funders & philanthropists

Dear Funders and Philanthropy community,
We hope you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with the Key Findings from our Assessment and Summit. We hope these stories resonate with you and that you see how dedicated, passionate, and committed anti-violence workers are. We hope you also see the challenges we face while working within systems that often make it challenging for us to do our best work.
Above all, we hope as you review these recommendations, you deeply examine how you make funding decisions, determine priorities, and allocate resources to the anti-violence movement. We know that funders are diverse and these solutions will look different depending on whether your organization is in philanthropy or is a government-based funder; regardless, we hope you will consider implementing some or all of these practices as you continue to provide critical resources that allow us to improve the lives of so many in our communities.

1. Require thriving workplace standards for grantees: Our assessment found that 69% of anti-violence workers identified insufficient pay as a challenge or reason to leave their job. Several studies have been done to assess the impacts of compensation, with one state finding that 57% of respondents said they had to work more than one job to make ends meet. The continued turnover of underpaid staff is a pervasive issue that causes gaps in knowledge, skills, and relationship-building within a community. Poverty is a risk factor for violence and the frontline staff in the anti-violence field are largely survivors, meaning when funders invest in employee retention, they help to prevent revictimization. Require your grantees to compensate staff using models that use a living wage for the region it serves. Beyond compensation, ensure that employers are providing robust benefits, including affordable health insurance, mental health support, paid time off, paid parental leave, paid sick time, and opportunities for staff development and career growth, especially for staff of color.

2. Eliminate Barriers: 46% of anti-violence workers who completed our assessment identified “bureaucracy and red-tape” as a challenge or reason they left their job. To truly help survivors, funders need to eliminate the structural barriers and dynamics that make it harder for anti-violence workers to do their jobs. This looks like more unrestricted funding, and less grant-writing and burdensome documentation. You can also be more flexible with how you ask grantees to report on and measure their work –impact can be measured in many different ways, so allow for alternative metrics and reporting methods that align with community-driven approaches.
  • Go beyond the checklist and utilize tools like a Scoring Rubric to determine which projects to fund; share the rubric with applicants in advance to provide a layer of transparency so they know what criteria is important

3. Fund Beyond the Triage: We need funders to invest in multi-year and multi-issue trauma-informed organizing. Addressing the complexity and wholeness of survivors' lives means considering factors like socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and more. It involves providing comprehensive support that goes beyond addressing the immediate effects of violence to also addressing systemic issues that contribute to it. By taking a holistic approach, we can better support survivors in their journey towards healing and empowerment. Allow and encourage anti-violence organizations to use funding to help survivors meet their basic needs, including childcare, housing, healthcare, and transportation, without prohibitive documentation or proof of need. Giving funding directly to survivors is the best way to achieve safety. Community anti-violence programs could be used as potential sites of universal basic income programs.

4. Invest in experimentation and prevention: The vision of our field is to end violence, and this requires addressing the roots of violence rather than responding to the symptoms. We end violence by stopping it before it starts, and this means attending to the systemic factors that contribute to violence. We must invest in primary prevention as robustly as survivor services. We recommend focusing on more community-level and exploratory primary prevention efforts, such as community fridges populated throughout food apartheid zones, greening spaces to reduce violence, comprehensive sexual health education initiatives, robust community center programming, harm reduction projects, community empowerment listening circles and action labs, farm and garden programs, the removal of security resource officers from schools.

5. Diversify your grantees: The same way we need to diversify the activities we fund, we urge you to consider investing in nontraditional domestic and sexual violence organizations who may not pursue funding from federal and state funding streams. This may include culturally-specific community organizations, or more informal networks that are survivor-led and utilize grassroots organizing and mutual-aid practices. By doing so, you can tap into a wealth of diverse perspectives and innovative strategies that are often overlooked. It’s important to recognize that these organizations may operate with limited resources; you can offer technical assistance to help them navigate the grant application process effectively.

6. Involve communities in funding decisions: Communities know what they need. Consider involving community members, including survivors of violence, to help  make funding decisions. By fostering a collaborative approach, we can tap into the collective wisdom and diverse perspectives within communities, ensuring that resources are allocated in a way that resonates with the unique needs and aspirations of those who will utilize them. Make sure to compensate people for their time and expertise.

7. Support anti-racist capacity building: Too often organizational Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) efforts are more performative than substantive. By incorporating anti-racist principles into your grantmaking process, you can ensure that the organizations you support are actively engaged in meaningful efforts to address systemic inequalities and be responsive to the needs of diverse communities. Consider partnering with reputable organizations or experts to develop tailored training programs for your grantees. Require grantees to regularly report on the progress they've made in implementing anti-racist practices within their organizations. This reporting can include details on the number of staff members who have undergone training, changes in policies and procedures, and outcomes achieved in fostering a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

8. Prioritize Accessibility in Budgets: Ensure that grantees have budget allocations that support a commitment to accessibility. This includes setting funds aside for translators and interpreters to meet the needs of anyone who uses their services, but also for staff. It’s important that grantees make their workplaces accessible for neurodiverse people and people with disabilities. As a funder, you can make sure organizations are going beyond compliance and pre-empting access needs before an accommodation request is made. Grantees should be encouraged to consider accessibility from the planning stage, ensuring that events and services are accessible to everyone.

9. Get the DOJ out of anti-violence: We need funders to support campaign efforts to move the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). Gender based violence is a public health issue and OVW would be better suited under the Department of Health and Human Services. As long as the OVW is part of the Department of Justice (DOJ), it will continue to hinder the advocacy, intervention, and prevention that happens in local programs. Survivors are reluctant to connect with programs when they learn that the DOJ funds the program or organization. This has been the case for Muslim survivors and their families who have been targets of harassment and investigation by the FBI after 9/11. How can we serve survivors if they are worried about being surveilled by the very institutions that are supposed to help them? The majority of assaults are not reported to the police; every 68 seconds an American is assaulted and out of every 1000 sexual assaults, 975 perpetrators will walk free. The current set up doesn’t prevent or end power-based sexual violence.

10. Recognize that violence against femmes is intrinsically political: Violence against femmes isn’t just physical or individual – it’s systemic. In the anti-violence field, femmes are overrepresented but underfunded and overworked. This is not by accident. While women make up half of the population, they are not equally represented in most institutions that make decisions. For example, the elected officials that determine appropriations for the work we do are mostly not representative of women, let alone non-binary folks, disabled people, and those living at the margins. The very essence of anti-violence work is challenging the systems that uphold violence in the first place, which means challenging those who currently benefit from the status quo. We are not going to make real lasting change in this world without upsetting a few people and, honestly, it’s time to stop being afraid to do so. It’s time to get political.

We believe in you, and we’re counting on you to do better.

The We Deserve Better Project Team

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