Giving InSight

A Blog for and about Funders Focused on Health and the Environment
Michele's interview provides a glimpse into the world of philanthropy through her experiences and insights over 34 years at the Liberty Hill Foundation in Los Angeles. Her retirement from a senior role signifies a new chapter in her journey to create lasting change. Through democratic philanthropy, community engagement, and profound dedication to systemic solutions, Michele's story is an inspiration to all seeking to make a meaningful difference in the world. How did you get your start in the world of philanthropy? It was a bit of long road!  When I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, my first job landed me in the company of the renowned environmental scientist, Dr. Barry Commoner, who founded and directed the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems there. Notably, he collaborated closely with anthropologist Margaret Mead to establish the Scientists’  Institute for Public Information dedicated to making scientific information accessible for citizens and the media on key policy issues. He linked environmental issues to broader concerns around poverty, public health, national defense, and social injustice.
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September 12, 2023 by Kalila Booker-Cassano
This past May, at the HEFN Annual Meeting in New Orleans, 100 funders and movement partners gathered to learn from each other, strategize, and build relationships. Over the course of those two days, we heard loud and clear the incredible toll that environmental justice work takes on our colleagues and friends who are grassroots leaders in the field, and that environmental health and justice work often arises from the pain, illness, and death caused by pollution and dangerous chemicals. There is a need for foundations to support not just the work of EJ organizations, but organizational staff’s personal needs for rest and healing, in order for them to effectively do their work now and into the future. This call to action reinforced conversations that HEFN member Maya Winkelstein (2030 Fund) was having with HEFN staff about how to leave something behind for movement partners after our gathering, and served as the spark that ignited the idea of the Healing Justice Fund. Between sessions on the second day of the meeting, that idea became a reality, and the fund was launched. Funder attendees showed up - fast, and in a way that showed passion and a willingness to be nimble. Within a few weeks of the meeting we had raised $26,500 from 11 donors, far exceeding the $10,000 we had initially hoped to raise. We have so much appreciation for the way in which HEFN members responded to this ask!
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July 13, 2023 by Ansje Miller
Dear HEFN Community, We have just recently released our first edition of our refreshed HEFN newsletter, "HEFN Happenings." I hope that you will find the newsletter useful as we share the exciting developments that are unfolding at HEFN in 2023. This year has been marked by growth, progress, and renewed dedication to our mission, and I can't wait to fill you in on what's been happening and what lies ahead. First and foremost, I want to express my gratitude for the incredible energy and enthusiasm that filled the air during our first in-person annual meeting in over three and a half years. The conversations, connections, and collaborative spirit in New Orleans left a lasting impact on all of us. I extend my heartfelt appreciation to the planning committee, speakers, staff, and everyone who contributed to making the event a resounding success. Together, we engaged in innovative, fearless, and inspiring discussions that have set the stage for even greater achievements. Stay tuned to your inbox and follow us on social media for more insights and inspiration from the meeting and updates on how we plan to advance collaboration on important issues such as: How can strategic dialogue between market-based campaigns and fenceline EJ leaders accelerate the movement for a healthier world? 
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I first met Kat at a meeting in Houston, TX. We sat next to each other in a session that highlighted the need for philanthropy to show up in a way that was supportive of folks fighting for their lives. I do not use this phrase lightly or as hyperbole - often when visiting places where folks are talking about their life long unfunded work to protect their communities, homes, and culture it is not an understatement when someone says they are fighting for their lives – but the dynamics of white supremacy culture and wealth inequity can impact our ability to fully empathize, resulting at times in people with more privilege failing to gully grasp and assuming a level of hyperbole. So, often when we hear it, this simple phrase is an important invitation to a funder about how to treat a potential grantee with care. During my first conversation with Kat, I learned that she had already received, internalized and RSVPed to that invitation, and I was struck by the care she used in her grantmaking with the Ceres Trust.
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On a warm winter afternoon in the agricultural capital of California and some say the world, I met Jake Mogan. I was deeply impressed by the care and attentiveness that he shared in his analysis of the communities and organizations he partners with in his role at 11th Hour Project. His desire to organize philanthropy to be on the right side of history and community support is something I will always remember. During our time together on the HEFN Steering Committee, I learned a lot about his ability to make connections between the life cycle of petrochemicals and how each piece of this system gravely impacts f human health and the planet. Jake’s commitment to the Past Petro working group is something I deeply admire. He worked alongside many other HEFN “legends” to increase understanding of the issue and has continued to lead the charge in funding those impacted first and worst by environmental degradation. Jake welcomed a daughter during the pandemic and exemplified the devotion to family and self-care we should all be striving for when he stepped away from the SC for his parental leave, and then stayed true to his commitment to HEFN when came back to finish his term. I look forward to crossing paths with Jake in the future!
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HEFN Executive Director
Ansje Miller is the Executive Director of the Health and Environmental Funders Network (HEFN).


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