A RIPPLE, NOT A WAVE: COMPARING THE LAST DECADE OF FOUNDATION FUNDING FOR MIGRANT COMMUNITIES AND MOVEMENTS
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Philanthropic trickle creates no-win regional competition
Funders owe a special debt to local, frontline groups that continue to hold the heaviest load with the least support.
Grassroots groups are the beating heart of the pro-immigrant and pro-refugee movement. They organize community defense, provide critical services and strengthen the power to win local fights that shape the country. As frontline responders, they directly confront anti-democratic and white nationalist efforts that threaten our future. In a global pandemic, they’ve provided a safety net when no one else would.
In return for these heroic efforts, most foundations still offer small grants and unrealistic expectations. Local groups remain underfunded everywhere – even in blue states such as New York and California. But in certain zip codes, grants for immigrants and the critical movement-building work they lead can be especially hard to come by:
• From 2017 to 2020, foundations across the United States only gave $8 per capita annually to benefit immigrants and refugees living in the South. And of this money, just $3 annually went to Southern pro-immigrant and pro-refugee movement groups engaged in advocacy and organizing.
• Florida, New Jersey, Hawaii and Nevada stand out too. In each of these states, immigrants and refugees make up about one-fifth of the community. But immigrants in Florida received just $5 per capita annually from U.S. foundations, with only $1.50 of that going to local pro-immigrant and pro-refugee movement groups. New Jersey saw $3.25 and 25 cents, respectively; Hawaii, $3 and 10 cents; and Nevada, just $1.25 and a quarter.
• Local funders’ support also varies wildly. On average, immigrant communities in New York, California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest and the Mountain West can count on local funders for over half of the grant dollars they receive. Local funders in New York, California and the Pacific Northwest also give a majority of the money that goes to local pro-immigrant and pro-refugee movement groups based there. Meanwhile, in the South and Southwest, local money is much harder to get. The same is true for groups in rural areas and more conservative places across the country.
Foundations cause harm when they force communities to compete for a sliver of the money that should be bigger and more accessible in the first place. No region deserves “less” than what they get now.
In fact, immigrant communities and migrant justice groups everywhere deserve far more support. For example, immigrants in even the most “well-funded” state, New York, would receive more than 8 times more money if funders’ grantmaking was proportional to population.
This money should come from both local and national funders. The disparities in these charts simply illustrate what groups on the ground have known for years: right now, in many places, they’re locked out of both regional and national funding.