Established in 1981 by a small group of donor activists, the Peace Development Fund (PDF) is a public foundation that provides grants, training, and other resources to organizations working to “achieve peaceful, just, and interdependent relationships among people and nations.” In PDF’s calculus, peace is not merely “the absence of war or militarism, but … the presence of equitable relationships among people, nations, and the environment.” Proceeding from that premise, the Fund brings what it terms “a social, environmental, and economic-justice perspective to its work.”
“True democratic change,” says PDF, “must take place from the bottom up” and “can only endure with citizens who are both informed and clear about what they believe.” To help cultivate such citizens, the Fund aims to increase “the impact of progressive political work” and “strengthen a broad-based social justice movement” that devotes particular attention to harnessing young people’s unique “ability to reshape our society politically, spiritually and culturally.”
PDF is deeply “concerned about global capitalist economies,” whose hallmarks it describes as “corporate and nation-state hegemony over most aspects of life, and the loss of lands, territories and resources of indigenous peoples.” The Fund also seeks to create a culture wherein “conflicts are resolved through non-violent action and dialogue,” and always with an eye toward valuing “the common good above the comfort of a few.”
PDF laments “the negative effects” of such phenomena as “the United States [being] the world’s sole superpower, neo-liberalism and the globalization of capitalism, the limiting of civil liberties in the U.S. and abroad, decreases in funding for social services, and the continued strengthening of the [political] Right.” Some of those effects, says PDF, “include the widening gap between rich and poor, [the] heightening militarization and use of U.S. military violence, increasing incidences of hate crimes, and increasing poverty and unemployment.”
PDF’s work today has three primary emphases:
1) Grant-making: Between 1981 and 2013, PDF donated more than $26.7 million to almost 2,200 carefully selected groups. Many of these disbursements were made through PDF’s Community Organizing Grants program, which funnels money to groups “that will have a significant impact in their geographic and social justice focus area” in the United States, Haiti and Mexico.
PDF also operates a Donor-Advised Funds program which takes money from donors who specify the groups and causes for which they want it earmarked, and in turn funnels the cash (minus a handling fee) to those recipients. This arrangement enables the donors to take tax deductions for their contributions and to remain anonymous if they wish. One of PDF’s more significant donor-advised funds is the Maverick Fund, which supports “progressive change” in the Central American, South American, and Caribbean countries “hit hardest by abusive U.S. foreign policy.” For additional examples of PDF donor-advised funds, click here.
At “the heart” of its grant-making activities, says PDF, is a desire to constantly chip away at “some of the institutional and structural causes of injustice, whether physical, social, or economic.” The Fund identifies the major beneficiaries of its philanthropy as “grassroots groups organizing in their communities” against unfair “conditions, issues or systems”; organizations of “oppressed and marginalized people”; demographics that are “not served or funded by mainstream philanthropy”; and those “most adversely impacted by systematic forms of injustice and oppression—therefore primarily, but not exclusively, communities of color.”
PDF executive director Paul Haible states that in order for true racial reconciliation to take place in the U.S., white Americans must acknowledge their own responsibility for the past and present suffering of nonwhites: “If we don’t deal with that original discord in our nation, what happened to the original people here, we can never get to a place of peace.”
2) Fiscal Sponsorship: PDF serves as a fiscal sponsor for nearly 50 organizations, both local and international. Under the fiscal-sponsorship umbrella, a group can accept tax-deductible contributions without needing to apply to the IRS for tax-exempt public-charity status. And as a fiscal sponsor, PDF also performs such services as teaching new groups how to run their offices, apply for grants, conduct effective public relations, and handle the many personnel, payroll, and budget problems that frequently baffle novice organizations.
3) Capacity-Building Program: This initiative seeks to “build the capacity of grassroots organizations” through a combination of multi-year grants, training, organizational development assistance, strategic convening, and support for collaboration among groups working on common issues. Since its founding, PDF has trained more than 3,100 people representing over 1,200 community organizations based in the U.S. and Mexico.
Over the years, PDF has awarded grants to such high-profile entities as the Earth Action Network, the Peace Action Network, the Ploughshares Fund, the Scherman Foundation, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Tides Foundation. To view a list of additional noteworthy PDF grantees, click here.
In 2010 the Agape Foundation Fund for Nonviolent Social Change merged with, and was incorporated into, PDF.
In addition, more than 200 mainstream corporations have not only established a mechanism by which their employees can donate money to PDF, but they also match these donations dollar-for-dollar.
 Some highly noteworthy instances where PDF took part in peace and disarmament campaigns include: