The Beckner Advancement Fund is a social justice philanthropic initiative of All Souls Church Unitarian, a Washington DC church with a long history of working for social justice and fighting against oppression of all kinds. The Fund’s work is grounded in the Unitarian Universalist spiritual beliefs in the inherent worth and dignity of all people and our commitment to dismantling racism and other forms of oppression in individuals and institutions. For almost two centuries, the All Souls congregation has worked to make our city, our nation, and our world more just and compassionate.
All Souls members Earl and Meta Beckner endowed the Beckner Advancement Fund in 1973 to create a more collaborative, attractive, and forward-looking community that fosters human rights and dignity, and enhances the influence of All Souls Church in the Washington metropolitan area. We carry out this vision through internal and external grants of about $70,000 each year to support efforts that advance All Souls’ social justice mission.
The following values guide our grantmaking and other work.
Redistributing wealth: We understand that the wealth we steward was created with its roots in colonization and intentional policy choices that excluded and profited from black and indigenous communities and continued to grow unequally by the exploitation of the labor of marginalized people. Therefore, our goal is to redistribute this wealth in ways that prioritize the needs and aspirations of these communities.
Centering community: We work with organizations that are deeply rooted in their communities. We aim to support the leadership and experiences of impacted communities as a means to achieve systemic change. We believe that the best solutions to enduring social problems come from the people who experience them. Community power-building and shared decision-making are at the root of sustainable and truly transformative change.
Pursuing justice: We understand that structural racism and oppression contribute to poorer outcomes for people of color, women, low-income communities, LGBTQ communities, certain faith communities, and people with disabilities. We aim to invest in systemic solutions that create equitable opportunities for these communities to thrive.
Catalyzing initiatives: We recognize that we have relatively modest resources to bring to bear in addressing significant societal challenges. We seek to use our limited resources to seed new initiatives and accelerate the expansion of existing projects that employ fresh approaches to social justice work and which may have difficulty finding support elsewhere.
Taking risks and continually learning: We invest in the issues, organizations, and people that other funders may shy away from. This can include startup organizations, new leaders and leadership structures, untested ideas, and new approaches to old problems. We see each of our investments as an opportunity to expand our learning and help inform the field.
Collaborating with partners: We value working in partnership with community organizations, funders, government agencies, and others working toward similar ends. We proactively look for opportunities to share lessons learned and best practices in hopes that it strengthens funder practices both locally and nationally.
Making transparent decisions: We want our decision-making processes to be clear to all stakeholders, and in particular, we want to provide helpful and consistent feedback to applicants and grantees.
Approaching challenges with hope: While the problems we address are serious and challenging, we approach our work with excitement and a hope that our engagement will make a positive impact. Celebrating hard won victories both large and small rejuvenates us for the continued struggles for justice to come.
We envision a Washington, DC where all residents have the opportunities and resources they need to live with dignity and share in the prosperity and vibrancy of our Nation’s Capital.
To distribute flexible funding to accelerate community-driven social change in Washington, DC.
The Beckner Advancement Fund catalyzes community-driven change that dismantles systemic oppression and facilitates economic opportunity, justice, and liberation in Washington, D.C. We strive to unify the community of All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, D.C. by being equitable, radically welcoming, and in right relationship with those on the margins of society. We strive to make our grantmaking transparent, intentional, and accountable to the communities we support.
We invest in promising yet under-resourced organizations that are implementing new and innovative solutions to entrenched social problems. We support the leadership of those most impacted by overlapping forms of oppression, including but not limited to: people of color; indigenous peoples; immigrants; low-income people; women; youth; queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people; and people with disabilities. We strive to be a bold, courageous and strategic partner that helps grassroots organizations take chances, test new ideas, and amplify their impact. We take risks in the hopes of achieving transformative impact. Not all of our investments will succeed, and even those that do may take time to realize impact, but each investment provides an opportunity for growth and learning.
If you have further questions, you may contact Jalisa Whitley, Program Officer of the Beckner Advancement Fund (firstname.lastname@example.org; 240-391-8027).