I’m writing to you today with a sense of urgency and a call to action that is pivotal to our sector’s rights and values.
Earlier this year, I shared my deep concerns with you after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action. While I wrote at that time that the court’s decision was focused on higher education, I feared it would not be long before subsequent lawsuits took more direct aim at the nonprofit and philanthropic sector.
This fear has become reality with alarming speed, in the form of a baseless lawsuit challenging the right of the Atlanta-based Fearless Foundation to make grants to Black female entrepreneurs.
That’s why I’m asking you to show your support today for the right of philanthropic organizations and individuals to give in ways that align with their values – including supporting historically marginalized groups.
Philanthropy’s fundamental rights are under attack. The American Alliance for Equal Rights has sued the Fearless Foundation, claiming that the organization’s program for Black female entrepreneurs is racially discriminatory. Led by Black women, the Fearless Foundation works to combat underfunding by providing grants, tools, and mentorship to women of color.
Any argument that it’s discrimination to help Black women gain opportunity in a field where they are underrepresented ignores the history of our nation – and the present reality, which is that women entrepreneurs of color are seeing a significant gap in venture capital funding.
This lawsuit also threatens the right to expression that the First Amendment affords everyone who gives. If successful, this lawsuit would unconstitutionally limit the Fearless Foundation’s expression of its values and stifle philanthropy as a whole — discouraging donors, restricting work toward equity and justice, and harming communities and causes nationwide.
This lawsuit endangers the entire ecosystem of giving at a time when donors are declining and nonprofits are fighting for survival. Whether they provide housing, nutrition, spiritual and artistic inspiration, disaster relief, or any other critical services, nonprofits need support in order to serve more people and do more good. Now more than ever, we should be committed to making it easier for people to give, across all dimensions of society, not harder.
Together with the Council on Foundations, Independent Sector has filed an amicus brief in support of the Fearless Foundation, calling on the court to dismiss this lawsuit. This is one of those moments when it’s imperative to put the values we hold as Independent Sector to action — in this case through a legal response.
We’re also inviting partners like you from across the charitable sector to sign this statement standing up for the right of individuals and philanthropies to give in line with their values.
Will you add your name today to defend philanthropy, in all its forms, as it works toward the greater good?
To build a healthy, racially just nation where all people can thrive, we need donors to be able to give to our communities in ways just as diverse as our communities themselves.