“It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either.” – Pirkei Avot (2:21)
As most of our grantees and partners are aware, the Kendeda Fund has committed to spending out the remainder of its assets and ending our grantmaking operations by the end of 2023.
Since our founder, Diana Blank, began her philanthropic journey more than 25 years ago, Kendeda has worked to increase the dignity of individuals and the sustainability of communities by lifting up transformative leaders and ideas. With an aspiration to see these investments bear fruit during Diana’s lifetime, the Fund has made more than $900 million in grants so far, creating new pathways to solve seemingly intractable problems, supporting transformative leaders and ideas, and working in creative ways to benefit people and planet. By the time our work is complete, we anticipate our total grantmaking will have exceeded $1.2 billion.
The process of sunsetting a family foundation of this scale presents a number of challenges from an operational perspective, but the programmatic focus of Kendeda will not waiver during our remaining years. The Fund Advisors who lead our work will continue to be active and engaged participants in their respective fields. And we believe as deeply as ever in the soundness of our strategies – investing in movements and emerging leaders; supporting organizing and power-building; working to positively change the narratives and frames that define the problems we aim to solve.
These approaches were determined through years of focused partnership with our grantees. We work on enduring problems, and we know they require enduring commitment. To that end, the massive upheaval caused by the confluence of events in 2020 (a global pandemic, the economic crisis, and a national reckoning on race and equity), affirmed our commitment to be a steady, consistent partner for our core grantees and do everything in our power to help them advance their ambitious agendas for social change.
The choice to wind down Kendeda’s work is not a decision our donor has come to recently. From the outset of her philanthropic journey, Diana’s vision was clear: She sought to address critical, urgent social and environmental needs to the best of her ability, within her available means, during her lifetime.
Diana has always aspired to leave the world a better place than she found it, and spending out is her chosen path to make that happen. She never wanted to build an institution for her philanthropy that would live in perpetuity. Instead, her strategy has always been to be an accelerant of progress by lifting up transformative leaders and ideas, with the goal of effecting critical change in the present, where it is so urgently needed. She knows her work would not be possible without the efforts of those who came before and she recognizes that others will carry the work forward in future generations. The Kendeda Fund, in short, is just passing through – doing what we can, while we can.
As a time-limited foundation, we are preparing for our final three years of operation with confidence that others will step forward to continue the work we’ve been so privileged to do for a quarter century. The Kendeda Fund hopes to be remembered not only for what we accomplished but how we worked to effect change in the world; for having created new pathways to address seemingly intractable problems; and for supporting the dignity of individuals and the sustainability of communities. We hope that our donor and staff will be remembered for having completed Kendeda’s work with grace, curiosity, creativity, and passion during the limited lifetime of our operation.
Kendeda is honored to have played a role in tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges. But we also know that our work will conclude long before most of those problems will be solved. Within each of our program areas we have identified a set of outcomes that we hope to achieve before the end of 2023. These vison statements represent the changes we seek to make in the world, and provide a “North Star” to guide the work of each fund advisor in our final years of grantmaking.
Atlanta Equity 2023 Vision Statement
Longstanding inequality has resulted in formidable racial wealth and education gaps which have drastic implications for Black, brown, and low-income communities’ ability to access the care and opportunity necessary to thrive. Without brave and daring solutions, rampant inequities will persist. By the end of 2023, Kendeda aims to ensure our Atlanta grantee partners have defined seats at their respective tables of power and institutional voices that are clear, convincing, and resonant. We will also have promoted and supported the communication needs of emerging leaders in and around Atlanta who are actively advancing equitable economic opportunity and education transformation. We will have elevated the transformational work happening in Atlanta to other local funders (based on the unique space Kendeda occupies as a trusted investor) as well as to regional and national allies with the potential to engage and support it. And we will have demonstrated that equitable community development is a viable economic driver for community vitality in low-income communities of color.
Girls’ Rights 2023 Vision Statement
By the end of 2023 we hope the early- and child-marriage space will be infused with momentum and led by a diverse coalition of feminist, rights-based movements. The field will be centered around gender-transformative practice, and will have the knowledge, skills and resources needed to continue tackling the issue sustainably. The field will be supported by a robust ecosystem of funders with the mindset and the will to deploy significant resources effectively.
Gun Violence Prevention 2023 Vision Statement
Guided by a desire for all Americans to be safe from gun violence, by the end of 2023 we hope the dialogues surrounding firearm ownership and the risks that guns pose to public health will be more firmly rooted in truth, respect and everyone’s right to live safely. We want communities most affected by gun violence to have the support they deserve and the power they require to help end it. And we want to leave the base of philanthropic support for gun violence prevention deeper, stronger and more robust than it was when our work began.
Montana 2023 Vision Statement
We seek to help achieve the vision in Montana from one in which wildlife, wildlands and rural landscapes, indigenous tribes, communities and their people are exploited and destroyed to one in which wild country and their creatures as well as communities and their citizens all receive the long-term support and protections they need to thrive ecologically, economically and culturally.
People Place and Planet 2023 Vision Statement
By the end of 2023 our People, Place and Planet program will have demonstrated meaningful efforts that build greater trust and understanding between city government and vulnerable communities to shape opportunities for clean energy and healthy economies; share more wealth within communities by establishing more employee-owned businesses; embed dignified design concepts in affordable housing and low-income communities; ensure that communities on the frontlines of climate change have agency to develop and implement timely, sustainable solutions; and champion storytelling that emerges from, and fairly represents communities seeking sustainability solutions.
Southeastern Sustainability 2023 Vision Statement
By the end of 2023 we hope to have changed the conversation in the Southeastern United States (and beyond) around regenerative design by focusing on education, demonstration and advocacy. We will have helped nonprofits and foundations value energy and water efficiency and renewable energy for reducing facility operating costs and achieving sustainability goals. And we aspire to have our work lessen gaps in racial and economic injustice.
Veterans 2023 Vision Statement
The Kendeda Fund envisions a world where time spent in nature and engaging in outdoor activities will be valued as a powerful force for healing, rehabilitation and restoration for both veterans active duty service members. The power of nature and activities in an outdoor setting will be brought to bear to help veterans and their loved ones on their path towards restoration, reconnection and resilience. Veterans will be able to learn valuable lifelong professional skills in group settings that not only build skills but further the spirit of teamwork, service and leadership established in the military. And finally, applied research will help society gain a better understanding of the positive benefits of nature and outdoor therapy.
Ambitious as some of our goals may be, these 2023 vision statements bring our organizational destination into focus. We are energized and motivated by the work that lies ahead over the next three years, and we shall not desist.