Creating a Neutral Space, Pursuing a Common Mission


*This article was originally published on the Grantmakers in Health website.

Grantmakers In Health asked about the challenges and opportunities currently facing Philanthropy Serving Organizations (PSOs), and in considering my response I found myself reflecting on the origins of Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA). We were founded in 1987, just 6 years into the epidemic, but when over 40,000 people had already died, and there was still complete inaction from the United States government. After losing too many colleagues, friends, and family, a group of grantmakers came together to form an organized response to the epidemic. That early work included outreach to fellow funders, urging them, no matter what they funded, to make AIDS part of that story.

Importantly, FCAA created a neutral space for funders; one where individual organizational agendas took a back seat to a unifying mission. This space became an incubator for philanthropic action. Not all funding organizations were equipped with the resources or capacity to respond to the HIV epidemic, but through FCAA, they could lend their voices to the greater call for action. Over time, they would also educate their own organizations and mobilize new funding to address the issue. Their effort succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams: since FCAA’s founding, the philanthropic response to HIV has grown from just over $200,000 to over $600 million annually.

As the needs of our community changed, so did the ways FCAA pursued its mission. As awareness of the epidemic grew, and powerful advocates rose to the forefront, we refocused our energy and tools on building our first resource-tracking initiative – collecting and analyzing data on HIV-related philanthropy – to better inform the philanthropic response to HIV and AIDS.

Fast-forward a couple of decades—we’ve seen much progress but a divisive political climate has made fighting the epidemic exponentially more difficult. After the 2016 U.S. election, it was time for FCAA to pick up the mantle of our founders to loudly remind people of the critical challenges that HIV creates in the communities we serve. Unlike our early days, we now have robust data—and advocacy backed by data is compelling and difficult to ignore.

Read more here.