A RIPPLE, NOT A WAVE: COMPARING THE LAST DECADE OF FOUNDATION FUNDING FOR MIGRANT COMMUNITIES AND MOVEMENTS
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How Funders Forget Migrant Marginalized Identities
Within an already underfunded movement, Black, AAPI, Indigenous, refugee, and LGBTQ migrant justice groups do groundbreaking work, and their budgets deserve to be made whole.
For years, migrant communities with marginalized identities have labored to ensure that their needs are prioritized at the bargaining table. Inside an underfunded movement, these leaders answer the phone when few others can. They provide sanctuary to folks who have nowhere else to go. They build brilliant campaigns, and the movement is so much stronger for it. But philanthropy is still catching up:
• Black migrant justice groups received less than 2% of all funding for the movement, 0.04% of funding explicitly granted for Black communities in general, and overall less than 0.01% of all foundation grants given during 2016-2020. It’s a missed opportunity. In centering Black communities moving across borders – especially Black women and Black trans folks – these groups lift up every person caught in the crosshairs of our broken immigration and criminal justice systems. For years, Black migrant movement leaders have called on philanthropy to trust them, echoed by sector advocates like A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities (ABFE) and Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR), most recently with the Black Migrant Power Fund’s $10 million call to action. By funding Black migrant justice groups, funders who spoke out against anti-Black racism during the nationwide uprisings in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020 have an opportunity to deepen that commitment.
• In the same time frame, migrant justice groups rooted in the Asian and Pacific Islander diaspora received just 5% of the movement’s funding. This underfunding mirrors broader trends, including the fact that AAPI communities only account for 0.20% percent of all U.S. grantmaking. AAPI-led groups in the pro-immigrant and pro-refugee movement are already combatting anti-Asian violence, overcoming persistent exclusion and pushing for wins that reflect dozens of communities’ distinct needs. Philanthropy must step up too, providing data that honors the radical diversity of the diaspora and funding folks at the levels they need to thrive.
• LGBTQ migrant justice groups also received less than half a percent of the movement’s funding. While this is double the share they received 5 years earlier, it’s a small fraction. This funding was 0.6% of all funding for LGBTQ communities during this time. This too was triple the share from 5 years prior, but pennies of pennies are a hollow victory. This, too, is a shame: LGBTQ justice and migrant justice are inextricably linked. Especially as anti-immigrant and anti-trans attacks increase, LGBTQ migrant communities deserve philanthropic allies ready to back up their words with action.
• Refugee justice groups in the movement, in turn, received 15% of the movement’s funding in the last 5 years. Support from philanthropy will be crucial as refugee-led groups continue to rebuild and re-organize after the Trump administration’s decimation of government-funded resettlement agencies. As Basma Alawee from NCRP nonprofit member We Are All America noted, “when funders build, share and wield power with refugee leaders in the South like myself, progress – and systemic change – can be achieved.”
And while current foundation reporting makes calculating specific numbers difficult, philanthropy also particularly underfunds Muslim, Arab, and Middle Eastern migrant justice groups. The same is true for groups led by undocumented folks, immigrants with disabilities, and migrant communities with criminal records, which see the cracks and organize solutions at the places where our legal and moral systems fall short.
These communities obviously overlap. And immigrant communities and the pro-immigrant and pro-refugee movement deserve much more funding as a whole. But by knowing where grants have fallen short before, philanthropy can start filling this funding gap and avoid these blind spots at the same time.