San Antonio nonprofit SA2020 closes, says funders refused to back its racial equity work

The group said its funding drop-off intensified after it posted a statement calling for a Gaza ceasefire.

click to enlarge SA2020 was formed 13 years ago to use data and community input to advocate for San Antonio's future priorities. - Shutterstock / Sean Pavone
Shutterstock / Sean Pavone
SA2020 was formed 13 years ago to use data and community input to advocate for San Antonio's future priorities.
San Antonio nonprofit SA2020 is shutting down amid donor backlash over a statement the group released in November calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and accusing local leaders of "enabling" Israel's military action there.

"In the wake of our statement on Palestine, local funders withheld payment on existing grant contracts, threatened our 501(c)(3) status, sought to control our public communications, and pressured us to remain silent," the group said in a statement posted Tuesday on its website. "Twenty percent of our nonprofit partners withdrew their partnership with SA2020, many citing a desire to remain 'politically neutral.'"

In its Nov. 8 Facebook post, SA2020 criticized San Antonio-area leaders for "enabling" Israel's bombardment and invasion of the Gaza Strip in retaliation for attacks Hamas made against Israeli civilians. The Facebook post also accused the Israeli government of genocide and called for a ceasefire.

SA2020's last day of operation will be March 28, according to the statement it released Tuesday.

SA2020 was formed 13 years ago to use data and community input to advocate for San Antonio's future priorities. The group arose from an initiative then-Mayor Julián Castro launched to set long-term objectives for the city.

In recent years, under the leadership of Executive Director Kiran Kaur Bains, the City of San Antonio's first chief equity officer, SA2020 has focused on racial equity. That focus included backing a pair of controversial ballot initiatives seeking criminal justice reform. Both were opposed by the city's powerful police union.

Those political moves stirred controversy among financial backers, including the city, which yanked $150,000 in annual funding over SA2020's support of Proposition A, a sweeping justice-reform proposal that voters rejected in May 2023. That measure, which sought to codify and expand SAPD's cite-and-release program, faced strong opposition from City Hall insiders.

In Tuesday's statement, SA2020 leaders said they interpret the backlash from funders as a pushback against the group's work advocating for racial equity. They accused local institutions of holding back San Antonio's progress by withdrawing their financial support.

"This is why dissolving is the most visionary thing we can do," the statement reads. "We refuse to be silenced or to skirt our organizational values of leadership, community, and accountability to secure funding or 'a seat at the table' where decisions are made. That would be a disservice to the shared community vision."

SA2020 tracks data on more than 50 metrics related to San Antonio, including in the areas of education, poverty and the environment. Groups including the Brookings Institution, the American Institutes of Research and the UK's Industrial Strategy Council have profiled SA2020's work.

In comments made to the Express-News, Bains said she knew the group's Facebook post on the Israel-Palestine conflict would draw backlash. However, she said she was surprised that it was the biggest the group had so far experienced.

"[W]hat we're finding over and over again is that SA2020 has gotten better at doing our mission of driving progress and specifically doing it through racial equity, it's like the backlash from institutions has become greater," Bains added.

SA2020's data, reports and stories will remain online through September, according to its website.

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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