Who: Gwen McKinney, founder and president
Company: McKinney & Associates, a public relations firm that promotes social justice.
Charitable giving highlights: The firm provides grants, ranging from $2,500 and $5,000, to organizations in criminal justice reform.
Tell me about your firm’s philanthropy.
The firm is about public relations with a conscience, meaning you’re in this business not because someone is paying you, but because the value of the work aligns with what you believe. That’s where we began as a company. I have the McKinney Justice Fund, which is maintained by the Tides Foundation, a donor-advised fund. We also do pro bono work helping nonprofits develop a strategic plan or launch a campaign.
On which issue areas do you focus?
Criminal justice reform and the death penalty. It’s an area that needs as much support in terms of public awareness and education but gets very little. The organizations that advance it don’t have the resources to hire communications professionals. They can hardly hire staff. Getting public support is really important to criminal justice reform.
What are some organizations that you support?
Some examples are organizations such as the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and causes like Kemba Smith.
When was the passion for criminal justice born?
I started working for the Legal Defense Fund in 1992. Individual cases were very wrenching for me such as Kemba Smith and Troy Davis.
How was the Justice Fund
I was first on the road to starting a 501(c)3, called Just Communication, which would provide on-site support, marketing communications and professional services to criminal justice reform organizations. We were going to partner with universities and have clinics to train communications seniors in the art and craft of communications for nonprofit criminal justice reform. But instead of the 501(c)3, we did a donor-advised fund.
— Interview with Vanessa Small