2021 Program & Grantmaking Report Spotlight: Horizon Forum

2021 Program & Grantmaking Report Spotlight: Horizon Forum - Proteus Fund

Protecting Philanthropy From Hate Funding

Before founding Horizon Forum, Abbas Barzegar’s research and policy role at the Council on American-Islamic Relations led him to work on a report about a national network of institutions that promote anti-muslim bigotry, contributing to unprecedented levels of Islamophobia across the nation. A look into the funding flows of these organizations revealed a very disturbing fact: a lot of the money was coming through charitable institutions such as family foundations and even community foundations in the form of donor-advised funds (DAFs). In short, these donors were using the foundations as cover to push money to specific channels and fund hate.

By highlighting this astonishing misuse of DAFs in the report, momentum began to build around finding ways to stop it—and Horizon Forum was born. Not strictly focused on Islamophobia, Horizon Fund helps community foundations immunize themselves against the risk that they might be unknowingly and unintentionally supporting hate funding. Horizon Fund also seeks to educate about the cultural and systemic issues that have made it possible for money that supports Islamophobia, antisemitism, and other sources of hate to be funded through philanthropy. While hate speech and threats of violence are illegal, the legal threshold to prove a group is engaged in these activities is exceptionally high. Additionally, the IRS’s definition of a charitable organization is so broad that there’s very little these groups can’t do under the banner of charity or advocacy.

When founding Horizon Forum in 2020, Barzegar says Proteus Fund was a natural fit for a fiscal sponsor, due to its mission alignment, its tremendous level of credibility, and the selective nature with which it approaches its fiscal projects. By the end of this year, the organization, Horizon Forum will have supported close to 75 community foundations in going through its Anti-Hate Policy and Protocol Training developing anti-hate policies. Barzegar credits working in tandem with Proteus Fund and being part of its progressive ecosystem with giving Horizon Fund a cutting edge to help
accelerate impact.