Preliminary Data Suggest More Foundations are Supporting the Pro-Immigrant Movement

For immediate release
April 10, 2019 

Preliminary Data Suggest More Foundations are Supporting the Pro-Immigrant Movement 

But grant dollars are scarce in regions where threats to immigrant communities are high   

Washington, D.C. – 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.  

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

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

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. 

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 by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (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 percent 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 firsttime 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 future,” said Aaron Dorfman, chief executive of NCRP. “Funders need to seize the moment because a country where immigrants thrive is one where we all thrive.” 

Untapped potential for grantmakers and donors 

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 percent of 2017-2018 foundation funding in the NCRP sample set came from previous funders giving larger grants.  

NCRPs 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.  

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.

NCRP identified two 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 change,” said Cristina Jiménez, founder and executive director of United We Dream Network and NCRP board member. “It 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.”

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

According to the NCRPs research, pro-immigrant movement leaders have five 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 rights,” said Pamela Shifman, chief executive of NoVo Foundation and an NCRP board member. “Funders 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.” 

State of Foundation Funding for the Pro-Immigrant Movement” includes an infographic of key findings and examples of success stories made possible by grantmakers standing in partnership with movement organizations. The full brief is available online at 

About the Movement Investment Project 

NCRPs Movement Investment Project is a multi-year initiative that will help grantmakers and donors understand the relationship between their giving and the success of social justice movements at the center of critical national debates. The focus for the projects first year is the pro-immigrant and refugee movement.  

About NCRP 

For more than 40 years, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has been amplifying the voice of nonprofits and the communities they serve in the philanthropic sector. Through research and advocacy, it works to ensure that grantmakers and donors contribute to the creation of a fair, just and equitable world. For more information, visit 


Yna C. Moore 
(202) 557-1381