NoVo in the Media

NoVo Boosts Commitment to Grass-Roots Collaboration to $34 Million

13 June 2018
BY Alex Daniels



The NoVo Foundation said Wednesday that it has made $34 million in grants to social-justice causes from its Radical Hope Fund, an effort the grant maker launched in July with a more modest budget of $20 million over four years.

The foundation founded by Jennifer and Peter Buffett, the daughter-in-law and son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, started the fund in response to the 2016 presidential elections and what it called a climate of “increasing repression and darkness” in the United States and abroad. Its goal is to support grass-roots organizations that collaborate with one another, experiment with new ways to bring about change, develop media strategies, and train women leaders.

“We needed to do something bolder,” said Pamela Shifman, the foundation’s executive director. “The answers so many of us are looking for in these challenging times are right in front of us, but they need more trust and support from across philanthropy. This is a moment where we need to be bolder, more creative, and more courageous in the kind of support we offer to our grantee partners.”

The foundation, which had $726 million in assets and made $206 million in grants last year, has started a blog where it plans to share progress being made by Radical Hope grantees.

Flood of Requests

The Buffetts decided to add to the fund after receiving an overwhelming response to its request for proposals. Within months of announcing the fund, NoVo received more than 1,000 grant requests. Of those, 32 were invited to submit a proposal and were paid $15,000 each for the work required to complete an application.

NoVo announced grants to 19 organizations and collaborative efforts, ranging in size from $300,000 to support the Transgender Law Center’s Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project to $4 million for Grassroots International to strengthen feminist movements in Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras, Palestine, and the United States. Other grantees are involved in efforts to reduce the number of people in prison, improve the environment, and assist immigrants, among other issues.

Since the fund’s launch last summer, Shifman said, leaders of social-justice campaigns have faced “daily threats that are continuing and escalating” but have responded with “passion, creativity, and brilliance.” She cited #MeToo, which last fall blossomed from a hashtag campaign into a national movement to expose violence against women and give voice to people who have been victimized.

Since President Trump’s election, progressive foundations have poured more than $700 million into a range of social-justice and journalism efforts. Shifman hopes more money flows to grass-roots activists.

“Philanthropy can do a better job at showing up with as much bravery as movement leaders,” she said.