Comment on Rejecting Federal Education Funds

The Maddox Fund submitted the following comment to the members on the committee reviewing a potential rejection of $1.8 billion in federal education funding.

Dear Members:

The Dan and Margaret Maddox Fund is a nonprofit foundation whose mission is to better our community through partnerships that improve the lives of young people and protect the natural environment. We are reaching out regarding the working group starting on November 6 that will be discussing the state’s rejection of federal education funds.

In this working group, we hope that you will remember that federal dollars make up 11% of Tennessee school districts’ revenue.  The rejection of these funds will negatively impact students from low-income backgrounds, those in rural communities, students with disabilities, and those facing homelessness. 

Since the Maddox Fund’s inception, we have committed over $23 million in funding to education and youth – serving nonprofit organizations working in the 41-county Middle Tennessee region.  However, we know that this is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to ensuring that every student has access to a nurturing learning environment.  Private philanthropic institutions have often been called to meet resource gaps in the community but refusing $1.1 billion in federal funding would create a need far too great for local funders to fill.

We hope that you will consider the above as you discuss the proposal.  The Maddox Fund is also available to answer any questions you might have.  Thank you for your work to help ensure that our students have the resources they need to thrive.

From the Dan & Margaret Maddox Fund

For any questions about our comment, please feel free to email

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2023 Grant Announcements

The 15th year of grantmaking at the Maddox Fund was an exercise in unlearning. Instead of reverting to traditional practices, we stretched ourselves to live more intentionally into our vision of a world in which people and planet flourish together in regenerative systems free from oppression and threat. Unlearning isn’t easy. Imagining a liberated world hidden behind a veil seems impossible, but with practice we have a chance to glimpse that longed-for future for which we strive.

This year the Grant Committee noted that words like budgets, outcomes and measurements gave way to the more relational language of trust, co-creating, healing and justice. These North Stars were centered in every discussion, as was our priority to fund more organizations that have been historically and systemically starved for the funding they need to bring about change in their communities.  Our funding areas—youth and the natural environment—remained unchanged.

In the spirit of transparency, you can find the last 5 years of grantmaking on our website—including 2023. So that data can become knowledge that transforms our actions, we offer this analysis of our 2023 grants to date in comparison to our 2018 grantmaking:

 Total GrantsAdvocacyBIPOC-led
2018$2.1 million8% of funding17% of funding
2023 YTD$1.4 million33% of funding77% of funding

The Maddox Fund will also have two participatory grant processes later in the year. $100,000 will be allocated to the community by HBCU students and an additional $100,000 will be distributed to area nonprofits by LGBTQI+ young people. To stay informed, follow us on ​Facebook and Instagram.

The Maddox Fund was disappointed that we did not receive more applications to support LGBTQI+ led advocacy organizations working with young people — only 4% of our funding year-to-date went to address this pressing need.   For that reason,   the Maddox Fund has set aside an additional $100,000 to support LGBTQI+ advocacy. Clearly, a mere 4% won’t bring justice for a community under attack.

Liberation is only as permanent as our practice. The Grant Committee knows there is more internal work required to ensure that equity, justice and liberation are normalized, formalized and woven into the fabric of the Fund. As a learning organization, we are convinced of and committed to the relentless pursuit of that practice.

2023 RFP Grant Partners

Organization Name Grant
Conexion Americas $ 40,000
Equity Alliance $ 60,000
Futuro Inc $ 40,000
Launch Pad $ 55,000
Music City Construction Careers Inc $ 20,000
Nashville Freedom School Partnership $ 50,000
Nashville International Center for Empowerment $ 30,000
One Willco $ 30,000
Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi $ 30,000
Salama Urban Ministries $ 40,000
Southern Movement Committee $ 60,000
Sunrise Movement $ 50,000
Tennessee Educators Of Color Alliance $ 62,000
Tennessee Immigrant And Refugee Rights Coalition $ 50,000
Tennessee State University Foundation (Environmental Career Exploration) $ 25,000
Tennessee State University Foundation (Nashville Environmental Justice Initiative) $ 40,000
The Education Trust $ 25,000
Waterbear $ 25,000
Why We Can’t Wait $ 30,000
Women of Color Collaborative $ 30,000

2023 Grant Announcements Read More »

Where We’re Headed: Learning and Unlearning

As we pilot our re-designed grant program, it is tempting to recount the Maddox racial equity journey with you—charting our work from 2017 to now, both our learning and unlearning. But instead, I’ll point you to the timeline on our website and the series of blog links that appear below. Suffice it to say, change has come through intentional and ongoing struggle.

What will remain the same going forward is our mission—to make Middle Tennessee a better place through partnerships that improve the lives of young people and protect the natural environment. What will change are our grant strategies and practices in hopes of contributing to a more equitable, just and liberating tomorrow.

Where We’re Headed: Learning and Unlearning Read More »

Seeking Input from Partners

Over the past few weeks, we have heard from 50 nonprofit partners with input on our redesigned 2023 grant process and priorities. You have made us think, asked essential questions and ranked our future focus areas. Thank you.

Before the Maddox Grant Committee meets to put the final touches on the 2023 grant program, we are inviting your final thoughts and input.  All input before June 30 will be part of the Grant Committee’s conversation.

You can access the slides from the recent partner meetings here.  You can also use the Mentimeter survey to share your thoughts and to rank the sub-categories under Youth and Conservation.  All input before June 30 will be part of the Grant Committee’s conversation.

As always, if you have questions, please reach out to Kaki or Joseph directly:


As a reminder, we have also created a permanent feedback button on our website so you can share your thoughts anonymously at any time.

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Transformation Toward Liberation

As an attorney, so much of my work is seeking justice for past wrongs—who was hurt, what restoration can be offered, what sort of punishment fits the crime, etc.  At Maddox, I’m inspired by our shared commitment to making justice a future reality by dismantling historical systems that have marginalized our neighbors and creating new liberating systems to take their place.  Understanding how we put diversity, equity, inclusion, justice – and now, liberation (DEIJL) – into organizational practice has occupied much of the energy of the Maddox board and staff in 2021.

The Maddox Fund promised to keep our partners informed as we continued our DEIJL journey.  We are committed to transparency and want you to know about our discernment and struggles along the way.  Your questions – and challenges – are welcome as we learn and grow together.

Transformation Toward Liberation Read More »

Youth Philanthropic Advisory Board Application Open!

The Dan and Margaret Fund is pleased to announce the Youth Philanthropic Advisory Board applications are open! This participatory grantmaking initiative is an effort to share power and integrate the voices of the community in processes. We are currently accepting applications for youth (ages 16-19) to be a part of the inaugural class of advisory board members.  The Youth Philanthropic Advisory Board will also receive a $1,000 stipend for participating.

Youth Philanthropic Advisory Board Application Open! Read More »

Needing More Than a Fresh Coat of Paint

For more than 25 years, I worked with nonprofits providing affordable housing. We were always on the hunt for a house or an available apartment building. I learned to love the smell of fresh paint but also knew to bring an experienced inspector with me.  New paint looks good but frequently covers a myriad of structural issues.  Only by looking beneath the veneer of fresh paint could we know the integrity of the house’s foundation and framing.

On the surface, Maddox has made progress living into our racial equity imperative. Our 2021 grant analysis reveals that we are supporting partners with more diverse boards and more organizations led by and for BIPOC communities (Black, Indigenous and People of Color).  We have added partners committed to the movement building essential to systemic change.  Even our Opportunity (out-of-cycle) Grants have grown to be more responsive to the unique challenges faced by Black and diverse leaders.  Our 2021 Young Professional Scholarships at CNM will focus on BIPOC leadership development.

But upon deeper inspection, the Maddox Fund’s policies and practices have perpetuated racial inequity. Examining our most recent 5-year comparison, we found that:

  • The 5 organizations that have received the largest cumulative levels of funding since inception are all white-led organizations
  • Out of the 9 organizations receiving more than $200,000 in total funding, none are BIPOC-led*
  • Out of the 33 organizations receiving more than $100,000 in total funding, only 3 of them are BIPOC-led

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