Proteus Fund is featured in this article originally published in Inside Philanthropy:
Philanthropy is famous (or notorious) for avoiding the appearance of political involvement, even when there are plenty of fully legal means for 501(c)(3) funders to take a side. But in this era of stark polarization, more funders and philanthropy-serving organizations are taking a side. Ideas associated with the progressive movement are gaining greater credence across the foundation world, fueling the growth of a wide range of activist and policy groups that see themselves as battling for a more equitable and sustainable future. The mainstreaming of social justice and calls for the leadership of the marginalized are welcome developments for lefties who’ve long criticized the sector for its complacency. But even as progressive language proliferates, relatively few of America’s many thousands of private foundations and major donors are walking that talk. To paraphrase NCRP vice president Timi Gerson, dollars don’t always follow discourse.
Here, we take a look at some places in the philanthrosphere where progressive dollars do follow discourse. These funders and philanthropy-serving organizations are forthright about their ideals, resourcing movement organizers and nonprofits engaged in left-leaning advocacy. They speak plainly about the need for equity of all types and for the empowerment of disenfranchised people. We’ve left out some major funders of progressive causes, like MacArthur or Kresge, that still largely position themselves as apolitical problem solvers. For the sake of length, this list also omits most progressive outfits that limit their work to specific issues and geographies.
These national funders and funding organizations each have something important to tell us about progressive philanthropy as we debate, as a nation, which core values should carry us forward.
Proteus Fund: Progressive field-building lies at the heart of what this funding intermediary does. Proteus got its start alongside the collaborative giving models that have grown so crucial to philanthropy on the left, and it maintains a “high-touch” model that prizes deep engagement with partners and clients. Proteus is home to donor collaboratives like the democracy-oriented Piper Fund, the RISE Together Fund, founded to empower Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities, and the Rights, Faith and Democracy Collaborative, focused on LGBTQ and reproductive rights. Proteus is a firm backer of efforts to shift narratives in a progressive direction, including through its offshoot and grantee ReThink Media.