Caitlin Hamood, Program Officer, Stoneman Family Foundations
“Without equitably-raised adequate revenues we cannot have a functional and thriving society. This really touches all other issues we care about as funders. It’s not that every funder needs to fund tax policy but there is an invitation to all funders to look at how tax policy impacts their work and their ability to build a fair society.”
What is the mission of the foundation and how does addressing economic equity and opportunity fit in?
The Stoneman Family Foundation was founded in 1957. In 2016, it transitioned into two new family foundations that maintain a shared fiscal policy portfolio under the umbrella of the Stoneman Family Foundations. Stoneman’s mission is “to help low-income people achieve independence.” At the heart of this is the belief that everyone deserves to thrive. Equitable and fair public policy is the way that we structure our work. The bulk of our funding is focused around tax policy. We also have a smaller portfolio focused on progressive policy and civic engagement.
What do you see as the big barriers you’re trying to overcome in your work?
The greatest barrier is the tax system itself. Its foundation is inequitable. The system is designed so that low to moderate earners are often paying a greater proportion of their income in taxes than those at the top. For all tax-funded services—whether that’s education, infrastructure, health—the needs of low to moderate earners are not always being met because those with the ability to pay are not paying their fair share. The system is structurally discriminatory, and this is compounded by policies that disproportionately harm communities of color.
As you think through your foundation’s work, what has been some of the work that you have been most proud of?
I am incredibly excited about our work to fund a number of members of the State Priorities Partnership (SPP), a network of state-based research and policy organizations coordinated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. SPP groups use data and analysis to advance policies that give more people the opportunity to prosper. Over the last several years, our work with SPP has included focused investments in Kentucky, Maine, Montana, and Washington, supporting coalitions of diverse partners to work together to achieve new revenues to meet the needs of their communities.
I’m also really proud of our funding of the State Policy Fellowship Program at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This program is designed to expand the diversity of voices that speak with authority in state policy debates across the country. It is field-building work that has made a huge difference over time. Almost all of the alumni are still in the policy field, making important, long-term impacts that shape the course of state policy.
How does being a member of Economic Opportunity Funders help you achieve your goals?
EOF is truly one of the most valuable networks that I engage with. It provides such a rich forum for meeting and working with colleagues in the field. I always come away from EOF events, whether webinars or meetings, with new ideas and insights. EOF is responsive to what’s happening in the moment—it’s topical and relevant. The briefings host incredible thinkers and practitioners.
I am also a member of the Equity, Tax Policy and Community Engagement Discussion Group. I have received great resources through that group and I’m really excited to see the growing number of funders interested in tax and revenue issues.
Do you have any questions or issues on which you’d like to engage your funder colleagues?
At the top of my list is how we encourage funders and their grantees to see the development of progressive tax policy as a way of making progress in many other areas and how we encourage them to see it as a lever to help communities thrive.
I’d also be interested in exploring how my colleagues in the field are working to ensure that all kinds of voices are at the table from the get-go, so that people affected by an issue have an important voice and seat at the table. This represents a fundamental shift in power, so that advocates ask communities, “What do you want us to be advocating for?” It means empowering communities and shifting power and control. I’d love to dig into this with my colleagues.
Another conversation I’d like to have is how we support the work. We’re in a climate where our grantee partners are strapped for resources and at the same time fighting more and more battles. Within this, I’m interested in exploring how we can structure our support so they have the ability to fight those battles and at the same time work on proactive strategies. At the Stoneman Family Foundations, this has meant often providing general operating support and multi-year grants, so that there’s dependable and flexible funding. These approaches have meant elevating trust and giving our grantee partners the power to shape the work in the moment.
What’s something we didn’t think to ask, but you’d really like to share it with your funder colleagues?
Without equitably-raised adequate revenues we cannot have a functional and thriving society. This really touches all other issues we care about as funders. It’s not that every funder needs to fund tax policy but there is an invitation to all funders to look at how tax policy impacts their work and their ability to build a fair society.
Any useful resources to share?
I have a couple:
- Advancing Racial Equity With State Tax Policy—This is an excellent report on how state budget and tax policies have been shaped by discrimination. It sets the stage for righting wrongs through equitable tax policies.
- TOPOS has some great resources for talking about taxes, including the Taxlandia Project Summary—This piece explores ways of effectively communicating about progressive tax policies. It is focused around the question of whether it’s possible to have a balanced, constructive, and engaged dialogue around government revenues and budgets.
Thank you so much Caitlin for your time and support of our network! If you’d like to reach out to Caitlin directly to learn more, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This interview was completed by Sarah Griffiths, consultant to Economic Opportunity Funders.