An Open Letter to Philanthropy, from People of Color-led, Movement-Accountable Public Foundations
"Our liberation is bound to one another’s, and the surest way to freedom is to follow, and fund, those who know the way."
The Hill-Snowdon Foundation (HSF) was founded by Arthur B. Hill in 1959 and was managed by family members on a volunteer basis for 40 years as a typical "kitchen table" family foundation. By 1997, the Foundation’s assets had grown significantly, and the Board decided that they should be more strategic in their grantmaking. HSF partnered with the Tides Foundation beginning in 1998 and through this relationship developed a new focus to its grantmaking and began developing more systematic policies and procedures.
"Ten years ago, family members agreed that it was time to think bigger. What could we achieve, we asked, if we focused these resources on one or two issues?
What kind of difference could we make?"
-- Ashley Snowdon Blanchard (2009)
Arthur B. Hill, 90th Birthday
Back row, left to right: Edward W. Snowdon; Margot Snowdon; Dick Snowdon; Lee Hill Snowdon
Front row, left to right: Edward (Ted) W. Snowdon, Jr.; Arthur B. Hill
The focus for HSF's grantmaking is grounded in a philosophy of justice and fairness for some of the most vulnerable members of this society, low-income families - particularly low-income, youth of color and low-wage workers. Specifically, HSF chose to focus on Youth Organizing and Economic Justice Organizing. The Foundation’s new focus was also grounded in the idea of a re-invigorated democracy, particularly for those people who have been marginalized or whose voices had been held silent in the decision making process to determine policies and practices that directly affect them. The Fund for DC was created in 2006 with the goal of strengthening the infrastructure for community organizing in the District of Columbia. Thus, the Foundation has adopted a core strategy of supporting community organizing in order to develop the leadership, skills and collective power of low-income communities to influence the decisions that impact their lives.
Today, HSF continues to follow this philosophy and strategy and further build on it by remaining flexible and responsive to new opportunities and threats that affect low-income families and communities. In 2015 the Foundation has begun investing in building the infrastructure for Black institutional and political power through its Making Black Lives Matter Initiative. The Foundation also joined with our colleagues in 2017 to launch the Defending the Dream Fund to support grassroots organizing to resist the destructive policies of the Trump era and work towards a hopeful dream of a just, equitable and caring society. In 2019, the foundation released it's 2020 Plan, a multi-faceted two-year plan, and the Democracy’s Promise Initiative – a grantmaking initiative that infused additional grant dollars to a select group of current HSF grassroots partners for their civic engagement related work.
In response to the 2020 outcry against the murder of George Floyd, on the sixth anniversary of the Ferguson Uprising, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation announced its commitment of $5.5 million dollars over the next 5.5
years to support Black-led organizing and movement infrastructure under its Meeting the Moment: Black Movement Infrastructure for Racial Justice strategy. These resources will come from HSF’s endowment and are in addition to HSF’s on-going commitment to Black-led organizing through its Making Black Lives Matter Initiative. Overall, HSF seeks to help build a more robust, powerful and lasting infrastructure for Black-led organizing and movement to ensure that all Black people are thriving.
To learn more about the Hill-Snowdon Foundation story, read
Hill-Snowdon Foundation Family
Back row, left to right: Ted Snowdon; Dick Snowdon; Margot Snowdon
Front row, left to right: Ariana Snowdon; Ashley Snowdon; Andrew Snowdon; Elizabeth Snowdon
The mission of the Hill-Snowdon Foundation is to work with low income families and communities to create a fair and just society. We believe that it is essential for people to proactively define the type of society in which they want to live and then work collectively to achieve this vision. HSF seeks to accomplish this mission by providing grants to organizations that work directly to build the power of low-income families; leveraging our and others' resources; and promoting opportunities for learning and growth.
HSF has a particular focus on supporting community organizing in the U.S. South, and the majority of our grant funds are directed in this region. Over the past 20 years or so we’ve had an interest in supporting equity and justice work. About 60% to 70% of our grantmaking portfolio is dedicated to youth organizing and economic justice organizing.
HSF values strategic partnerships within the philanthropic community. Staff commit roughly 50% of our time to engaging our funder colleagues through one-on-one relationship building; shared learning opportunities, presentations and; assuming leadership roles in, and when necessary developing, funder affinity groups; and/or funding collaboratives.
HILL-SNOWDON FOUNDATION TRUSTEES
FOUNDER OF THE HILL-SNOWDON FOUNDATION
HILL-SNOWDON FOUNDATION STAFF
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