“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
No matter how you slice and dice the topic, we all know that poverty is a huge issue throughout North America. I spend a good part of each year in Mexico and further south—in Chile—and have lived in Alaska for 40 years. I know how poverty has infiltrated Native villages throughout that state and Canada. And living in the New York Harlem neighborhood for part of each year, I see the “city side’ of poverty on a daily basis. That multiple perspective moved me to write this post as well as develop a new webinar focused on how to fund anti-poverty programs in North America.
I’m not telling you anything new here, but those most likely to be encased in poverty throughout all three countries—the United States, Canada, and Mexico—include children, single parents, indigenous cultures, recent immigrants, the disabled, and the elderly.
That means many of the nonprofit organizations working in these countries are tackling the issue of poverty, although often from different angles. And though most of us are working locally or regionally, it is time we think globally in order to raise awareness and advocate for the rights of people in poverty. It is imperative that we promote their acceptance and inclusion in our communities, and acknowledge that they are part of the fabric that makes up North America.
In 2015, the United Nations set the stage to attack poverty at all levels by establishing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. After more than two years of extensive negotiations and consultations, the members of the United Nations agreed on and adopted this new framework for global development efforts. This agenda determines goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved by 2030.
This is an aggressive agenda, and it is an agenda you want your organization—no matter the size—to be part of. Each country participating in this global initiative has begun mobilizing resources, including financing, to help achieve these goals. We are already seeing stakeholders—governments (regional and national) and the private sector (foundations, corporations, and faith-based grantmakers)—dedicating some of their annual funding toward achieving these goals.
Now, I am bringing this up for a very specific purpose. If your work includes addressing this all-encompassing issue of poverty, then you want to start tying your projects and programs to these UN goals. Your grant requests need to reflect both your knowledge and understanding of what is going on at the global level as well as how your specific work will help further that agenda.
One of the reasons for referencing these goals in your grant requests is to demonstrate that you are aware of, and support, these global goals and you want to reflect them at the local and regional level. This builds credibility for your organization in the funders’ eyes and will strengthen your requests.
Since early 2016, the Gates Foundation, in partnership with the Urban Institute, has been engaged in studying U.S. poverty issues. There is an enlightening article written by David Callahan, “Now This Is Interesting: The Gates Foundation Backs a Big New Look at U.S. Poverty” (Inside Philanthropy, February 2018), that sheds some light on where philanthropists might focus their anti-poverty funding in the next several years. It’s worth a read.
At the end of this article Callahan said, “Maybe most likely is that the foundation will invest in those anti-poverty interventions that are clearly shown to enable children to do better in school. The area of housing could be key in this regard, and it’s one where Gates already has experience.”
The Ballmer Group is also moving into this space. To date this organization, co-founded by Connie Ballmer, has mainly focused its grantmaking in the state of Washington, L.A. County, and Detroit, but it seems to be moving toward grantmaking throughout the United States. The Ballmer Group is very dedicated to bringing together a myriad of players. Ms. Ballmer states on the organization’s website, “We believe that the best work in philanthropy happens when multiple sectors—public, private, and nonprofit—come together to tackle problems. Everybody brings a different perspective, and sometimes it’s a little painful because we are all so different, but we think that’s where the power is. Together, we all go farther.”
Across all three countries—the United States, Canada, and Mexico—we are seeing grantmakers investing in very specific steps to reduce the impacts of poverty and bringing together diverse organizations to make that happen.
I believe we are about to witness the introduction of a multitude of new, anti-poverty grantmaking programs throughout North America, and I, for one, tip my hat to the aggressive goals adopted by the United Nations, and to those philanthropists who embrace those goals. It’s about time.
Cynthia Adams is founder and CEO of GrantStation, a premiere online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world. Providing access to a comprehensive online database of grantmakers, GrantStation helps nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies make smarter, better-informed grantseeking decisions. GrantStation is dedicated to creating a civil society by assisting the nonprofit sector in its quest to build healthy and effective communities.