In February 2023, Open Society Foundations (OSF) announced the difficult decision to close the OSI-Baltimore office and discontinue intensive place-based funding and local engagement in Maryland. OSI’s wind-down is part of OSF’s global shift toward greater consolidation and focus, allowing it to most effectively address the battle for democracy, pluralism, and individual rights around the world. Following the announcement, our immediate priority became ensuring a responsible transition plan that honors the 25-year legacy of change achieved by our grantees and partners.
Guided by the leadership, vision, and deep commitment of the director, Danielle Torain, we developed and implemented a strategy designed to minimize the negative impact on the community and sustain positive momentum for social justice efforts. Elements of the wind-down strategy included:
Leveraged funds: Supported by generous allocations from Open Society Foundations and Open Society–U.S., OSI-Baltimore secured $20 million to support our grantees’ near-term stability and make transformative investments in CLLCTIVLY to launch the Maryland Black Futures Fund and continue support for local leaders.
Tie-off grants to current grantees: OSI-Baltimore issued final grants to all current grantees. The grants were equivalent to at least one to two years of funding and were as flexible as possible. (See pp 8-17 for a list of all grantees.) The goal was to support near-term financial stability, allowing organizations to plan for longer-term sustainability.
Sustainability-focused technical assistance: Recognizing that many grantees have a long-term partnership with OSI-Baltimore and are highly dependent on this source of funding, we awarded a grant to Progressive Multiplier to provide bespoke trainings and technical assistance to OSI-Baltimore’s grantee cohort. Resources include monthly training sessions, fundraising tools and templates, and up to 16 hours of one-on-one strategic assistance.
Transparency: We hosted several informational briefings for members of the grantee community to ensure they were fully aware of the wind-down plan and available support and resources. We offered regular communication through a video announcement, postings, and emails about the grant making process. In addition, OSI-Baltimore director Danielle Torain engaged in a mix of proactive and responsive engagements with local and national media to raise positive awareness of OSI’s responsible wind-down effort.
Local funder engagement: We partnered with the Maryland Philanthropy Network to host a briefing for local foundation leaders. The purpose was to share an overview of the wind-down strategy, to explore implications for the nonprofit and foundation communities, and to spur and facilitate continued investment in social justice and movement efforts.
Opportunities to share reflections: Recognizing that OSI-Baltimore’s closure provoked many emotions within the community, we offered our partners the opportunity to share their reflections through videos and written communications. These warm and heartfelt sentiments can be seen on our website.
Furniture and office supply donations: OSI-Baltimore donated all its furniture, office supplies, books, and other items to grantees and local nonprofits. These items will furnish the new office space for several grantees and many organizations collected hundreds of dollars’ worth of office supplies.
Celebration: On September 27, 2023, our community came together to commemorate the end of OSI-Baltimore’s presence in the community and to celebrate our shared impact and lasting legacy. (See pp 18-19 for pictures of the event.)