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Philanthropic Efforts in Racial Equity

Image of Cynthia Campbell, Director of PD&R's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division.Cynthia Campbell, Director of PD&R's International and Philanthropic Affairs Division.

Over the past year, as the nation’s attention turned toward racial inequality, national and local foundations and businesses have stepped up to fund initiatives that support diversity, inclusion, racial equity, and underrepresented communities. HUD’s International and Philanthropic Affairs Division has been tracking these funding initiatives. Below are a few highlights.

The Ford Foundation pledged an additional $180 million in funding to advance racial justice efforts. The commitment more than doubles, to $330 million, the foundation’s planned support for racial justice efforts in the United States. The foundation’s grants have helped support organizations such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund as well as cultural and art nonprofits that serve underrepresented communities.

The Ford Foundation also allocated $50 million for a new Ford Global Fellowship program. Recognizing the need to identify the next generation of social justice leaders, the foundation created the 10-year Global Fellowship program to build a worldwide network of leaders who will address inequality. The first group of fellows will focus on restoring voting rights to those who were formerly incarcerated, advancing LGBTQ rights, and increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities, among other priorities. The program is an innovative approach to prepare the next generation of leaders.

The Kellogg Foundation created a $90 million Racial Equity 2030 Challenge. This challenge calls for innovative and creative ideas to “close the racial equity gap so all children, families and communities can be more confident, healthier and secure in their trust of the systems and institutions that serve them.” The grant competition begins with a 1-year planning grant of $1 million for finalists, then moves on to selecting finalists for the final grant pool. This unique, competitive grant program will help create innovative ideas to address racial inequity.

The Starbucks Community Resilience Fund has committed $100 million over 4 years to support small businesses and community development projects in U.S. neighborhoods with residents who are Black, indigenous, and people of color. A unique component of the company’s philanthropy is its partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to raise awareness of African American history. This grant pool will also help support community development financial institutions and other impact-focused financial institutions.

The JPMorgan Chase Foundation, along with its parent corporation, pledged $30 billion toward advancing racial equity over the next 5 years. This commitment includes efforts to expand access to home purchasing and refinancing loans and downpayment and closing cost assistance along with investments in affordable rental housing, small business support, and research. The funding will be used to increase new home purchase loans for Black and Latinx households through $8 billion in mortgages, assist households with lower mortgage payments by refinancing up to $4 billion in loans, and finance 100,000 affordable rental units through $14 billion in new loans and equity investments. The remaining $4 billion will be used to grow Black and Latinx owned businesses.

The Kresge Foundation continues to provide a grant pool for racial equity work. The foundation committed an additional $30 million to support 60 local and national organizations that are advancing racial justice. The grant pool supports “front-line racial justice organizations in place and nationally, fortifying change led by residents of color, strengthening economies in neighborhoods of color, supporting small businesses owned by people of color, and integrating community systems to facilitate large-scale, lasting transformation.”

The Open Society Foundations has created a $220 million plan to support Black-led organizations. Open Society has set up a 5-year grant program to support Black-led justice organizations that support racial equity. Open Society has programming in several areas, including economic equity and justice and equality and discrimination. The foundation supports U.S.-led efforts to support equality, fairness, and justice, with a focus on marginalized communities. The foundation leads efforts to end mass incarceration and promote drug policies that focus on treatment; they also support community and legal organizations that promote immigrant rights, civil liberties, and human rights.

Open Society offers a unique fellowship for former federal leaders. The Leadership in Government Fellowship Program began in 2016 as a way to highlight and support former senior-level government staff in the United States. The foundation offers grants to former federal employees who have recently left public service and played a significant role in advancing social change from within government. Any former government employee at any level of government, including local, can apply. Fellowship recipients work on a project that “advances policy ideas and inserts their unique perspectives about making change from within government into the public dialogue.”

The Gates Foundation, along with the James Irvine, Kellogg, Raikes, Winthrop Rockefeller, Robert Wood Johnson, and Schultz Family foundations and the Omidyar Network, awarded $100,000 each to 28 organizations to create public campaigns to address and dispel myths about racial inequity and poverty. The goal of the project is to help the public understand the roots of poverty and to help humanize those that are in tougher economic conditions.

The Bush Foundation has created a $100 million fund that will assist two newly created trust funds. The goal will be to address how racial injustice has historically created wealth inequities. The funds will be invested in Black and Native American communities through grants to individuals. The grants will be used to improve generational wealth by investing in education and homeownership. This is a direct way to address racial inequities — building on wealth that future generations can access.

Initiatives from Community Foundations

In addition to major philanthropy, community foundations have stepped up to fund local efforts. The California Community Foundation created the Black Empowerment Fund to invest in Black leaders and community-centered solutions to assist Black communities throughout California. Goals include investing in Black-led organizations focused on systemic change, reversing underinvestment in Black-led organizations, and supporting ecosystems of organizations that are working on advancing Black equity.

Another example is the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, which serves Norfolk, Virginia, and surrounding cities. The foundation received a $1 million grant from Facebook to establish Black Community Partnership Fund. This fund will provide at least 20 grants to Black-led and Black-serving organizations working on equity issues. In a different approach, the Community Foundation of Louisville is reshaping part of their grant strategy to provide more direct funding to Black-led and Black-serving nonprofits in the Louisville region. The goal is, “dismantling systems preventing racial and economic equity while constructing new systems promoting justice.”

There are many more initiatives that could be highlighted. The philanthropy and community foundations of our country have stepped up to help address these issues of racial equity.