Beyond the Money: Solidarity with Small Social Justice Organizations - Mary's Pence

Women's Stories  |  Grants

Beyond the Money: Solidarity with Small Social Justice Organizations

Photo of two women embracing, holding up a certificate of achievment.

Funding Social Justice

Mary’s Pence grantees are positioned uniquely among nonprofits because they are grassroots, have small budgets, and are working to change systems.

Photograph of a woman in a yellow shirt that says Contact Center Organizing for justice.

Over 30 years we’ve seen how women-led projects can create lasting change. Our grantees bring together the community to respond to issues of justice. We’ve supported Black mothers launching a food security project in Cincinnati, young women from North Carolina presenting at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, Latina immigrants in Wisconsin organizing to change unjust immigration laws, and women helping other women to navigate the Missouri social and legal systems upon being released from prison.

After supporting more than 600 women’s social justice organizations, we have a unique understanding of the challenges and the potential Mary’s Pence grantees have. Recently, Mary’s Pence has been increasing partnership opportunities including networking teleconferences between grantees with similar missions and highlighting our grantees at conference workshops.

New Mary’s Pence Grants Manager

After careful planning, in January, 2018 we hired Robyn Browning to be the first full time staff dedicated to the Mary’s Pence Grants program! Robyn believes that social justice is best achieved by fostering change at the local level by community-driven initiatives, which makes her the perfect fit for this role. She explains, “It’s rare for funders to support grantees beyond monetary support. This opens the door for engaging in an ongoing dialogue with our grantees, creating opportunities for them to navigate setbacks and receive support as they work towards their missions.”

In addition to her passion for justice, Robyn also brings a Masters of Public Health degree, background in social services, and interest in innovation and creative problem solving. We are grateful to have Robyn dedicated to providing even more holistic support to our grantees.

A Grantee Gathering

In the spring of 2017, we announced our idea to host a Mary’s Pence grantee retreat. With the increased capacity the Mary’s Pence Grants manager position provides, the retreat will become a reality this October. Attendees will learn techniques to clearly message complicated social justice issues and navigate the logistics of operating a small nonprofit, while connecting with peers who do similar work for systemic change.

We will invite two representatives from 15 current grantees to a three day retreat near Minneapolis, all expenses paid. The retreat will allow grantees to strengthen relationships with Mary’s Pence and one another while learning about content specifically for small social justice organizations. There will also be much needed time to relax and rejuvenate as well.

Our theme, “Communicating Your Social Justice Mission” grew from grantee feedback. Communicating honestly and effectively about social justice issues can be difficult, especially in a world of overcrowded inboxes. Mary’s Pence grantees face an additional barrier of limited capacity due to their small size, something not often addressed at large scale conferences or in webinars.

Industry experts will present interactive workshops on clear messaging, communications planning, and photography. We will also facilitate open discussions on topics introduced by the grantees in attendance. By inviting two representatives from each organization, we hope to augment their learning and improve their ability to implement new ideas.

Most exciting, each grantee in attendance will be gifted a short video about their work, crafted by a professional videographer. The videos will feature messaging honed and photographs taken with skills they learned at the retreat. Grantees will receive these videos for free to help tell their stories, and we’ll be sharing them with our supporters too.

At Mary’s Pence we strive to be amplifiers and connectors of women working for justice. “Being able to assist grantees with addressing their needs is a unique position to be in,” Robyn says. “I’m really excited to bring together grantees who are working on similar social justice issues but in different geographic locations and contexts. Marys’ Pence can help ensure these vital organizations working towards social change stay and thrive in the communities where they are needed most.”


We are grateful for the members of the Mary’s Pence Legacy Circle whose contributions have supported our ability to fund this new position. Read Robyn’s introduction.

Learn more about Mary’s Pence Grants.

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