Dear OSI-Baltimore Partner,
I am writing as a native of Baltimore and a lover and champion of her people. I am writing to you as someone who has publicly and privately celebrated your efforts to serve our community.
I am writing to let you know that, as a part of a strategic revisioning, the Open Society Foundations (OSF) has made the difficult decision to sunset several offices across the globe, including OSI-Baltimore. This decision pains me because OSI-Baltimore has been a staple in the community for more than 25 years. Originally opening in 1998 as OSF’s only place-based office, OSI-Baltimore has evolved into a trusted partner and local leader in social justice philanthropy.
In its quarter century of operations, OSI-Baltimore has helped to catalyze key policy changes, foster new movements, attract national investments to our city, and inspire the local philanthropic sector to support organizations advancing new approaches to the city and region’s biggest challenges. These achievements would not have been possible without the partnership and valued contributions of people like you – residents, community leaders, advocates, donors, and public, private, and philanthropic partners who’ve come together in solidarity to facilitate transformative change in the city that we all love.
Although this is an announcement no leader wants to make, our team has worked day and night to ensure a responsible wind-down strategy. We know that the work of grantees is critical, and we want to ensure a reasonable runway for grantees as many seek longer term philanthropic partners. To that end, my team and I, working in partnership with the national and global leadership of the Open Society Foundations, have secured $20 million to support the near-term stability of our grantees and intentionally uplift the next, exciting generation of leadership in the space of community-centered and social justice philanthropy in Baltimore. My team and I are committed to facilitating this transition with intentionality and care, not wanting anyone to experience undue disruptions or challenges.
We know that we have a responsibility to leave our community better than when we found it. A portion of the funding that we have secured from the Open Society Foundations will enable us to join a larger collaboration of local and national investors in seeding a new initiative that supports Black futures in Baltimore and across Maryland. OSI-Baltimore will invest $6 million in the Maryland Black Futures Fund. Inspired by the California Black Freedom Fund, the Maryland Black Futures Fund will seed Black power-building and movement-based organizations working to challenge systemic racism. The Fund is the brainchild of CLLCTIVLY, a place-based organization centering Black-led organizations. Our investment in CLLCTIVLY and the Black Futures Fund is an outgrowth of our pursuit of economic justice and work to support local actors committed to democratizing access to capital for communities of color and populations of leaders historically marginalized from the economic mainstream.
Additionally, we are convening local and national experts along with grantee representatives to help support a responsible wind-down strategy. This group will help us devise strategies for engaging our broader philanthropic community and civic leadership in OSI-Baltimore’s absence.
We will work through direct outreach, convenings, and strategic communications to ensure that grantees and partners are well-informed about the closure and well-supported through this process. We are exploring partnerships with entities that can deliver technical assistance to grantees in need of aid as many explore new strategies for sustainability.
Finally, despite the very challenging times, we have not lost sight of the importance of properly honoring OSI-Baltimore’s rich legacy and its impact on our community. We are exploring ways to share this story while also highlighting our team, partners, and grantees.
It is not lost on me that our nation, city, and state are in a critical point, and many are struggling to maintain hope. I know that the organizations you lead or partner with are a lifeline for many in our community. We will work diligently to offer support that is both practical and beneficial.
As I close, I want to share that I accepted this position as the director of OSI-Baltimore because I believe that local groups need philanthropic champions and deserve the absolute best in support and resources. I am clear that service to grassroots groups is a privilege and that this calling is a lifelong commitment. I do not take my partnership with you lightly and will do everything in my power to uplift, support, and honor the amazing work of OSI’s grantees and partners in this capacity and beyond.
Danielle Torain, Director