In 1923, in a neighborhood of San Pedro, Calif. now known as Liberty Hill, writer and activist Upton Sinclair spoke at a San Pedro Maritime Strike rally in support of labor and union workers. Sinclair was famously arrested as he began reading to the crowd from the Bill of Rights. This is the moment for which the Liberty Hill Foundation was named.
2016 marked Liberty Hill Foundation’s 40th year in existence. It is known for working with community organizers and grassroots organizations in Los Angeles to achieve the mission of “justice, not charity.” It was founded in 1976 by Sarah Pillsbury, Larry Janss, Win McCormack and Anne Mendel to approach philanthropy differently, and proceeded to spend its early years as an active participant in the fight against the AIDS and crack cocaine epidemics, homelessness, struggle for documentation for immigrants and against national economic policies that were “having a significant impact on the lives of poor people and people of color.”
Liberty Hill continues to harness the power of philanthropy and channel it toward issues of economic, environmental, LGBTQ and racial justice. Its work faces both toward the community , through opportunities for grants, leadership trainings, and “alliance building” campaigns, and toward other funders, through donor-advised funds, planned giving opportunities, giving circles, and strategic partnerships with other foundations and the public sector. By bridging these two sides of the change-making world, it is ultimately “an accelerator of community organizing in Los Angeles.”
The foundation focuses very locally, supporting programs that may also be able to serve as models to other communities. Continuing to evoke the image of Upton Sinclair reading the Bill of Rights to a group of striking workers in California, the foundation’s website shares that “we are proud of our founding mission to provide resources to those of us who are denied power — people of color, the poor, women, LGBTQ people, and others. These resources help communities organize and demand equality, a life with dignity, and respect.”
Major Program Categories:
Liberty Hill’s grantmaking focus falls on racial justice, environmental justice, economic justice, and LGBTQ justice – connecting the foundation with a number of projects that highlight the ways in which many of these issues interact within communities. For each funding priority, the Liberty Hill Foundation organizes giving circles, community organizing and nonprofit leadership opportunities, and community engagement through events, publications, alliances and campaigns.
Projects that highlight this work include the Brothers, Sons, Selves campaign which has created a national model for engaging young men in the advocacy process for local change through supporting their proving access to leadership training, participatory research projects and grassroots organizing trainings. This campaign is one way the foundation builds “alliances of young men of color and community organizations across L.A. to address conditions the young men face in their own environments (such as low graduation rates) through youth-led advocacy at school boards, city councils and the state house.”
The foundation’s commitment to environmental justice prompted the creation of a 2015 report, “Drilling Down: the Community Consequences of Expanded Oil Drilling and Development.” It works to end oil drilling in residential neighborhoods through supporting community organizing and public education as part of the Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling Coalition.
To affect change in the realm of economic justice, Liberty Hill supports campaigns around renters’ housing rights, a living wage, healthy and safe working conditions and other basic labor rights. Through the economic justice priority area, Liberty Hill supports grassroots organizing like worker centers, and tenant and homeowner rights groups. Ending the school-to-prison pipeline and “investing in strengthening communities of color, nor criminalizing them” are also pieces of Liberty Hill’s economic justice priority.
Finally, according to the foundation’s website, “Liberty Hill is a frequent name on ‘Top Ten Funder’ lists published by Funders for LGBTQ Issues,” another one of its funding priorities. Specifically, the foundation’s focus is on “achieving family acceptance amongst LGBTQ people of color and fighting for improvements in the foster care system as well as on strengthening safety net access for LGBTQ people of color.” Funding and campaigns around LGBTQ justice work to end discrimination against and exclusion of transgender and gender non-conforming communities, as well as discrimination on the basis of gender-identity and/or sexuality.
How to Apply: When there are open grant opportunities from one of Liberty Hill Foundation’s designated funds, the organization will issue a request for letters of interest. Check the foundation’s recent articles and announcements page for more information about opportunities for funding and events as they arise.
Name of Foundation: Liberty Hill Foundation
Location: Los Angeles
Contact Information: Click here for staff contact information
Coverage Area: Los Angeles; some national grant
Subject Area: LGBTQ, Economic, Environmental and Racial Justice
Assets: $16,008,820 (2013)
Last Year Total Giving: $4,385,071 (2013)
Recent News and Grantmaking: