Beckner Advancement Fund

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.

2019-20 External Grant Awards

The Justice for Muslims Collective ($10,000) combats institutional and structural Islamophobia in the DC area. Led by Muslim women of color, its grassroots organizing focuses on creating mechanisms of community defense for Muslims and building community resilience. Beckner will support their healing and wellness programs, leadership development and training programs focused on Muslim women, and alliance/coalition-building work across movements. 

The Fair Budget Coalition ($10,000) brings together advocacy organizations, service providers, and community members to advocate for budget and public policy initiatives that address systemic social, racial, and economic inequality in DC. Beckner will support FBC’s Constituent Leadership Program, which gives low and moderate-income DC residents a greater understanding of the budget process, hones their leadership skills, and provides decision-making authority within FBC’s structure to the people most impacted by policy change. 

Black Lives Matter DC ($10,000) advocates for non-police solutions to intra-community violence and ending police brutality by confronting and dismantling institutions and systems of state-sanctioned violence and oppression that displace and criminalize Black people through political education, community power, and direct action in Southeast DC. Beckner will support the development of a Liberation Zone that invests in safety beyond policing such as community control, community defense and divestment from militarization, and other programs that oppress Black people. 

Dreaming Out Loud ($10,000) creates economic opportunities for the region’s marginalized community members by building a healthy, equitable food system. Beckner funding will support the Farm and Food Hub at Kelly Miller Middle School in DC's Ward 7 and create a vertically integrated pipeline to jobs and economic opportunity for communities of color through food hub distribution, entrepreneurship and cooperative development, workforce development, and advocacy and public policy. 

Platform of Hope ($10,000), a collaboration between Capital Area Asset Builders, Jubilee Housing, Jubilee Jumpstart, For Love of Children, Mary's Center and Sitar Arts Center, addresses the gentrification of resource-rich communities; redresses structural and racial barriers that prevent low-income adults from building wealth and well-being; and connects the varied health and learning needs of children from low-income families from prenatal to early-childhood and through to college graduation. Beckner will support their work across the housing, health, education, arts, asset building, and youth development sectors. 

The Healthy Babies Project ($10,000) helps DC’s poorest families have healthy babies, raise strong families, and move into independent lives. Beckner funds will support the Feeding Our Girls program, which provides nutrition for malnourished, hungry, pregnant, and/or parenting DC youth of color. The program addresses food security for two generations of vulnerable DC children – the teen parent and child – to ensure maternal and child health. 

Kindred ($10,000) cultivates relationships between parents of diverse economic and racial backgrounds in gentrifying elementary schools and builds their capacity to take action within their schools to address the root causes of the opportunity gap. Beckner funding will support a parent dialogue-to-action program at Bancroft Elementary, which will build a diverse coalition of parent activists to advance equity and meaningfully change outcomes in their school so that all students thrive. Beckner will also support the pilot of a parent facilitator apprenticeship program to extend the dialogue work into new communities. 

The Trans Women of Color Collective ($10,000) uplifts the narratives, lived experiences, and leadership of trans and gender non-conforming people of color, while building towards the collective liberation of all oppressed people. Beckner funding will support TWOCC’s Black Trans Health Initiative, Safe House in Ward 1, daily cooked meals for community members, transportation to community meetings and events, stipends to fund the work of TWOCC’s organizers, meeting space, and information technology to support their leadership team of trans women of color. 

Collective Action for Safe Spaces ($9,100) uses comprehensive, intersectional, community-based solutions to eliminate public gendered harassment and assault in the DC area. Beckner funds will be used to develop an Organizing Institute centered on the experiences of Queer and Trans Women of Color who are current or former sex workers and participants in their Safe Bar Collective jobs program. The program supports queer and Trans sex workers of color in advocating for their needs and the needs of people most impacted by harassment and assault in public spaces. 

Bread for the City ($8,500) helps low-income, Black and Brown DC residents develop the power to determine the future of their own communities. They provide food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services to reduce the burden of poverty. Beckner funding will support Bread for the City's Terrence Moore Organizing Institute, a free 8-week training program led by two women of color, which equips client leaders with the tools to organize in their communities, including deep political education. 

Empower DC ($5,000) enhances and promotes the self-advocacy of low and moderate income DC residents and builds their collective power to bring about sustained improvements in quality of life. Beckner funding will support Empower DC’s citywide Public Housing Campaign, which builds the organized political power of DC’s public housing residents, supporting their strategic engagement in the systems of decision making in order to secure budget and policy change to improve conditions, secure the future of public housing, and prevent the displacement of public housing residents.

Meet and Greet

Come connect with the Beckner Fund's 2019-20 external grantees and learn about pressing needs facing our community and ways YOU can get involved.

Wed., Sep. 11, 6:30 - 8:30 pm, All Souls Church, Pierce Hall

RSVP at bit.ly/BecknerMeetandGreet

Our values

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.

Our vision

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.

Our mission

To distribute flexible funding to accelerate community-driven social change in Washington, DC.

Our approach

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.

Questions?

If you have further questions, you may contact Jalisa Whitley, Program Officer of the Beckner Advancement Fund (ascu.beckner@gmail.com; 240-391-8027).