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Advancing Partnership & Collaboration: More Critical than Ever #ForumCon18

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A guest post by Forum member John Barnes, Executive Director of Funders Concerned About AIDS. This post originally appeared on FCAA's blog.

At the moment, the populations and principles for which the philanthropic community often fights are under daily attack. For my organization — perhaps for yours, too — this is a very familiar story.

Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) started in response to government indifference in the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We find ourselves, more than 30 years later, back in a very similar place. But there is strength in numbers. At times like these, it is more important than ever to join with like-minded organizations to better protect the principles we hold dear and to stave off greater damage. For FCAA, that means collaborating with other philanthropy groups focused on the populations and interconnected issues impacting our work.

FCAA is the leading voice on philanthropic resources allocated to the global AIDS epidemic. But HIV/AIDS does not exist in a vacuum: structural factors and social issues greatly impact health access and equity and, as a result, the trajectory of the epidemic. These complex and often overlapping social determinants — poverty, race, gender identity, and mental health, to name a few — place people at disproportionate risk for HIV infection and impact access to care. FCAA is committed to identifying and engaging funders who work at these critical points of intersection.

That is why I was very eager to participate on the planning committee for the United Philanthropy Forum’s annual meeting. As a new Forum member, this was a way to meet other members, learn more about their work and find ways to collaborate. It is also a way for FCAA to share the many ways organizations within the Forum can engage with us. Some of the programs in which you may be interested include:

Convening Funders

For the past several years, FCAA’s Annual AIDS Philanthropy Summit has featured important conversations on health equity, addressing topics such as women of color, protections of and barriers to care, and place-based challenges to equity. It has also helped to identify needs that funders can help to address including, most recently, the convergence of the opioid and HIV epidemics.

Resource Tracking

FCAA has been tracking the field of HIV-related philanthropy for 15 years in order to provide funders with the necessary data to make informed decisions related to allocating resources. In particular, our Philanthropic Support to Address HIV/AIDS report captures data on more than 7,000 grants, awarded by 392 foundations in 15 countries, identifying gaps, trends, and opportunities.

In fact, we’re new members of the Forum’s Shared Technology Platform, or Knowledge Management Collaborative. In addition to reaping the benefits of the Forums’ shared technology platform on Salesforce, and the collective support of the group, we are also hoping to pioneer the roll out of our resource tracking data on the platform. We are currently working on a new, member-only site to offer increased access to our data and analyses. 

FCAA also partners closely with organizations such as Funders for LGBTQ Issues (another Forum member) and the Human Rights Funders Network that contribute resource tracking efforts for their respective focus areas. These partnerships focus on sharing data where possible, supporting funder outreach, and advising on methodologies across issues to help accurately quantify intersectional funding.

Collaborative Funding Focused on the U.S. South

The U.S. South is the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS in this country.

And that is precisely why, in 2017, FCAA brought together a group of grantmakers to focus exclusively on funding to fight the epidemic in this region. Last year, this collaborative launched the Southern HIV Impact Fund, which is administered by AIDS United and includes Gilead Sciences, Ford Foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Johnson & Johnson and ViiV Healthcare. The objective of the Fund is not only to catalyze financial resources but also to work collaboratively to achieve the greatest impact.

The Fund seeks to end HIV, reduce health disparities in the South, and provide unobstructed access to care. Together, this collective also is helping to build a pipeline of new leaders reflective of the most impacted populations, particularly those who are members of black, Latinx, queer, and transgender communities.

This first round of grants is outpacing overall HIV-related philanthropy in the U.S. South in three key areas of strategic investment: people of color, LGBTQ communities, and leadership development and capacity building. In addition, the Fund has offered an average grant size that is more than double that of overall HIV-related philanthropy in the U.S. South. By the end of the grant year, the Fund will mobilize an additional $150,000 in rapid response grantmaking to address urgent needs across the region.

Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid and HIV/AIDS epidemics are analogous, in many ways. They are similar in scope and in the type of stigma and discrimination affecting those most impacted. Philanthropic funders are in a unique position to apply the lessons learned in the decades long battle against HIV/AIDS to this new crisis. In many ways, funders have gotten ahead of elected officials and are leading by example.

Recently, FCAA hosted a convening focused entirely on the intersection of HIV and opioids. The discussion identified challenges as well as opportunities to expand on effective activities already taking place.

Until recently, the conversations around the opioid epidemic focused on overdose deaths, often ignoring the topic of harm reduction. Philanthropic funders are working to highlight the positive impact of harm reduction programs, pressing for policies we know from experience work. They are also looking to expand and scale up services that already showing positive results.

Advancing partnership and collaboration, one of the themes for this year’s United Philanthropy Forum annual meeting, resonates deeply with FCAA. It is integral to the fight against HIV/AIDS. For that reason and many more, I am grateful to be attending the convening later this month. I look forward to speaking with all of you and, most importantly, working with you to address some of the most pressing issues of our time.

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