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Climate justice in the field: An interview with the Donors of Color Network

Black man protesting for climate justice.

Though the growing climate crisis makes headlines every day, its enormity and complexity can be overwhelming to donors who often struggle to know where to begin and how to devise equitable strategies to address its impacts. This often prevents funders from engaging, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  

Candid’s in-depth guide, Centering equity and justice in climate philanthropy, outlines approaches that have worked for experienced funders, including how intermediaries can help motivate and inspire climate funders to grow their giving.  

Recently we interviewed Abdul Dosunmu, campaign manager for the Donors of Color Network’s (DOCN) Climate Funders Justice Pledge, one of the intermediaries featured in the guide. In this blog, we will share his insights on how this initiative is growing support for groups that have historically lacked access to funding. 

Aligning funding with values

The Donors of Color Network was established “to shift the center of gravity in philanthropy toward racial and economic justice.” According to Dosunmu, philanthropic funding often perpetuates existing racial disparitieseven amongst institutions with stated values and goals to support racial justice.   

In this video, Dosunmu shares how funding data reveals whether or not climate philanthropy lives up to these values.  

Promoting transparency & accountability

Several experts interviewed in the guide stressed the importance of funder transparency to creating mutual accountability and forging trust-based relationships with frontline organizations. With a promise rooted in transparency, the Donors of Color Network’s Climate Funders Justice Pledge aims to not only catalyze greater equity in climate justice giving. It also seeks to hold philanthropy accountable to their stated goals.  

Hear Dosunmu discuss key elements of the Pledge and why DOCN chose climate philanthropy as the place to begin building a movement for racial equity. 

“We ask funders to report data to Candid and other stakeholders that are leading the charge in terms of transparency, because what we want is for the broader field to change for the better.”

– Abdul Dosunmu, campaign manager, Donors of Color Network

Measuring what matters

Transparency into where funding flows and the diversity of its recipient organizations is core to the Climate Funders Justice Pledge. However, collecting and sharing demographic data poses a learning curve for many organizations. This is especially true at a time when the field is grappling with how to reduce administrative burdens in favor of streamlined approaches. DOCN is leveraging Candid’s grants data reporting program to help funders avoid reporting on their grants in multiple places.  

In this video, Dosunmu explains why demographic data collection, particularly around grantees’ leadership, is a worthwhile effort to understand progress and gaps on the road to greater philanthropic equity. 

“We really can’t say that we are committed to racial justice if we’re not measuring our commitment to it.”

– Abdul Dosunmu, campaign manager, Donors of Color Network

Overcoming common barriers 

Experts interviewed for the guide emphasized several common barriers that prevent funders from taking action to center equity and justice in their climate philanthropy. Examples of these obstacles include the overwhelming scale of the problem and desires to address the issue only through technical solutions. DOCN has also had to face these barriers to adoption head on.  

Listen to Dosunmu reflect on what they are up against when appealing to new funders entering the field. 


Showing signs of progress

The climate crisis and struggle for racial justice can be overwhelming arenas of work. Identifying sources of inspiration, hope, and progress is critical for donors and frontline organizations alike. Toward this goal, DOCN is collecting noteworthy case studies from Pledge participants that can serve as examples for others. In addition, they are using the Pledge as an opportunity to create a supportive learning community.  

Watch this video to discover what DOCN is learning from its most active Pledge participants that can inform how other climate funders can support this work effectively. 

As Dosunmu explains, inspiration from experienced funders can serve to motivate and inform peers who are looking for entry points to engage in the climate crisis. You can find more such inspiration from Candid’s guide, Centering equity and justice in climate philanthropy. Case studies featured in the guide explore centering values, transitioning to a justice-centered portfolio, breaking down issue-area silos, using an intersectional lens, and incorporating climate justice into the totality of a foundation’s work. 


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  • sergio garcia says:

    July 8, 2023 3:42 pm

    Terrific insights into climate justice centered philanthropy. Will share and assess how this fits into environmental justice work and organizations and communities served.