Taking Stock: A Mid-Year Update From IPMF

Earlier this year I shared IPMF’s intentions for 2022, and it’s time for an update on what we’ve been up to so far this year:

Grantmaking

“The good news is that we plan to simplify and streamline our grantmaking this year by continuing to work with the grantee partners we have. The not-so-good news is that we will be minimizing bringing on new grantees this year, with the exception of our local film nominations program.”

Today we announced that we have awarded $8.9 million to organizations in the Philadelphia region for a wide array of digital equity initiatives, community storytelling projects, film, youth media, community radio, and grassroots podcasting. We are also continuing to invest deeply in shifting narratives around violence and policing which harm communities of color in our region. You can see the full list of grants on our website.

With the support of our board, we made all of these grants automatic renewals. We did not ask for any proposals, including for the four $1 million+ grants we made, though we did, in some cases, ask for some modest documentation where needed. We also have been improving our application and reporting processes, and are delighted to say that we have made our application, grant letters, and grant reports available in Spanish.

We will announce more local filmmaking grants in the fall, as well as a few others we are finalizing between now and the end of the year.

In the three years that we have been partnering with communities across the region, in particular with Black and brown-led organizations and projects, we have invested $38.5 million dollars in support of people and communities telling their own stories, and growing their power.

Capacity Building

“Grantees can be assured that we will continue providing capacity building workshops and coaching throughout the year, with some new topics and partners added to the line-up.”

Robust capacity building opportunities and resources are an investment in the long-term success of organizations. It helps leaders strengthen their organizations, build community with their peers, and feel supported.

In our second full year of offering a variety of workshops and coaching opportunities, the topics have expanded based on what our grantees have said they want help with. This year’s line-up includes:

  • Fundraising
  • Communications
  • Governance and leadership
  • Financial management
  • Measuring impact
  • Navigating fiscal sponsorship
  • Deciding whether or not to become a nonprofit, and
  • Leadership succession planning

We also have a separate series of workshops tailored to local filmmakers that cover topics like fundraising for film, distribution, publicity and legal issues, among others.

Not only have we learned a great deal about the breadth and depth of the needs of our grantee partners through these capacity building opportunities, we’ve also learned a lot about matching our grantees’ specific challenges with the experts who can understand and help them. We haven’t always gotten this right, but we work to create a safe space for our grantees to offer us honest and constructive feedback about their experiences, so that we can adjust where needed.

Website

“We went through a brand study process last year with our partners at Message Agency, grantees, and community members, with the intention of overhauling the look and feel of our logo and website…we learned a lot about what we need to resolve before we can move forward with a whole new look and feel to our organization. As a result, we are working on an updated version of our website — a vast improvement, but not yet the complete overhaul we were aiming for. We will unveil that this year, while also taking more time to explore an identity that matches our values and aspirations.”

We are nearing the finish line — stay tuned for a new website this fall. It looks great and we can’t wait to show it to you!

Expanding Our Team

“We’ll be adding new staff this year, and expanding our small but mighty team of four to a team of six. We will be looking for a finance director and a program associate, and we will be launching that search soon.”

A big chunk of our spring was devoted to hiring and welcoming our two newest team members, Finance Director Chris Capato, and Program Associate Karla Jimenez-Magdaleno, both of whom have already brought so much expertise and camaraderie to our team in the short time we’ve been together.

We worked hard to make the hiring process transparent and equitable, and we have plans to write up how we did that, including sharing with all applicants what to expect from the process, timeline, and salary, as well as sharing questions with candidates ahead of time. We thank our friends at Bread & Roses Community Fund, whose transparency about their hiring process on their website served as an inspiration for us. And we thank the folks at Work in Progress, who helped us build out and practice an equitable hiring process, reviewed our employee handbook, and helped us create equitable family leave and paid time off policies. Their anti-racist HR guidebook is a valuable resource you may want to check out.

Equity + Embracing Emergence

“Our priority this year is to focus on deep exploration and discussions about equity and justice: what we need to do to center them internally in our operations and governance, and externally in our relationships, funding, and vision for the future. In order to do that, we’re learning to sit with the discomfort of not planning out our year, embracing emergence, and allowing this journey to take us where it needs to go.”

We packed the first half of our year with grantmaking and hiring (in fact we crammed a little too much in the first six months), in order to give ample space during the remainder of this year for learning about and centering racial equity across all aspects of our organization and our work. Our partners in this work, Leticia Peguero and Amanda Perez Leder, are skillfully and thoughtfully leading us through these discussions and decisions.

I wrote a bit in my previous essay about slowing down, and resisting too much planning and scheduling for the year (or next year, for that matter), in order to honor the time needed for such fundamental conversations and decisions. It is hard to do that, though. It is a challenge to reconcile slowing down with the sense of urgency one feels about the current state of the world, especially knowing the position of extreme privilege that we occupy in philanthropy.

In the spirit of embracing emergence, though, I don’t know where the remaining months of this year will take us, though it seems likely to me we will be working well into 2023 on honing our vision for this foundation. Perhaps by the end of this year, we’ll be able to share something more concrete.

Transparency

And speaking of sharing: on a final note, I received a lot of feedback from my earlier essay, most of it gratitude for the transparency, but also from funding colleagues who said they appreciated it but reacted as if they couldn’t fathom sharing so much information.

My regret, actually, is that I don’t make time to write more often about our work. Transparency builds trust. It helps us manage expectations about what we can and can’t do, share what we’re learning, and also what we’re struggling with. Transparency shifts power to communities by demystifying the way philanthropy works and by being accountable.

There can be no equity without transparency.

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Molly de Aguiar

Molly de Aguiar

President, Independence Public Media Foundation