A New Reality, Our Deepened Commitment

Dear Colleagues,

The horrible events of the last two months have served as clear reminders that political leadership—or the lack thereof—and public policy decisions affect our lives in ways we can’t always anticipate, local government is as vital as the federal government, and national crises affect marginalized individuals and communities more profoundly than the more privileged in our society. The Covid-19 crisis reveals yet again that American society is desperate for significant shifts, from dramatic changes in basic democratic and economic mechanisms, norms, and behavior to transformative changes that begin to seriously dismantle racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism and related systems of exclusion and inequity.

In terms of the social justice work we carry out every day, we’ve altered many things to address the current crisis while also centering the health, safety and well-being of our entire 65-person team working across 18 states. But in doing so, we remain crystal clear that we will not abandon or water-down our vision, mission or values.

We remain passionately committed to supporting our grantees and our Fiscally Sponsored Projects, not only because of the critical program-specific work they do, but because we also recognize the urgency around the potential breakdown of the entire social justice nonprofit infrastructure. Together we must commit to not seeing decades of progressive work and institution building be washed away in the midst of this public health crisis. We can make these commitments in large part because many of our funding partners have made the same promise to us—several have even committed to increasing their payout this year in a show of philanthropic leadership.

Our core programs are adjusting to this new reality in many ways:

  • The Rights, Faith & Democracy Collaborative (RFDC) is listening and learning as its state-based grantees shift work plans around the work on religious exemptions and separation of church and state. These changes in many cases are quite significant, especially for a subset of our grantees engaged in policy advocacy, given that legislatures are on pause. As our grantees and their partners readjust to pursuing deeply relational work in a virtual space, we’re also helping them shift resources to acquire and deploy better digital tools, organizing models, etc.
  • RISE Together Fund (RTF) is moving to support more digital convenings for grantees, including funding for webcams and headphones, and upgrades to internet bandwidth for organizations in need; RTF has also offered to cover the costs of accounting and banking professionals to help grantees apply for PPP programs and related emergency programs for organizations.
  • The Piper Fund is tracking and sharing with its grantees and allied partners new methods of public demonstration, from car protests in front of America’s ICE facilities to millions of Brazilians banging pots and pans from their balconies in protest of government inaction on the virus; Piper is also working with its partners to address concerns around the increased use of surveillance in the name of public health, which threatens civil liberties in communities of color and beyond.
  • Colombe Peace Foundation sees a new opportunity to support a renewed national debate around pentagon spending, militarism at home and abroad and related issues, as Covid-19 illustrates yet again how the nation’s bloated “perpetual war” defense spending leaves the country shockingly unprepared for serious threats like global pandemics while also consistently shrinking the amount of resources going to investments in communities across the country.

Thanks to efforts from the Council on Foundations and Philanthropy New York, Proteus Fund has also been able to join hundreds of philanthropic organizations that are advocating for increases in philanthropic spending at this critical time and have pledged to streamline processes to better support our nonprofit partners. Some of those commitments include:

  • loosening or eliminating the restrictions on current grants;
  • making new grants as unrestricted as possible;
  • postponing reporting requirements, site visits, and other immediate demands;
  • communicating regularly about our decision-making while listening even more intently to our grantees’ needs; and
  • coordinating our communications efforts—for instance, taking grantee calls along with fellow funders to streamline the flow of information.

With open communication, flexibility, and trust, which form the bedrock of Proteus’ partnerships with funders, grantees and Fiscally Sponsored Projects, we will get through this—even more committed to keeping our eyes on the prize—a better world for all, not just some.

Be safe,

Paul Di Donato
President & CEO
Proteus Fund and Proteus Action League
New York, NY