Our country’s success is undeniably rooted in the success of all communities, including immigrants and refugees. Through our Movement Investment Project, NCRP has encouraged grantmakers to help support the inclusive and equitable future that we all deserve by investing in frontline, intersectional movements.
Two years ago, NCRP’s analysis of publicly available funding data from 2012 – 2018 showed that the largest local foundations failed to provide financial support in proportion to the number of immigrants and refugees in their states and the threats these groups faced. The local numbers mirrored national statistics, which found that barely 1% of funding from the nation’s largest U.S. foundations went to organizations serving immigrants and refugees, with grassroots groups being particularly underfunded.
Though individual foundations and funding networks stepped up during the Trump era, were those actions part of a larger trend or just impactful actions outside of the norm? Fundamentally, will the level of funding meet the shifting and emerging threats that migrant communities face?
In the next few months, NCRP will look to answer that question by analyzing and sharing the latest publicly available data around the funding of the pro-immigrant and pro-refugee movements.
Today, we start by looking at one especially underfunded community: Black people migrating and the visionary groups they lead.
BLACK-LED MIGRANT JUSTICE: INTERSECTIONAL, POWERFUL, UNDERFUNDED
Black-led migrant justice groups work at the intersection of many movements: fighting for a just transition because they’ve been forced by climate inaction to migrate; fighting for reproductive justice because our government restricts their personal dignity and bodily freedom; and fighting to build a better economy that recognizes the worth of every worker.
In centering Black communities moving across borders — especially Black women and Black trans folks — these groups honor every person who is caught in the crosshairs of our broken immigration and criminal justice systems.
Groups like The Haitian Bridge Alliance have shown up daily on the border for years, helping immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from all backgrounds get access to safety, shelter and their legal rights.
Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants has fought for fair vaccine access and disaster relief for people of color in urban and rural corners of their state with less than one full-time paid staff.
Unfortunately, philanthropy’s support of these groups – and the pro-immigrant and refugee movement as a whole – continues to woefully lag behind the powerful work that organizations and advocates do.
Between 2016-2020, only 1.8% of all grantmaking in the sector explicitly benefited immigrants and refugees. Pro-immigrant, pro-refugee movement groups engaged in organizing and advocacy receive much less than that – only 0.5% of all philanthropic funding.
An even smaller percentage of that drop in the bucket goes to Black migrant groups. Of the $364 billion dollars of the total currently reported foundation giving through 2020, only $23 million went to Black migrant groups. That’s approximately 1.4% of the 1.7 billion of foundation funding that explicitly benefited immigrants and refugees, .04% of funding explicitly granted for Black communities and less than 0.01% of all foundation grants given in that time frame. 
Philanthropy can and must do better.
AN OFT-REPEATED CALL TO ACTION
Black migrant movement leaders have called on philanthropy to stand by their leadership and fund them at the levels they deserve for years.
NCRP is not the first to echo their calls to action.
ABFE’s 10 Imperatives, issued in the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders, called on philanthropy to “reach to the diaspora,” recognizing that “African immigrants are being targeted in both the U.S (as part of America’s Black population) and other parts of the world.”
Deronee Petsod, the former president of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, noted in NCRP’s 2019 Responsive Philanthropy journal that “Despite their strong connection to community, Black immigrant leaders experience an external lack of trust in their leadership from funders. . . Anti-Black racism . . . in grantmaking shows up as concerns about organizational structure, capacity, financial management, qualifications of the leadership and expertise of staff, to name a few.”
And in their “Investing in Black Leaders” report, the Four Freedoms Fund, a 2020 NCRP Impact Award winner, pointed out that “in meeting the needs of their communities as well as serve in multiple movement roles and spaces, Black immigrant, refugee, and asylum seeker leaders and organizations have been pulled in many directions and are experiencing extreme exhaustion, pain, and duress. These demands are coupled with a historic and systemic lack of investment, tokenism, and anti-Blackness both from the philanthropic sector and in the larger immigrant or racial justice fields.”
HOW FUNDERS CAN SUPPORT
Headlines and annual reports capture only a glimpse of the work that these groups have done with fractions of pennies on the dollar. However, funders have an opportunity to learn from this harm and build a better future. Thankfully, movement leaders have named several ways:
MORE DATA ON ITS WAY
Funders will often say “we don’t fund immigration.” But to say that is to miss the point – and a fundamental opportunity.
Black-led migrant justice groups are on the frontlines of America’s legacies of racism, colonialism, sexism and xenophobia. By funding this leadership, funders can strengthen much-needed support for the pro-immigrant, pro-refugee movement as a whole. And in the process, philanthropy can help achieve a just and thriving future for everyone in our communities: one that celebrates our diversities of race, ethnicity, religion and much more.
What other trends do we see in funding for migrant justice? Stay tuned in the coming months for updated data and new insights.
1 NCRP derived these figures by analyzing Candid data, using the “immigrant rights” subject code, as well as grants to pro-immigrant organizations belonging to coalitions and networks, to create a broad dataset of pro-immigrant and refugee grants. There is no “pro-immigrant movement” code in Candid so it is likely that some pro-immigrant grants were left out of the data, but this is our best approximation of grant data for the ecosystem of organizations in the movement.
For this research, we used this broad dataset to determine funding for Black migrant organizations: groups whose primary community focus is Black immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The Black migrant groups whose grants were included were identified through 1) self-identification in organizations’ public statements, name and mission and 2) with external review from movement leaders.