PIPER FUND

Building a healthy democracy that works for all

Piper Fund is a donor collaborative that unites individual donors and foundations to defend democratic institutions and diminish the influence of corporate and special interest money on our political and judicial systems.

Like never before, our democracy is under assault. Corporate and special interests are making it harder for everyday people to participate in the political process, have a fair day in court, and exercise their right to protest—all fundamental pillars of our democracy. It’s time to fight back.

At Piper Fund, we champion work that defends democratic ideals and institutions and gives a stronger voice to historically disenfranchised communities. We collaborate with funders and movement leaders to build community power and create a healthy democracy that protects fundamental rights for all individuals.

Our Guiding Principles

  • Structural oppression can be overcome by greater civic participation by all parts of our diverse society.
  • Achieving reform is not enough. Over the long term, we must build steadfast forces for change through sustainable networks.
  • Local advocates should lead local efforts. They hold vital relationships and understand their communities’ needs.
  • Collaboration among advocates and funders is vital to building a dynamic and strategic movement.
  • We must simultaneously protect our democracy and envision reforms to strengthen it.

Our Strategy

  • We support efforts that encourage the full inclusion of historically disenfranchised communities to build sustained power.
  • We engage local and state partner organizations to create diverse, community-based coalitions.
  • We bolster the capacity of advocates through power-building, communications support, training, leadership development, and research.
  • To complement this approach, our (c)(4) affiliate, Piper Action Fund, funds lobbying and ballot measure efforts to support community-driven policies.

Benefits of Joining the Piper Fund

When funders pool resources and draw on collective ideas and energy, we have maximized investments and achieve a broader impact towards strategic change. For this reason, we integrate a collaborative approach in our major initiative work. By joining Piper, you will benefit from:

Piper is a learning community in which funders share knowledge, expertise, and have strategic conversations about how to best strengthen our democracy. At our semiannual meetings and regular funder briefings, you can hear from the most innovative and impactful leaders in the field, to inform both immediate and long-term grantmaking strategies. Our extended network gives you early access to emerging threats to democracy and reform efforts, as well as innovative approaches to grantmaking within the wider philanthropic community, to build a flexible and adaptable roadmap for success.

Piper’s collaborative approach can help you maximize your investment with an efficient grantmaking process. Our nimble structure allows us to rapidly mobilize funds to capitalize on opportunities and contend with challenges as they arise, even moving needed funds to grantees within days. This approach allows funders to leverage resources in a cost-effective way, create breakthrough reform, and protect democratic institutions. In recent years, Piper has shifted its grantmaking to focus on groups led by the New American Majority. By building sustained power for historically disenfranchised communities, we have increased participation in the democratic process and strengthened efforts to defend our democracy.

Piper’s collaborative grantmaking can amplify your impact by supporting collective actions across the country, where it’s needed most. Especially now, when reform is most attainable at state and local levels and when attacks against democratic norms and institutions are escalating, Piper brings extensive firsthand knowledge of key states. Our staff currently monitor more than 30 states, regularly engage advocates and policy influencers, and conduct site visits to identify opportunities, monitor threats to our democratic institutions, evaluate reform efforts, and actively learn from both wins and temporary setbacks. Our relationships allow us to reach out to the field, proactively prepare for possible scenarios, and develop a comprehensive approach.

Piper’s leadership goes beyond grantmaking. We use a broad-based approach towards cohesive, lasting reform that includes: field-building, communications development, trainings and leadership development, rapid response strategies, expedient research, as well as lobbying investments through our (c)(4) affiliate Piper Action Fund. Piper’s vision of building an impactful, intersectional democracy movement has led us to invest in the organizational infrastructure of community organizations, with positive, tangible results. We regularly convene grantees and other key stakeholders in the field for collaborative planning and learning, an approach that helps inform the broader grantmaking portfolios of our donor partners.

  • Access to a community of funders

    Piper is a learning community in which funders share knowledge, expertise, and have strategic conversations about how to best strengthen our democracy. At our semiannual meetings and regular funder briefings, you can hear from the most innovative and impactful leaders in the field, to inform both immediate and long-term grantmaking strategies. Our extended network gives you early access to emerging threats to democracy and reform efforts, as well as innovative approaches to grantmaking within the wider philanthropic community, to build a flexible and adaptable roadmap for success.

  • Innovative and collaborative grantmaking

    Piper’s collaborative approach can help you maximize your investment with an efficient grantmaking process. Our nimble structure allows us to rapidly mobilize funds to capitalize on opportunities and contend with challenges as they arise, even moving needed funds to grantees within days. This approach allows funders to leverage resources in a cost-effective way, create breakthrough reform, and protect democratic institutions. In recent years, Piper has shifted its grantmaking to focus on groups led by the New American Majority. By building sustained power for historically disenfranchised communities, we have increased participation in the democratic process and strengthened efforts to defend our democracy.

  • Proven expertise within states

    Piper’s collaborative grantmaking can amplify your impact by supporting collective actions across the country, where it’s needed most. Especially now, when reform is most attainable at state and local levels and when attacks against democratic norms and institutions are escalating, Piper brings extensive firsthand knowledge of key states. Our staff currently monitor more than 30 states, regularly engage advocates and policy influencers, and conduct site visits to identify opportunities, monitor threats to our democratic institutions, evaluate reform efforts, and actively learn from both wins and temporary setbacks. Our relationships allow us to reach out to the field, proactively prepare for possible scenarios, and develop a comprehensive approach.

  • Expertise in field-building

    Piper’s leadership goes beyond grantmaking. We use a broad-based approach towards cohesive, lasting reform that includes: field-building, communications development, trainings and leadership development, rapid response strategies, expedient research, as well as lobbying investments through our (c)(4) affiliate Piper Action Fund. Piper’s vision of building an impactful, intersectional democracy movement has led us to invest in the organizational infrastructure of community organizations, with positive, tangible results. We regularly convene grantees and other key stakeholders in the field for collaborative planning and learning, an approach that helps inform the broader grantmaking portfolios of our donor partners.

Our Grantmaking

Achieving reform is not enough—we must build sustainable networks of advocates, organizations, and communities that can support and defend systems, implement new policies, and promote civic engagement over the long term.
Piper Fund Grantmaking 2018

703

501(c)(3) Grants

$30,004,582.62

105

501(c)(4) Grants

$5,656,749

43

States Impacted

220 Grantees

Historical grantmaking as of September 2018
Grants Index

Field Building

Money in Politics National Convention 2018
Piper’s leadership goes beyond grantmaking. We identify gaps in the field and bolsters the capacity of local advocates to achieve, implement and protect policies that ensure a healthy democracy. Our approach includes funding leadership development, convening advocates and coalitions, and supporting strategic communications and messaging, and commissioning comprehensive research.

The Piper Fund Team

Melissa Spatz

Melissa Spatz

Program Director

As director of the Piper Fund, Melissa Spatz brings over 25 years of experience as a community organizer, non-profit executive, and attorney. Prior to joining Piper in 2012 (and assuming the director role in 2014), she led two award-winning Chicago-based organizations and national organizing campaigns through the National People’s Action network. Her work...

As director of the Piper Fund, Melissa Spatz brings over 25 years of experience as a community organizer, non-profit executive, and attorney. Prior to joining Piper in 2012 (and assuming the director role in 2014), she led two award-winning Chicago-based organizations and national organizing campaigns through the National People’s Action network. Her work has addressed a wide range of issues including media justice, housing rights, police accountability, health care, and gender equity. Melissa has founded and co-founded numerous projects and organizations, including the Columbia Journal of Gender & Law, the Women’s Rights Project at Human Rights Watch, the Chicago Freedom School, Chicago Youth United, and the Center for Emerging Leadership. She holds a BA from Swarthmore College and a JD from Columbia Law School.

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Kathy Bonnifield

Kathy Bonnifield

Program Officer, Judicial Independence

Kathy Bonnifield began work with the Piper Fund in July 2014 and, as program officer, she is focused on Piper’s efforts to promote judicial independence. Kathy’s nonprofit experience has focused primarily on civil and human rights, including positions at the McKnight Foundation and Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota. As the executive director of Ci...

Kathy Bonnifield began work with the Piper Fund in July 2014 and, as program officer, she is focused on Piper’s efforts to promote judicial independence. Kathy’s nonprofit experience has focused primarily on civil and human rights, including positions at the McKnight Foundation and Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota. As the executive director of Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, Kathy was a member of a coalition that successfully fought to protect Minnesota’s Constitution from requiring individuals to have a voter photo ID. At the McKnight Foundation, she worked in its international grantmaking program, where her work focused on land and water rights in Southeast Asia and women’s economic advancement in East Africa. She has gone on numerous election observation missions with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and served on Minnesota Governor Dayton’s Electronic Poll Book Task Force. Kathy is a 2011-2012 Humphrey Policy Fellow and has an MBA from the University of St. Thomas.

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Estevan Muñoz-Howard

Estevan Muñoz-Howard

Program Officer, Money in Politics Reform

Estevan Muñoz-Howard is a program officer at the Piper Fund, where he oversees our grantmaking to support state and municipal money in politics reform. Estevan is a tireless advocate for fair representation and racial equity in our political system. He has been working to amplify the voices of Seattle voters since 2007, and most recently helped lead the s...

Estevan Muñoz-Howard is a program officer at the Piper Fund, where he oversees our grantmaking to support state and municipal money in politics reform. Estevan is a tireless advocate for fair representation and racial equity in our political system. He has been working to amplify the voices of Seattle voters since 2007, and most recently helped lead the successful Honest Elections Seattle campaign of 2015—the historic initiative to implement a democracy voucher program and create a floor for political voice in the city. Estevan comes to Proteus Fund from Seattle’s nonprofit sector. He previously worked as development director for Arts Corps and Social Justice Fund NW, and as executive director of the Youth Media Institute. He is passionate about youth engagement,
community organizing, and the diffusion of power. Estevan also previously served as president of the Washington Bus Education Fund. He is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound.

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Stephanie Jones

Stephanie Jones

Partnership Associate Grant Writer

Stephanie Jones joined the Proteus Fund as Piper Fund’s partnership associate grant writer in February 2015. Before joining Proteus, Stephanie was a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and worked on foundation-funded research into the mechanisms underlying mobility impairments in people with multiple sclerosis. She has worked extensively ...

Stephanie Jones joined the Proteus Fund as Piper Fund’s partnership associate grant writer in February 2015. Before joining Proteus, Stephanie was a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and worked on foundation-funded research into the mechanisms underlying mobility impairments in people with multiple sclerosis. She has worked extensively as research staff in laboratories at the University of Vermont, University of Wisconsin, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, coordinating large scale federally-funded grant activities. Stephanie has ten years of grant writing experience seeking grants from government, private foundations, and corporate entities. She earned her PhD in Rehabilitation Science from McGill University, her Master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and her Honors Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Guelph, Canada.

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Sofía Jarrín-Thomas

Sofía Jarrín-Thomas

Program Associate

Sofía Jarrín-Thomas joined the Proteus Fund in April 2015 as the program associate for the Piper Fund, bringing with her many years of experience in communications and PR strategies in nonprofit and academic institutions. A committed advocate for human and environmental rights, as well as media reform, Sofía has worn multiple hats, from being a radio prod...

Sofía Jarrín-Thomas joined the Proteus Fund in April 2015 as the program associate for the Piper Fund, bringing with her many years of experience in communications and PR strategies in nonprofit and academic institutions. A committed advocate for human and environmental rights, as well as media reform, Sofía has worn multiple hats, from being a radio producer and investigative reporter to a copy editor, web administrator, and communications specialist at Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. From 2009-2014, she lived in Quito, Ecuador, where, among other things, she joined an environmental group to push a nationwide ballot initiative to keep the oil underground in Yasuní National Park. Sofía brings to Piper a keen insight for undue corporate influence in the political and the judicial systems, both in the United States and in Latin America. She has a Master’s in Journalism from Harvard University Extension School, where she won the 2009 Dean’s Prize for Outstanding ALM Thesis for her investigative work on Salvadoran refugees living in Boston.

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