Growing a Movement in Colorado

By May 3, 2016Stories

Coming of age amidst the civil rights, women’s and anti-war movements, the founders of Chinook Fund had financial resources beyond their personal needs and a vision to put their resources to work supporting grassroots-led social change in Colorado.

Almost 30 years later, activism looks different, but inequality in Colorado is no less a challenge. At a time when so many Coloradans lack affordable housing, quality education, safe neighborhoods and decent jobs, new leaders are taking financial risks, engaging in deep conversations about wealth and privilege and building bridges with grassroots activists. These leaders refuse to allow inequality to be the marker of this generation and are investing in policies that will prevent low-income communities from being shunted to the margins.

Talking about money, class and privilege continue to be taboos which divide our communities and stand in the way of shared responsibility for the common good. Chinook Fund invites donors to overcome these taboos and reflect on difficult questions.

How do you build and sustain social movements across class and privilege, when people directly affected by injustice rarely find themselves in the same room with people of wealth? How do immigrants and communities of color who continue to bear the brunt of injustice in our schools and criminal justice system have the opportunity to engage as equals with people who have access and power? How do young and first-time donors learn from the legacy of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, while embarking on activism and building a philanthropic model tailored to today?

Asking and answering questions like these is not easy. These conversations are challenging, and can leave even the heartiest emerging donors isolated by peers or family. But this work is the essential building block of moving resources to build a stronger grassroots-led movement that can shift power in Colorado, across the country, and around the world.

In Jan. 2016, Chinook Fund launched its first Giving Project as an example of how we are creating new spaces for these conversations. Adapted in partnership with Social Justice Fund NW, the Giving Project offers individuals, regardless of race or class,  an opportunity to get hands-on experience with philanthropic giving, social justice grantmaking and collective fundraising to grant money to organizations that build people power statewide.

As one current Giving Project member shares, “When I signed up to participate in the Giving Project, I did it as a way to learn about and get/stay connected with the organizations that are in the trenches doing the hard work to right systematic wrongs and address root causes of inequality and injustice. I had no idea that the actual process of participating itself would be so transformative, inspiring, empowering and educational for me, and I certainly didn’t expect to feel so deeply connected to our incredible cross-race, cross-class cohort. It’s like the Giving Project gave me something I didn’t even realize I was missing, and I am most grateful for the gift, as well as the opportunity to decide along with my colleagues how our collective resources can best support the social justice organizations in the Chinook Fund network.”

Chinook Fund is the place that breaks from the usual paradigm in philanthropy where you can discuss pressing conversations like civil rights with diverse members, learn about emerging grassroots organizations and distribute resources in creative ways.

If you are interested in learning more about our Giving Project, we will have an information session on May 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Posner Center at 1031 33rd St. If you would like to learn more about Chinook Fund and our grantees, join our party on Thurs. June 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the Posner Center.

Nora Bashir is executive director of Chinook Fund.