Put Your Mouth Where Your Money Is

Our mouths, our money

January 1, 2005

At Quixote Foundation we’re becoming more vocal advocates for the organizations and causes we support. Given our modest grantmaking budget, we believe mixing advocacy and financial resources is the best way to make the most of each grant. We welcome your ideas and want to share a few of our own.

  • Engage other grantmakers. You’ll hear Quixote Foundation urging other funders to find the connections between environmental protection, reproductive rights, economic inequality, election integrity, media reform, and virtually all other areas of progressive charitable interest. If we see an exceptional proposal or a nonprofit group who shows extraordinary leadership, we may ask other foundations to take a look too. We’ll design conference sessions, convene grantmakers, call contacts to talk about specific issues, and reach out to any foundation who’s willing to listen.
  • Give money when and how it’s needed. Family foundations can fill a gap left by funders whose giving budgets need to promote stakeholder, marketing and public relations goals. Responding quickly with support for unsexy items like accounting software or a new copy machine can have a direct impact on results. Quixote Foundation will always demand high standards of nonprofit strategy, management and leadership; but we don’t need heart-melting photo opportunities or the gratification of seeing our names on a building wall. We’ll give nonprofit leaders the discretion to tell us exactly where the funding needs to go.
  • Speak out where others won’t. Money = power in our society. We’d like to see anyone who controls foundation resources using that equation for the public good by taking a high profile stance on controversial issues. Our board has charged itself with making Quixote Foundation opinions clear. The more chances we take (and survive), the safer other funders may feel to get publicly involved.
  • Support and require public policy advocacy. Sustainable change requires three elements: action, education and policy. We look for nonprofit partners who engage in all three. During 2004 we provided general operating grants for organizations including Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, the Sierra Club Foundation and Alliance for Justice because we knew they were doing effective nonpartisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote work. Most foundations have far more freedom to fund public policy work than they ever exercise. Alliance for Justice provides information about how to fund advocacy in areas important to you while staying within the letter and spirit of the law.
  • Make memberships count. Like most foundations, we’re members of several professional associations. Besides their educational and peer support value, these memberships are a way to hold our profession accountable for living out progressive values, including environmental protection, fair wages and labor practices, and respect for the communities that host association events. Whether we’re asking for more conscientious conference recycling or searching for a locally owned and operated meeting site, we try to challenge associations to align their business practices with philanthropic values.

—written by Keneta Anderson for Quixote Foundation