Emerging data suggest more foundations are supporting the pro-immigrant movement

However, grant dollars are scarce in regions where threats to immigrant communities are high.

Written by: Kristina ("Yna") C. Moore

Date: April 10, 2019

With the upsurge in anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy under the Trump administration, more foundations seem to be making grants to more than a dozen pro-immigrant frontline organizations.  

Although this is promising news for the pro-immigrant movement, complete data on funding after the 2016 presidential election is not yet available. And the increase covers merely a fraction of what movement groups across the country need to mobilize communities, provide critical services and mount campaigns against hate and hate-based policies. 

The pool of foundation funders supporting the pro-immigrant movement is small.

The pool of foundation funders supporting the pro-immigrant movement is small.

Foundations and donors have an opportunity to sharpen and deepen their commitment to a future where all communities thrive by investing in the pro-immigrant movement. 

A promising trend 

Research from NCRP’s new Movement Investment Project indicates that in the years prior to the 2016 elections, support for immigrants and refugees represented less than 1% of all foundation funding. Only 11 funders accounted for half of all pro-immigrant movement funding.  

During the first half of the Trump presidency, NCRP’s small, but representative, sampling of pro-immigrant groups found that more than 60 foundations provided first-time grants to the movement. 

“Philanthropy can’t stay on the sidelines as community-powered organizations are holding the line, working to move us closer towards a safer, healthier and stronger futureFunders need to seize the moment because a country where immigrants thrive is one where we all thrive.”

– Aaron Dorfman President & CEO, NCRP

Untapped potential for grantmakers and donors 

 Geographic regions where threats to immigrant communities are high received disproportionally low foundation grant dollars in 2014-2016.

Geographic regions where threats to immigrant communities are high received disproportionately low foundation grant dollars in 2014-2016.

State of Foundation Funding for the Pro-Immigrant Movement found that the movements new funders represented only a fraction of philanthropic dollars going to pro-immigrant movement groups. About 90% of 2017-2018 foundation funding in the NCRP sample set came from previous funders giving larger grants.  

NCRP’s extensive interviews with movement leaders as well as quantitative data from Foundation Center found a large gap between the small pool of funders and the urgent and long-term threats that immigrant communities face.  

NCRP identified 2 specific areas where philanthropic investments can go a long way to fill these gaps: 

  • Funding state- and local-level organizing to strengthen and grow immigrant communities’ ability to defend against threats such as deportations and anti-immigrant policies. 
  • Explicitly identifying immigrants and refugees as key constituencies in supporting a broad range of issues such as criminal justice, children and youth, health, gender equity and more. 

“This groundbreaking project reveals the truth about the under-resourcing of immigrant communities by philanthropy as well as examples of how long-term and strategic investments have delivered real changeIt is my hope that this project sparks a new outlook on support for immigrant justice movement organizations, which every day are fighting to survive and make progress on a wide range of fronts that impact all people.” 

– Cristina Jiménez
Founder and Executive Director
United We Dream Network and NCRP Board Member   

Opportunities for foundations and donors to invest in a vibrant, inclusive future 

According to the NCRP’s research, pro-immigrant movement leaders have 5 recommendations for funders:  

  • Give long-term, flexible and capacity building support to frontline groups. 
  • Fund organizing and services to address short-term needs while seeking long-term solutions. 
  • Help grantees access 501(c)4 dollars so they can use a greater range of strategies. 
  • Work with other funders to ensure that all aspects of the movement have adequate resources and to fund across different social issues. 
  • Deploy philanthropic social capital and networks.  

“There could not be a more urgent time for funders to support movements for social justice – especially immigrant and refugee rightsFunders must show up as allies, providing flexible, long-term support and building partnerships that offer movement leaders the space and solidarity they need to advance change.”

Pamela Shifman
President & CEO 
NoVo Foundation and NCRP board member

Check out the State of Foundation Funding for the Pro-Immigrant Movement, which includes an infographic of key findings and examples of success stories made possible by grantmakers standing in partnership with movement organizations.