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

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.

Questions?

If you have further questions, contact Ruth Goins, Beckner Advancement Fund Program Officer, at ascu.beckner@gmail.com.

2021-2022 Grantees

Beloved Community Incubator

A worker self-directed nonprofit that provides sliding-scale support for worker-owned cooperatives, collective projects, business owners, and freelancers in the Washington, DC metro region. General Operating Support. 

Black Lives Matter DC

BLM-DC is a member-based abolitionist organization centering Black people most at risk for state violence in DC, creating the conditions for Black Liberation through the abolition of systems and institutions of white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, and colonialism. Project support to emphasize political education in the Black community to deepen understanding about the GRU and its tactics, and highlight how families and neighborhoods are being harmed.

Fair Budget Coalition

FBC creates the space for advocacy groups, direct service organizations and members of the community to come together to advocate for budget and policy initiatives that address systemic social, racial, and economic inequality in the District. General Operating Support.

Food Justice DMV

Food Justice DMV is a volunteer colectiva delivering food & standing in solidarity with thousands of immigrant neighbors. They do 3 weekly food distributions and provide real-time info about other food, rent supports, pro-bono legal info, vaccinations, easy ways to save the planet, exercise tips, recipes and more. General Operating Support.

Harriet’s Wildest Dreams

A Black-led abolitionist community defense hub centering all Black lives at risk for state-sanctioned violence in the Greater Washington area. Project support for their the Ida B. Free Court Watch and Participatory Defense initiative.

Many Languages One Voice

MLOV is a resource for immigrants in the District who do not speak English as a first language. The organization helps immigrants attain tools and develop leadership skills that enable greater civic involvement on issues affecting their lives. General Operating Support.

No Justice, No Pride

NJNP exists to fight for trans justice and to end the LGBT “equality” movement’s complicity with systems of oppression that further marginalize Trans and Queer individuals.  A major element of their work is leasing housing where trans women of color without their own homes can live safely. General Operating Support. 

Rising Organizers

Rising Organizers grows grassroots movements by training new and emerging leaders to build power in their communities, developing community among organizers, and fostering long-term commitment to organizing and political skills. Project support for a DC Grassroots Organizing Fair. 

The Safe Sister’s Circle (TSSC)

TSSC provides free culturally specific, holistic, and trauma-based services to Black women survivors of domestic violence and/or sexual assault primarily living in Washington, DC’s Wards 7 and 8. General Operating Support.

2020-2021 Grantees

Collective Action for Safe Spaces

A Black trans, queer, and non-binary-led organization dedicated to building community safety.

Common Good City Farm

CGCF demonstrates intensive, small-scale sustainable urban agriculture practices and provides adult and youth education

Dreaming Out Loud

Rebuilding urban, community-based food systems through cooperative social enterprise

Empower DC

Invests in the leadership and organized political power of DC’s lowest income residents and communities.

Fair Budget Coalition

Unites constituents and organizations to prioritize racial equity in the District budget.

Healthy Babies Project

Supports vulnerable young women to have healthy babies and establish independent lives.

Justice for Muslims Collective

Building a world where radical inclusion leads to collective liberation for Muslim communities and beyond.

Many Languages One Voice

Fosters the leadership and civic participation of immigrants who do not speak English as their primary language.

ONE DC

We exercise political strength to create and preserve racial and economic equity in Shaw and the District.

Platform of Hope

A unique collaborative of four nonprofits in Adams Morgan that connect families to services and to each other.

Trabajadores Unidos de Washington DC

Builds leadership and engages civic action to address the needs of immigrant, migrant, and low-income workers.

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.