State of the Spend Out 2024: What’s Next for the Kataly Foundation

The Kataly Foundation
6 min readFeb 29, 2024

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Last Thursday, the Kataly Foundation hosted State of the Spend Out, our annual webinar where we shared an overview of our grantmaking and investments in 2023, highlights from our program areas, and what’s ahead for Kataly as we enter the second half of our spend out.

Infographic sharing Kataly’s grantmaking in 2023, including grants awarded and amount redistributed.

Part of our purpose in hosting these annual webinars is for Kataly to share grantmaking data, but more than that, it is our intention to reflect on what we’re proud of, the challenges we’re facing, and the questions we are holding. One of those questions, shared by our CEO, Nwamaka Agbo was: “How can our work at the end of our time here be able to actually put a stake in the ground about what racial justice and progressive philanthropy needs to take on going forward?”

During the webinar, the Kataly team shared:

  • A breakdown of our grantmaking, since the inception of the Foundation, and over the past year. This included our wealth redistribution to date, as well as an overview of the different types of support we offered grantee partners.
  • Highlights from our three program areas: Mindfulness and Healing Justice (MHJ), the Restorative Economies Fund (REF), and the Environmental Justice Resourcing Collective (EJRC). These included spotlights on grantee partners, and a preview of their spend-out strategy and timeline.
  • The upcoming expansion of the Kataly team, and how we arrived at the decision to grow our team.
  • Ongoing considerations that are guiding the development of our investment strategy.
  • The strategic questions that Kataly is grappling with as we head into the next phase of our spend-out.

For the final 30 minutes of our webinar, the team responded to inquiries about how we plan to document our work after the Foundation closes, the lessons we’ve learned along the way, how we’re engaging in philanthropic organizing, the development of grantee networks, capacity building, staff retention, and more.

Watch the recording of the webinar below, and read on for some of the insights the team shared.

Introduction by Nwamaka Agbo, CEO of the Kataly Foundation and Managing Director of the Restorative Economies Fund

Overview of 2023 Grantmaking: 8:50

  • Danielle Royston-Lopez, Grants Officer

Programmatic highlights from MHJ, REF, and the EJRC: 15:45

  • Donna Bransford, Senior Program Officer, Mindfulness and Healing Justice
  • Nwamaka Agbo, CEO of the Kataly Foundation and Managing Director of the Restorative Economies Fund
  • Vanessa Daniel, Environmental Justice Resourcing Collective Leader

Kataly’s Team Expansion: 39:20

  • Joleen Ruffin, Chief Financial Officer

Investment Strategy: 46:35

  • Lynne Hoey, Chief Investment Officer

Strategic Questions: 57:35

  • Nwamaka Agbo, CEO of the Kataly Foundation and Managing Director of the Restorative Economies Fund

Q&A: 1:03:45

Reflections and Insights:

On general operating support, responsiveness, and grantee requests:
“In philanthropy, there is a discourse around general operating support being the gold standard. And we absolutely agree with that. We think the less restrictions on grants that we can give, the better. It then gives organizations and communities the room to really self-determine how to use the funds in the best interest of their needs, their aspirations, and their long and short-term goals. And one of our goals at Kataly is to be responsive to those needs, and the asks that our grantee partners bring to us. In some cases, we make specific grants in response to specific requests that come from grantee partners, and that’s where the project support specific work comes up, as well as capital campaign support.”
— Danielle Royston-Lopez

On humility, learning, and listening to grantee partners:
We’re so grateful for the amazing learning journey that we’ve been on, and for the grace of our partners as we’ve been in that journey. And I think the learnings for us around what it means to support Indigenous-led organizations and tribal communities include really taking the time to build relationship, sitting in circle with one another, learning about protocol, about how tribal communities engage with one another when they come together, and for us to really take that seriously when we enter into the space. Coming humbly, recognizing that we don’t understand all of the context or dynamics in tribal communities, but really taking the time to listen and learn and be in relationship. And to really come to understand what it means to be good allies, as non-Native people coming into this space.”
— Donna Bransford.

On power, winning at scale, and rest:
“What else is power? Power is base-building. The goal of a grassroots base is an important one because we want a base that is powerful and durable enough to win the policy, the regulation, the election that’s right in front of us, but then to defend every victory. To win again and again and again into the future. Power is the ability to play the long game. Power is not just base-building and leadership development for their own sake, but it’s aiming at something that improves people’s material conditions. Power is durable infrastructure that gets us to the level of solidarity and strength in numbers that we need to win at scale.

Looking at the fact that after Trump, Covid, a racial reckoning, increased climate disasters, and high levels of conflict within movement organizations, many leaders at the beginning or middle stage of their career are exhausted, they’re in danger of leaving movement, well before the end of their time, taking with them sometimes decades of skill and experience and relationships that we cannot afford to lose. So rest is a critical intervention.”
— Vanessa Daniel

On staff burn-out and the need to pivot:
“As we prepared to ramp up grantmaking in 2022, we began to see increased levels of stress among our staff. Staff handling multiple roles had less time for innovation and creativity. Fewer layers of management meant decisions could be made more quickly and implemented faster, but it also placed an undue burden on management staff supervising multiple roles. We became vulnerable to absences with the loss of just one person significantly impacting operations. We knew that to meet the call to action from social movements, we needed to pause. We needed to examine our structure, our capacity, and our culture, to be able to continue to respond at the speed and scale of the needs of the field without burning out our team members.”
— Joleen Ruffin

On aligning investments with mission and grantmaking:
“We so often hear how foundations want to be more mission aligned in their endowment. But they don’t allocate funds to make that possible. Some don’t truly understand how their investments are made, and how counterintuitive it is to their grantmaking. So both of us [myself and Joleen], alongside Nwamaka, believe strongly that part of Kataly’s mission is to organize philanthropy and that’s not just on the grantmaking side, but also on the investment side. At Kataly, we lead with experimentation. We see the investment strategy as a tool to organize wealth folders, be it foundations, individuals, donor advised funds. If you think about it, foundation endowments represent over a trillion dollars. What would be possible if even 5% was invested in a non-extractive endowment strategy rooted in justice?”
— Lynne Hoey

On posturing, and admitting what we don’t know:
“We are deeply committed to being a learning foundation. A learning institution that wants to continue to evolve and be able to change direction once we have new information. So much of our field, in philanthropy, is about posturing — that we have it all figured out, that we know best. And as practitioner funders what we know to be true is that the grantees that we support on the ground know best. And so in order for us to be able to continue to be in a state of learning, there are questions that we hold and that guide us throughout each and every year.”
Nwamaka Agbo

Additional resources for further reading:

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The Kataly Foundation

The Kataly Foundation moves resources to support the economic, political, and cultural power of Black and Indigenous people, and all communities of color.