People at protest
Credit: Hanbit Kwon

In 1977, a collective of organizers, activists, and donors launched Bread & Roses Community Fund as a home for channeling money to movements for real change in the Philadelphia region. To date, their leadership has unleashed more than $13 million to flow to local grassroots groups taking collective action toward the liberation of all people.

Our Mission

Bread & Roses believes in change, not charity. We organize donors at all levels to support community-based groups in building movements for racial equity and economic opportunity for all. We support movements and their leaders through fundraising, grantmaking, capacity building, and convening.

Our Approach

We believe that a better world is possible. For 43 years Bread & Roses has inspired people to take collective action and create real change in their communities, the Philadelphia region, and beyond. We raise money through donations of all sizes and make grants using a democratic, community-led decision-making process. Our grants go to local groups working for good schools, fewer prisons, better jobs, a safe environment, quality health care, and more.

“Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice that make philanthropy necessary.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We believe that the people in the best position to create real change are those who are most affected by injustice and inequality. We bring people together across issues and provide training to build leadership among people of color, poor and working-class people, people with disabilities, women, and LGBTQ people.

We believe that real change is created by people who have the courage to stand up, the determination to join together, and the resources they need to create solutions for justice.

About our Name

“Bread and Roses” was the rallying cry for striking textile workers in 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts who won overtime pay and better working conditions. The phrase comes from a poem by James Oppenheim published in 1911:

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes.
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

Our History

Our story begins in 1971, when a group of two dozen activists and donors in Philadelphia founded The People’s Fund. The founders were members and supporters of new or controversial grassroots groups, such as the National Lawyers Guild, the Black Panther Party, and Women United for Abortion Rights, that couldn’t find funding elsewhere. So, they decided to pool their own money, do fundraising, and fund the groups that were pushing for real change.

People at protest
Photo: Harvey Finkle

“When we started off, we were explicitly not tax exempt because we wanted to be clear that the money was political,” recalls Rick Baron, co-founder and former board member. “As the groups we worked with developed their own 501(c)3 structures, we transitioned to our own tax exempt status, in part to give us a shot at drawing in larger donations.” In 1977, The People’s Fund became Bread & Roses Community Fund.

“Bread & Roses is very much a part of the community it serves. We aim to have a deeper, more collaborative, and engaged relationship with our grantees,” said Denise Brown, former staff and board member. “We try to devise ways to be more of a partner, and to engage members of the community as decisionmakers,” she added. “That’s what makes it authentic and gives our process integrity.”

Children sitting in front of Bread & Roses Community Fund sign

In 2011, Bread & Roses went through an extensive visioning process to examine how well they were serving the social justice community in the Philadelphia region. “The visioning process came about as a result of wanting to think about what the next decade or more of Bread & Roses would look like,” said Denise Brown. The process resulted in two clear recommendations: to raise more money for the movement, and to promote more power to the changemakers by expanding grantmaking and offering grantees more assistance with capacity building and leadership development.

The visioning process also highlighted and affirmed Bread & Roses’ role as a connector of people and organizations in the region. “We make sure that people interested in racial and economic justice know that there’s a vibrant community of other people like themselves, which is important because the work can be very isolating,” said Rick Baron. Denise Brown added, “often people talk about Bread & Roses as a convener, that we have sufficient relationships that we can bring disparate groups together to have conversations. That’s a unique thing about Bread & Roses.”

“The fact that we survived makes me proud. We went from a naïve, enthusiastic group of young people to an organization that has structure and roots in the community and brings value to the movement, not just money.”

Molly Frantz, co-founder of The People’s Fund, predecessor to Bread & Roses Community Fund