Earlier this spring, the Foundation Center issued a new report on Foundation Funding to Address Domestic Violence in California. The Foundation Center-San Francisco spoke with Beckie Masaki, Associate Director of the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. Beckie has worked in the movement to end violence against women for more than 30 years, and we talked with her to learn more about the significance of the report and what advice she has for sustaining this critical work.
Foundation Center: How did you come into social justice work, and what led you to found the Asian Women’s Shelter in 1988?
Beckie Masaki: I was the first and only Asian American to work at a Bay Area domestic violence shelter in the early 1980s. No Asian survivors came to the shelter even though 35% of San Francisco’s population is of Asian descent and over 40 different Asian languages are spoken here. I knew Asian survivors and their children needed services that could meet their cultural and linguistic needs. I was fortunate to connect with other Asian women in the community and together we founded the Asian Women’s Shelter in 1988. In creating a safe place for women and children escaping violence, I realized that we also created a “home” for ourselves as Asian women community activists. AWS continues to be a place for friends, family, and community to create new cultural norms free from gender-based violence.
FC: You’ve been working in the movement to end violence for almost thirty years. How have you seen funding for domestic violence programs shift over the years?
Beckie: Over that time awareness about domestic violence has grown and public and private funding has increased. Two federal funding streams, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act in 1984 and the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, provided the first federal funding for shelters and other community based domestic violence services. Foundation funding and individual donors have also increased over the past decades. In your recent report, Foundation Funding to Address Domestic Violence in California, the Foundation Center states that foundation funding, adjusted for inflation, has increased 12.3 percent from 2002 to 2011 for domestic violence programs.
Government and Foundation funding to address domestic violence has made a tremendous impact in reaching thousands of survivors every day and raising awareness. Yet the problem is so pervasive and deep-rooted, we are still challenged with meeting urgent needs, reaching underserved populations, and addressing the root causes of violence.
FC: Do you think private foundations and other institutional grantmakers fill a gap to support domestic violence services? What areas and types of support are still needed? How do you think more funders can come to the table to end violence in our communities?
Beckie: OK, that is really three questions in one! First, do foundations fill a gap? Absolutely! Foundations not only fill essential gaps, but are often the leaders in sparking innovation as well as laying the groundwork for long lasting change.
Second, you asked what areas and types of support are still needed? Domestic violence crosses all lines, but our services and prevention work has not crossed all lines. While all programs strive for cultural competency, there is a need for direct support for culturally specific approaches.
A huge leverage opportunity for foundations is to support culturally specific programs as an investment in community engagement and change on the issue of domestic violence. This gets directly at the root of changing social/ cultural norms, and many close knit communities such as immigrants, LGBT communities, Native Americans, racial and ethnic groups, are doing innovative work that has far-reaching impact, not only for underserved populations, but for the entire domestic violence field. The majority of these innovative projects do not receive government funding so foundation support is even more critical.
And the third part of your question, how do you think more funders can come to the table to end violence in our communities?
As the domestic violence field breaks out of its silo to create a more powerful movement that addresses domestic violence and its impact on school-based violence, gang violence, racism, homophobia, poverty, health, and so many societal issues, funders have an important opportunity to come together to address the intersection of issues in a more powerful, impactful way. Funders may have specific priorities and areas of expertise, yet together they can create new partnerships and innovation. Two foundation-supported initiatives that I have been a part of are exciting examples of the difference that foundations can make and the exponential possibilities if more funders can come to the table.
The Strong Field Project from Blue Shield of California Foundation is a 4-year initiative to build a strong coordinated network of domestic violence (DV) leaders and organizations in California. Now in its final year, this initiative has developed a critical mass of respected DV leaders, increased stronger and more collaborative leadership, and increased the technical and financial resources in DV organizations. The Strong Field Project initiated key shifts in the California domestic violence field. A critical mass of leaders and organizations that have participated in the Strong Field Project are inspired and ready to engage more funders and leverage the gains of the Strong Field Project to foster intergenerational, diverse leaders; promote innovation; and build collaboration and networks to advance a shared vision for preventing and ending domestic violence.
Move to End Violence is a 10-year initiative from the NoVo Foundation designed to strengthen our collective capacity to end violence against girls and women in the United States. NoVo interviewed over 130 key stakeholders who pointed to the dearth of funding for social change advocacy in this field. They called for a significant investment in advocacy for social change, including support for strategy development and skills strengthening, capacity grants for critical organizational development, and broader funder engagement to support social change campaigns. The stakeholders lifted up the work being done within marginalized communities and by leaders whose analysis reflects an understanding of the complex ways that power and inequity operate. They noted that much of this work is being done in isolation and has not yet garnered the attention or support it deserves. Stakeholders reported the need for a learning community of like-minded individuals committed to leveraging each other’s ideas and aligning around a common vision for moving forward as a movement.
Based on these key findings, NoVo designed a national initiative that supports cohorts of diverse leaders and organizations to catalyze the movement. Now as leaders emerge from the cohort experience they want to partner with peers and funders to build the power of the margins; engage domestic and sexual violence organizations in inclusive, broader strategies; and work across social justice movements to create the deep transformative change necessary to end violence against girls and women in the U.S.
FC: You're at the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence right now. We know that APIIDV’s goals are to strengthen culturally-relevant advocacy, promote prevention and community engagement, and influence public policy and systems change. How do you see this relating to philanthropy?
Beckie: I have the privilege of meeting on-the-ground advocates and programs throughout the U.S. and Pacific Territories. These advocates and programs are often doing their work in isolation. They are unseen, unsupported, and even targeted for “making waves” in their communities. At the API Institute on Domestic Violence, we support the advocates and their programs with technical assistance and training on a range of topics from domestic violence to human trafficking, organizational sustainability and leadership development. One of the most frequent requests is for technical assistance and training on fund development. We are also a bridge with government, foundations, and donors, providing them with information, recommendations, and connections to programs, especially in underserved communities.
FC: In your work, you provide a great deal of Technical Assistance for others in the field of domestic violence. What advice do you have for those new to the field in terms of donor cultivation and development?
- Take advantage of fund development resources such as the Foundation Center, Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training, and Compass Point Nonprofit Services. They offer tools, workshops, trainings, consultation, and directory services that are so valuable for every level of donor cultivation and fund development.
- Tell your story, typically called a case statement. Our work in the domestic violence field is very compelling, yet sometimes we are too insular and need to convey the story of our work so foundations and others outside the field can understand the immediate as well as long term impact. Telling your story pushes you to sharpen your own reflection about what you are doing and why.
- “Honor the work and the work will honor you.” I learned this from Omowale Satterwhite. Even though programs are desperately trying to make ends meet, resist the scarcity mentality. To me this means a generous heart and thinking big. Not thinking only about your program and its survival, but the bigger picture of what your community needs to end domestic violence, how to collaborate and support others in the work, and what is your best contribution. When you are intentional about your work, its impact, and integrity, then it shows. From this perspective, build relationships and tell your story to funders. Being grounded in this way allows you to connect with opportunities and partnerships with funders, without chasing funding in a way that might pull you away from your best contribution and purpose.