Written by: Jennifer Amuzie

Report following trends in funder support of pro-immigrant and pro-refugee organizations includes funding data through Trump presidency, challenges philanthropic sector to do more 


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) released its newest report on philanthropic support of the pro-immigrant, pro-refugee movement. While there were some promising shifts in the funding landscape with higher philanthropic participation, the overall trend over the last ten years was disappointing as local and national giving for immigrant and refugee justice did not keep pace with overall grantmaking growth in the philanthropic sector. In fact, the proportional share of pro-immigrant and pro-refugee philanthropic funding actually dropped by 11% in the last decade, despite a four-fold sector growth in overall giving. 

Though the United States is nationally underfunded, with each region receiving significantly less than the immigrant population in the region, the South, Southwest and Mountain West stand out. For example, from 2017-2020 foundations only gave $8 per capita annually to benefit immigrants and refugees living in the South. 

Funders also give significantly less support to immigrants and refugees with vulnerable intersecting identities, with groups focused on Black, LGBTQ, Indigenous and AAPI migrants receiving fractions of pennies for each dollar philanthropy spent in migrant justice.  



The consequences of this underfunding are severe. The recent Freedom for Immigrants report from NCRP member organization Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) founds that though Black immigrants represent 6% of the population of people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they made up 28% of the accounts of abuse in ICE detention.

“Every funder who cares about racial equity and justice should be supporting frontline, immigrant- and refugee-led movement groups,” Ben Barge, NCRP Field Director asserted. “There’s a direct line between migrant justice and the progress we want to see in our democracy, in health and education equity, in our broken criminal justice systems, and so much more. It’s past time for the dollars to match that reality.” 

This release is an update to NCRP’s previous reports, State of Foundation Funding for the Pro-Immigrant Movement (2019), which covered national funding for the movement, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor (2020), a state-by-state dashboard exposing the lack of local foundation support for immigrants and refugees in their own backyards. The data in those reports end in 2018, because of a lag in foundation-reported data.   

A Ripple, Not a Wave gives never-before-seen insight into the past decade of foundation giving for immigrant, refugees, and the pro-immigrant, pro-refugee movement and covers the philanthropic response during the anti-immigrant Trump presidency. Foundations started to give more money to explicitly benefit immigrants and refugees after 2016. But this new support was shallow and short lived: funding to explicitly benefit immigrants and refugees only grew from 1.3% of all foundation funding in 2011-2015 to 1.8% in 2016-2020. These new resources peaked in 2017 and 2018, often via one-time special grants. Money for pro immigrant and pro-refugee movement advocacy and organizing, never exceeded 0.4% of U.S. foundation funding in any of these years.

 In light of these findings, NCRP President and CEO Aaron Dorfman encouraged funders to give more boldly. “As right-wing extremists try to consolidate power, they target migrant communities – but this is the tip of the spear that threatens all of us. We can’t afford to underfund the critical movement building that immigrants and refugees lead. The stakes are too high for all of us.” 






The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) has served as philanthropy’s critical friend and independent watchdog since 1976. We work with foundations, nonprofits, social justice movements and other leaders to ensure that the sector is transparent with, and accountable to, those with the least wealth, power, and opportunity in American society.  


 Our storytelling, advocacy and research efforts, in partnership with grantees, help funders fulfill their moral and practical duty to build, share and wield economic resources and power to serve public purposes in pursuit of justice.  


Together, we can create a just and equitable world where all communities get the resources they need to thrive.