Fundraising & Racial Justice
The Legal Aid Justice Center partners with communities and clients to achieve justice by dismantling systems that create and perpetuate poverty. Because we live in a racially structured society that causes racial inequities across systems, we believe we cannot effectively address poverty without addressing race. And because poverty is a racial justice issue, it follows that wealth is a racial justice issue as well.
Wealth is a racial justice issue in part because all wealth was generated within the same systems that perpetuate poverty. And just as we apply a race equity lens to our anti-poverty work, we should apply a race equity lens to our fundraising work. This is part of our commitment to continuously examine whether we are operating in ways that align with the race equity and justice values and goals we support.
An essential element of that continuous examination is our effort to center community priorities in our fundraising. We accomplish that in part by making a clear case for unrestricted support, which gives us the freedom to apply community priorities to our decisions on how we spend our resources. We are also committed to seeking funding not only for our organization but also for community-based partners by supporting their fundraising efforts, by hiring community advocates, by paying for community members’ expertise, and by making sub-grants to grassroots partners.
In some rare instances, we may turn down funding or seek to add conditions to our acceptance of a gift if we decide that accepting the funding as offered could materially harm our ability to do our work or give an outside entity undue influence on our priorities or strategies. To help guide our decision–making process, our Board of Directors has approved the following Gift Acceptance Policy.
Gift Acceptance Policy
LAJC could not exist without the generosity of the donors and institutions that choose to invest in our capacity to seek justice. We gratefully accept financial support from individuals, corporations, law firms, foundations, and local, state, and federal government.
We accept restricted donations that support our existing work or work that we aspire to do, but we strongly encourage unrestricted gifts that support our core mission. By supporting LAJC’s core mission, funders can invest in all the things that make LAJC the powerhouse it has been since 1967: ambitious programs, strong leadership, internal equity, staff excellence and stability, operational support, technology, professional development, communications, fundraising, leveraging volunteers, a healthy working environment, and a strong, supportive presence in low-income communities and communities of color. These elements are vital to our success as a neighborhood legal aid that both defends individuals and roots out systemic injustice.
Because there is potential for some gifts to have adverse impacts on our work and on relationships that are critical to that work, we have developed this policy to provide guidance on 1) identifying gifts that require deliberation or negotiation, 2) determining who should be included in a gift acceptance discussion, and 3) determining whether, or under what conditions, to accept a gift.
Staff and Board share responsibility to identify when a prospective gift they learn about has the potential to adversely affect the work of the organization. Factors to consider include:
- whether the source is an actual or potential advocacy target of LAJC or its partners;
- whether acceptance of the gift could distract or detract from the work, either directly or by tarnishing the reputation of LAJC;
- whether the form of the gift itself could be cumbersome to monetize or is otherwise problematic; and
- whether the primary benefit is to the source, rather than to advancing LAJC’s mission.
Once a prospective gift has been identified as potentially detrimental to LAJC’s mission, the decision how to proceed will be made by a majority vote of an ad hoc committee of staff and Board whose members will be invited by the Executive Director. The Executive Director should consider inviting the staff who are most proximate to the work, as well as Board members or other community members with relevant lived experiences.
When considering how to proceed, the committee’s primary consideration should be the likely impact of accepting the gift on the mission, values, and work of LAJC. Additional considerations include:
- whether conditions placed upon acceptance of the gift could mitigate the risk of adverse impact;
- whether the potential benefit of the gift outweighs the potential harm;
- whether external stakeholders ought to be consulted where the reputation of LAJC with community stakeholders is at stake, where the potential harm is incompletely understood, or where community input is needed to determine appropriate conditions for acceptance; and
- whether attempting to redirect the donor to another recipient or purpose is appropriate.
We hope this policy helps ground fundraising decisions in principles of racial, social, and economic justice and strengthens our relationships with donors and other funders in working together to build the power and voice of low-income communities and communities of color in directing fundraising dollars where they will do the most good.