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.

The Beckner Advancement has three primary funding mechanisms: External Grants, Internal Grants, and Shively Rapid Cycle Grants. Click on each for application materials and detailed eligibility information.

Our Values

The following values guide our grantmaking and other work.

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 bring relatively modest means to address significant societal challenges. We use our limited resources to seed new initiatives and accelerate the expansion of existing projects that employ fresh approaches to social justice work. This can mean supporting startup organizations, new leaders and leadership structures, untested ideas, and new approaches to old problems.

Continually learning: We approach our mission with an honest spirit of inquiry and a vocation for learning alongside the communities we partner with. We see each of our investments as an opportunity to expand our learning and help inform the field. We encourage feedback from our partners.

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.

Our Committee

Erika was born in Brooklyn, NY where she and her sister were raised by her mom, a social worker and proud West Indian who immigrated from Barbados. Erika grew up attending the Fenimore St. United Methodist Church. She gained confidence and discipline as a student of the Canarsie Karate Club and baseball player in the North Highway LIttle League. As an A Better Chance (ABC) scholar she attended Milton Academy for high school and then earned a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College. Her career has spanned the interconnections of youth development, outdoor education, construction, job training and environmental justice. She helped start Green City Force, a New York City-based non-profit that combines service and training to engage young adult residents of public housing and connect them to opportunities in the green economy. In October of 2014, she moved to Washington, D.C. with her wife, daughter, and grandmother. She and her wife became members of All Souls in 2015. Erika is a member of Green Souls and volunteers with the Religious Education team. Erika joined the staff of GRID Alternatives in January 2015 and currently serves as the Vice President of Workforce Development and Service-Learning.

Marleise grew up on the Hudson River in a small hamlet outside Kingston, NY. She has reside in Eugene, Oregon, Long Island, Westchester County, NYC and Washington, DC. but her favorite place is Sedona, AZ.

Marleise currently lives with her husband, Jim, in North Bethesda, Maryland. She completed a BA in Accounting in 1979 and an MA in Health Advocacy in 2008. Between those two degrees, for 20 years, she had a successful corporate career in financial services as Director of Human resources. She was best known for my success in: Integrating companies and corporate cultures; Creating strong relationships at all levels of an organization; and Managing conflict and complex corporate dynamics.

Along the way, things happened that led to her profoundly changing direction. Marleise served as a caregiver to her former husband who died from Lou Gehrig’s disease, a patient advocate for a co-worker with a rare blood disease, and a hospice volunteer for 15-hours a week for two years. These experiences, along with her desire to do more with my days than assist wealthy individuals become even wealthier, inspired her big career change. She found a way to apply my corporate business skills to programs and services that improve the lives of older adults. Her day job, since 2001, has been Business Operations Manager for AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE). She keep things running so that LCE’s amazing attorneys can provide free legal services for low-income elderly folks in the District of Columbia.

Alan J. Abramson is a Professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, and Founding Director of the Schar School’s Center for Nonprofit Management, Philanthropy, and Policy. Alan is also currently a Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute. In these several positions, he teaches, conducts research, and works with leaders on a broad range of nonprofit issues. For more than a decade, Alan directed the Aspen Institute’s nonprofit program, overseeing the Nonprofit Sector Research Fund and other initiatives that helped to build the nonprofit research field in the U.S., strengthen nonprofit and foundation leaders, and deepen the understanding of policymakers about nonprofit activities. Before joining the Aspen Institute, Alan Abramson was on the research staff of the Urban Institute, where he worked on a variety of domestic public policy issues.

Alan is the author and co-author of numerous books and articles, and his work has twice won awards from the American Political Science Association. Alan is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and has also been named among the 50 most influential leaders in the U.S. nonprofit sector. He recently served as President of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), the nation’s leading association of university-based and other nonprofit researchers.

Knowledgeable about a broad range of nonprofit issues, Alan’s major, current interests are: public policy toward the nonprofit sector; nonprofit advocacy; and the emerging fourth sector of hybrid, double-bottom-line, social enterprise organizations. Alan Abramson received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University and his B.A. from Wesleyan University.

In 2018-2019, Alan is on study leave from George Mason University focusing on several research projects. During his leave, he is working part-time as a Visiting Scholar with the organization Independent Sector to develop an index of the health of the nonprofit sector.

Alan, his husband Alex Wilson, and their son Ben live in Washington, DC’s U Street neighborhood. They joined All Souls Church in 2002, and Alan and Alex were married at All Souls on 10/10/10 (so they would remember the date). Alan is an avid sports fan, who roots like heck for the Washington Nationals and Capitals. He is suffering a bit this summer with the Nats’ declining fortunes, but has not yet given up hope for the playoffs.

Anna Hargrave joined The Community Foundation staff in February 2006. Through her previous experience at the Office of the Montgomery County Executive, Montgomery Youth Works, and the Jewish Social Service Agency, Anna came to the Foundation well-versed in program management, community outreach, and project development. She recently completed her service on the Board of Directors for Leadership Montgomery, an organization which brings together current and emerging leaders interested in making Montgomery County a better place to live and work.

A graduate of Kenyon College, Anna earned her BA in Spanish Area Studies and Drama. Since joining The Community Foundation team, she has worn many hats. She spearheaded planning for the annual Celebration of Giving event as well as numerous learning and networking opportunities for donors, including the creation of the Foundation’s Taste of Philanthropy series in Montgomery County, which enables donors and philanthropic friends to connect with each other, learn about the community, and share their own ideas for making a deeper impact. She has also led the Sharing Montgomery grant process, which engages donors in vetting 50+ high-impact organizations serving the County’s low-income neighbors. Most importantly, Anna has worked 1:1 with hundreds of Montgomery County donors to provide them with the tools, resources, and support needed for them to give to all the causes they care about deeply, here and around the world.

José Luis was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he lived until obtaining his BA degree in social sciences from the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras. In 1970 he moved to New York City to pursue a master’s degree in political science at the New School for Social Research. He taught Puerto Rican history in the Department of Black & Puerto Rican Studies of Hunter College (CUNY, 1973-1983), before his mid-career change to librarianship and geographic move to DC in 1985. Life in DC has included combinations of work as academic and public librarian, as contract translator, and as book reviewer (MultiCultural Review, RQ). Since retirement from the DC Public Library, José Luis has increased his continuing education pursuits, his political activism, and dedication to volunteer collaboration with DC organizations.

Josephine has a social work degree and has been on a number of boards of directors of organizations dealing with social issues. She has also held positions of leadership in US federal and New York City agencies. At All Souls Church, she has been on the Board of Trustees, Nominating Committee, Committee on Ministry, and worship associate team.

Kat is the monitoring and evaluation specialist in the Community Health Division of Holy Cross Health. She previously served as the AmeriCorps VISTA at the Washington Area Community Investment Fund, a community development financial institution. She is a member of the American Evaluation Association, as well as the Washington Evaluators, where she had the opportunity to serve on a pro bono team that provided monitoring and evaluation technical assistance to a local nonprofit. She grew up in Fairfax, Virginia, and now lives in DC’s Park View neighborhood. Kat earned her undergraduate degree at James Madison University and her graduate degree at Durham University in the UK. She began attending All Souls in 2019 and became a member in 2020.

Maria is a successful social entrepreneur and creative finance expert who has developed, funded, and managed over 20 major development and IT projects on 4 continents with a variety of stakeholders including: international organizations, governments, civil society, and the private sector. She specializes in achieving systemic impact at the nexus between crowd-based technology, rich storytelling, and disruptive fin-tech.

Her current passion is the creative financing of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and last mile infrastructure; blending different approaches such as blockchain, impact investment, and crowd finance. As an Impact Fellow at Singularity University she is also leading several moonshot initiatives with a coalition of Fortune 50 companies and foundations around global health and small business finance.

Maria has co-founded a number of companies, including Transterra Media, an award-winning online marketplace that is changing the way companies source news and marketing video. Transterra currently has offices in Dallas, London, and Beirut, where it brokers and produces video stories for large satellite broadcasters and brands that empower local voices. These stories have been viewed over a trillion times globally with 70% of profits returning to local producers. Transterra has received awards from Red Herring, Wamda, The Dublin Web Summit, and was selected by Mashables as one of its Top 25 Startups in Unlikely Places.

Maria holds a BA in International Studies and Biology from Gonzaga University, as well as, MAs from both France and Egypt in International Relations, International Economic Development, and Middle East Studies. She consults regularly with governments and IGOs on citizen engagement, alternative finance, and ecosystem development.

Steve brings 40 years of experience in international development, community philanthropy, human rights, environmental management, and higher education to his current roles as volunteer advisor to civil society organizations and an active participant in selected political campaigns. Before retiring in March 2018, he served eight years as vice president for programs and managing director for networks and strategic initiatives at the Inter-American Foundation. Steve has also held senior executive positions with the Ford Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the World Resources Institute, INCAE, and Fundación Acceso, a non-profit organization that he founded in Costa Rica. He began his career working with a Guatemalan NGO building potable water systems for indigenous communities. He has been a consultant to the World Bank, the United Nations, the Global Environment Facility, CARE, the Oscar Arias Foundation, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, and the Pew Charitable Trusts; has been a guest lecturer at the World Bank, Columbia University, Duke University, the University of California at San Diego, the University of Maryland, the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame University, the Universidad de Cuenca (Ecuador), and FLACSO/Ecuador; has been a Kettering Foundation Fellow and a member of the Advisory Council of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at Notre Dame. He has served on five non-profit boards and is currently on the board of the AsylumWorks in DC and the advisory board of the Kaleidos Center for Interdisciplinary Ethnography in Ecuador. In retirement, he has volunteered with immigrant rights organizations and in elections in North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. He has spent half of his career in residence in Latin America (Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Peru, and Guatemala), and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. He has a BA in Latin American Economic Development from Berkeley and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard. He is the proud father of two adult daughters who are deeply involved in public service.


Rev. Rob Keithan is the Minister for Social Justice Ministry at All Souls, meaning that he supports the church’s many issue groups and works to bring effectiveness and spiritual depth to the social justice ministry overall. In his other consulting, Rob is focused on long-term culture change related to abortion and reproductive health in ways that engage the complex issues related to religion, morality, and race. He also trains facilitators to lead the junior high and high school portions of the Our Whole Lives comprehensive sexuality education curriculum. Rob recently worked as a consultant on faith engagement with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Director of Public Policy at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. He lives with his wife and their two daughters in Washington, DC.

Rob grew up in the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where his parents are still active. Thanks to his local youth group and regional youth conferences, Rob developed a passionate commitment to Unitarian Universalism in high school. He had several UU-related internships during his undergraduate years at American University and was actively involved in young adult and campus ministry. After completing a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Studies, Rob joined the staff of the Unitarian Universalist Association Washington Office in 1999. He served as Director of the office from 2002 to 2010. As Director, Rob was responsible for representing the Association’s social justice positions to Congress and the Administration, most often in coalition with other religious and secular groups. Rob holds a Masters of Divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, and did his intern ministry at the First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR. He was ordained at All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, DC, in 2012.

At All Souls, Rob has helped to facilitate a men’s covenant group, design and co-lead a small group ministry for young couples, and teach sexuality education for youth. He started as a social justice ministry consultant with All Souls in May 2016 and joined the staff as Minister of Social Justice in August 2017.

Questions?

If you have further questions, you may contact us at ascu.beckner@gmail.com; 240-391-8027.

2019-20 Grantees

External

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.

Internal

The Reeb Project/Revolutionary Love Conference ($8,500). The Revolutionary Love 2020, a major gathering of religious progressive activists co-designed by Middle Collegiate Church, the Reeb Voting Rights Project, All Souls’ Social Justice Ministry, and staff from the Unitarian Universalist Association, will connect Unitarian Universalists with one another and the larger progressive religious community and equip them to act on critical social justice issues such as democracy and voting rights.

The All Souls’ Music Ministry ($5,500). The Beckner Advancement Fund will support the hiring of a camp coordinator for the inaugural All Souls UU Arts Summer Camp, which will provide meaningful opportunities for children and youth to engage in important social justice issues such as climate justice, environmental health, and activism. Youth participants will be exposed to diverse teachers with a variety of creative backgrounds including playwriting, freestyling, and composition, as well as local community partners such as Bloombars, Building Bridges Across the River, and Common Good City Farm.

Green Souls ($1,800). The Beckner Advancement Fund supported Feast for Food Justice, a low-waste, plant-based, locally sourced lunch that featured produce grown in the DC region with a particular emphasis on sourcing from farmers of color and urban farms who operate in Wards 7 and 8.