The New York-based JPB Foundation announced plans to spend up to $100 million in additional funds in 2024 to strengthen democracy, six new senior staff hires, and appoint five additional members to its Board of Directors as Deepak Bhargava begins his tenure as the Foundation’s President.
Under an expanded mission, the Foundation will help people who have been denied power to build it, so they can change unjust systems and create a more democratic, inclusive, and sustainable society. As part of that mission, the Foundation will support five key areas of work, including Democracy, Gender, and Racial Justice; Community and Worker Power; Movement Infrastructure and Explorations; Faith, Bridging, and Belonging; and Reproductive Justice, Medical Research, and NYC Community Grants.
“The threat to democracy is the single greatest challenge facing our nation,” said Deepak Bhargava, who officially begins his tenure as president Tuesday. “Saving democracy will require building broad alliances across civil society to unite those who may have differing worldviews but agree on bedrock commitments such as the right to vote and the need for representative and responsive institutions. We must work to meet those short-term threats to our formal democratic institutions while also addressing the long-term drivers of our crisis of democracy.
“Doing so means recognizing that a sustainable and inclusive democracy requires much more than the right to vote. Workers should have a voice in the economy, women and LGBTQ+ people should be free to make decisions about their bodies and lives, people of color and immigrants should be full and equal participants in every aspect of society, and we should not allow a small number of fossil fuel companies to overrule the wishes of billions of people for a livable planet. Protecting and expanding democracy demands that we build power with those who have been denied it, and that we invest in grassroots organizations and movements. With the Foundation’s new commitments and mission, we’ll continue to work with grantees to meet the moment and strengthen the movements fighting today’s biggest battles.”
The Foundation also announced today it is committing nearly $500 million in 2024 grantmaking, which is approximately a 40% increase from the Foundation’s 2022 grantmaking levels and far exceeds the legally required standard annual distribution for philanthropies. Up to $100 million will be spent on new program areas.
This expanded spending will support a broad array of initiatives and organizations fighting in various capacities to protect and strengthen democracy, including work around voter engagement and voting rights at the state and local levels with a sharp focus on communities of color and young people; community, faith-based, and rural organizing; efforts to combat misinformation and disinformation; and strategies to address the long- term drivers of our democratic crisis. The Foundation has also made additional grants to support climate justice, focused on ensuring that the potential benefits of recently passed federal legislation reach low-income communities of color.
These commitments build on a strong foundation built over the last 13 years of Barbara Picower’s leadership as founding donor and President. Picower will continue supporting the work of the Foundation in her new role as President Emerita and will continue serving as Chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
“It has been my life’s privilege to establish and lead the Foundation’s work thus far in empowering those in need while advancing social and economic justice. Much of my gratitude goes to our incredible staff and grantees, whose innovation and heart have sustained our mission,” said Barbara Picower, President Emerita. “It’s an honor to pass the reins over to my dear friend and trusted collaborator Deepak. I look forward to continuing to support the Foundation in a new capacity as we advance our mission under Deepak’s steady, strategic leadership.”
With its leadership expansion, the Foundation also announced the addition of six new senior staff members to bolster its new work, including Daniel Altschuler, Chief of Staff; Deborah Axt, Senior Vice President of Community and Worker Power; Jason Garrett, Senior Vice President of Faith, Bridging, and Belonging; Alicia Garza, Senior Vice President of Movement Infrastructure and Explorations; Arianna Jiménez, Senior Vice President of Democracy, Gender, and Racial Justice; and Deepak Pateriya, Senior Vice President of Program Strategy and Management.
Drawing from their deep backgrounds in building, sustaining, and leading social change movements across the country, these new senior staff bring decades of diverse experience advancing the fight for democracy and building collective power on the ground with everyday people.
In addition to the new senior team members, veteran Foundation leaders will move into critical roles in the Foundation’s new structure. Dana Bourland will serve as Senior Vice President of Learning and Innovation, and Betsy Krebs will serve as the Senior Vice President of Reproductive Justice, Medical Research, and NYC Community Grants.
Five new board members will also be joining the Foundation, bringing decades of experience and expertise fighting for social, racial, and economic justice. Those new members include Hahrie Han, Inaugural Director of the SNF Agora Institute and Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University; Mary Kay Henry, International President of the Service Employees International Union; Alan Jenkins, Professor of Practice, Harvard Law School; Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of National LGBTQ Task Force; and Cecilia Muñoz, Former Director of the Domestic Policy Council of the United States.
“Right now, workers across the nation are stepping into their power like never before to rewrite the rules of our rigged economy – and they’re winning,” said Mary Kay Henry, International President of the two-million-member Service Employees International Union. “Their success is a testament to how working people can win widespread, meaningful change through solidarity and collective action. The JPB Foundation has always understood how critical community and worker organizing are to building and sustaining the kinds of social movements needed to build a future where everyone of every race, not just the wealthy few, can thrive. I’m honored to join the Foundation and to support its work to empower working people across our nation from every background in our shared fight for racial and economic justice.”
This leadership expansion will fortify the Foundation’s new work to bridge divides and build power, utilizing a range of perspectives and expertise to build a more democratic, inclusive, and sustainable world. From the country’s leading academics in social movement building to policy experts and leaders in the fights for economic justice, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ+ equality, these new staff and board members have vast experience working on the ground and in our country’s halls of power to empower communities nationwide to achieve systemic change.
“As Executive Director of an organization that touts the tagline ‘Be You,’ I’ve witnessed the power that comes from living our identities out loud during fraught times such as these,” said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of National LGBTQ Task Force. “The problems facing our nation today are deeply interconnected, meaning our fight for a more equitable future can’t just be about one issue – it’s a fight that encompasses bodily autonomy for all, LGBTQ+ rights, voting rights, racial and gender justice, and the state of our democracy. The JPB Foundation has always seen the importance of this fight, and I’m proud to join the board at such a critical juncture.”
Since 2011, The JPB Foundation has provided over $2.5 billion in grants to support nonprofits that work to advance economic justice, health equity, innovative medical research, women’s rights, environmental health and justice, green infrastructure, and more across the United States. Sharpening its focus on building collective power and bridges across communities to achieve a multi-racial democracy, the Foundation aims in its next phase to strengthen the infrastructure of movements fighting to protect and strengthen basic democratic institutions in the face of growing threats against our nation – from growing inequality and assaults on personal freedom to concentrated corporate power. To address the daunting challenges of our time, the Foundation will build upon its legacy to effect systems of change on a grander scale in the battle for a more democratic society.
Elected by the Foundation’s board last spring, Bhargava will lead the way as the Foundation builds on its first decade of success, bringing over 30 years of work in social justice movements to his new role as President. Bhargava is the co-author of Practical Radicals: Seven Strategies to Change the World with Stephanie Luce (New Press, 2023) and co-editor of Immigration Matters: Movements, Visions, and Strategies for a Progressive Future with Ruth Milkman and Penny Lewis (New Press, 2021).
Since 2019, he has been a distinguished lecturer at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Prior to this, he led Community Change for 16 years, where he worked to strengthen the community organizing field and launched coalitions to achieve major policy reforms at the federal level on issues such as poverty, health care, and immigration. More recently, he co-founded a new organization, Leadership for Democracy and Social Justice, which trains, mentors, and supports early and mid-career people working for social change, especially people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, and people from working class backgrounds. He has been on the boards of numerous organizations including the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, the Open Society Foundations, and 350.org where he was Board Chair.
He currently serves on the board of the Democracy Fund.