In 2018, a generous and anonymous donor entrusted Pinellas Community Foundation as the philanthropic partner of a donor-advised fund inspired by the concept of venture capital investment.
The thought was to direct that concept toward smaller, grassroots nonprofit organizations in Pinellas County by investing in their missions without fear of risk. This approach is known as trust-based philanthropy. Since it began, the Pinellas Community Foundation Social Justice Fund (PCFSJF) has awarded more than 35 nonprofits with capacity-building support services, training, and more than $700,000 in monetary support. The PCFSJF focuses on organizations working around issues of injustice and equity — racial, economic, educational, housing, and health. The fund’s work has expanded the awareness of its impact among generous community donors, financial advisors, and industry peers.
Five Questions for the Social Justice Fund Founder
In celebration of the achievement of the Pinellas Community Foundation Social Justice Fund, we interviewed the founder to learn more about his personal story and his philosophy of giving back.
1. Why did you start the Social Justice Fund?
I was looking for the option to leverage small gifts on my part into a larger community effort. As I spoke to the philanthropic community, I found a lot of hesitation to commit to organizations that didn’t have a long track record. If you look at the people who can make a big difference with a smaller amount of money, it’s generally the smaller start-ups. So, I started the Social Justice Fund at PCF to help them get a track record so that they can compete for some of the larger grants.
2: What’s your personal philosophy of philanthropic giving? Why do you do it?
It’s not really my money. I’m a custodian, and once I’ve taken care of what I need for myself and my children, I should be looking to the people who don’t have enough.
3. What are some of the pressing issues you see facing our country and trickling down to Florida and Pinellas County that philanthropy should address?
Well, we are increasingly a country of haves and have-nots. We’ve gone through a round of dismantling the social safety net to provide lower taxes to the extent that the beneficiaries will turn around and redirect money into programs they think provide a safety net. Then, we can continue to function as a society, but if we continue along the current economic and social path, I worry about that.
4. Do you feel that the word “philanthropy” is accessible to everyone?
Actually, no, that’s a really good question because I think it conjures images of wings in museums and hospitals. Where, really, it should be something simpler like giving back, or teaching a person to fish, or you know, something that other people can connect with better. I think it’s part of why the philanthropy community now tends to fund big institutions, not the things that change people’s lives.
5. In what ways do you envision the Social Justice Fund inspiring others to take action?
Well, its full intention is to create a big umbrella under which many people who can make a small difference come together so that we can direct all of that through one central infrastructure. Take advantage of the tremendous human capital that the Pinellas Community Foundation provides to administer the process, yet free it from some of its past bureaucratic obstacles to folks getting involved.
Expand Your Reach Through Trust-Based Philanthropy
If you are a Tampa Bay nonprofit with a social justice imperative as part of your mission and interested in learning more about the Social Justice Fund, or if you are interested in donating to help affect change in our community through the PCF Social Justice Fund, please reach out below.