate climate impacts on low-income communities and communities of color, the importance of community-led solutions, and the need for increased and targeted investments into those same communities to transform them into hubs of sustainability, health, equity and innovation.   

Nearly every funder arrived with a hunger to root ourselves in this moment of extreme disparity and growing climate-fueled disasters, as well as one of unprecedented investment coming down from the federal government into states and communities. We used our two days to learn from frontline community leaders, government officials, and one another. Our sessions provided opportunities to hear from members of the White House’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC), Hawaiians leading climate resilience and OneWater work in Honolulu, and funders growing their racial equity muscles as they center equity in their institutions and implement equitable grantmaking practices. We also held several opportunities for breakouts for deeper funder connection and learning.   

Our two days together left funders feeling inspired and motivated both by the ideas and solutions proposed, as well as the work ahead to implement those solutions. Below are a few of the themes on how philanthropy can step into its role with the greatest impact, and ways that funders want to dive deeper in learning and implementation of these solutions.   

  • Supporting workforce development and inclusive leadership pathways. Philanthropy can support the next generation of water leaders by investing in leadership development and workforce pathways. There was particular interest in learning beyond the water and climate sectors and tapping into expertise of jobs programs such as Americorps or Public Allies to support a more diverse workforce.  


  • Get frontline organizations what they need most. The verdict is clear: nonprofit organizations (NGOs), especially those on the front lines, need unrestricted, multi-year grants to do their most impactful work. In addition, frontline leaders called on philanthropy to support endowments for environmental justice groups to lessen the ever-present burden of fundraising, as well as support self-care, career pathways and wage growth within NGOs so that great staff don’t have to leave movement work to advance in their careers.  


  • Utilize intermediaries as a tool for targeted investments. For those funders who cannot build direct relationships with every community where they would like to move funds, intermediaries – when used thoughtfully – can be a way to drive investment to and build capacity of smaller organizations and ecosystems of organizations that serve places or specific communities, such as Native American intermediaries. Intermediaries can also serve as a path to get federal and state resources directed towards community-led solutions. 


  • Support government agencies directly. A powerful image of an hourglass was shared by a WHEJAC member during our opening session; at the top of the hourglass is the pledge and commitment of the federal government to do something big on equity, and at the bottom are the billions of dollars ready to go out the door. In the middle, however, is the bottleneck of limited staff capacity to make the commitment a reality. How can philanthropy help expand this pinch point? Foundations can loan executives or support additional staff from talented NGOs, and through advocacy and funding of community groups, support de-siloing of government agencies to encourage collaboration at the local, state and national level.  


  • Commit to and invest in racial and economic equity. Funders continue to hunger for more peer learning on how to deepen their equitable grantmaking practices and internal operations. Funders discussed how to make the case to trustees, how to support ongoing evaluation to ensure new practices are meeting their intended goals, and ways to use various tools to identify spots for improvement, such as the Meyer Memorial Trust’s DEI Spectrum Tool 


  • Protect democracy. It is not an exaggeration to say that this moment is different than any other in our lifetimes, as we watch a renewed attack on democracy in our nation and around the globe. While funders each have their specific program and issue areas, the larger context of protecting our democracy must be considered and invested in, including a focus on the judiciary and the dangers that lie ahead for progressive causes and Black, Indigenous and other People of Color communities.  


GREEN and Urban Water Funders working groups convened virtually in February. Photo credit: Ron Milam


We can’t wait to continue these discussions and others. Many thanks to our planning committee: Alejandra Hernandez, Kresge Foundation; Naeema Campbell, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; Nate Boon, William Penn Foundation; Dana Okano, Hawaii Community Foundation; and John Mitterholzer, George Gund Foundation. 

Learn more

To learn more about our two working groups and sign up for our newsletters, visit the Urban Water Funders and GREEN working groups pages. 

About the Authors 

 Ann Fowler Wallace is TFN’s director of programs. Ann manages TFN’s working groups and regional networks, is part of the GREEN working group team, and serves on the Governance Committee and Grant Selection Committee for the Partners for Places grant program. 







Kerry Hastings is the program lead for TFN’s Urban Water Funders working group, as well as the program manager for Smart Growth California, a TFN initiative.







Hawaii Big Island” by szeke is licensed under CC BY-SA