In response to an upsurge in anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy, more foundations appear to be awarding grants to frontline organizations fighting for immigrant rights, a report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy finds.
The report, State of Foundation Funding for the Pro-Immigrant Movement (8 pages, PDF), examined funding to a small but representative sample of more than a dozen pro-immigrant groups and found that new funders represented a small fraction of philanthropic dollars supporting the movement. About 90 percent of 2017-18 foundation funding in the NCRP sample set came from funders following up earlier support with a larger grant.
Based on Foundation Center data and conducted by NCRP's Movement Investment Project, the study found that support for immigrants and refugees represented barely 1 percent of total funding from the thousand largest U.S. foundations between 2011 and 2015, with just eleven funders accounting for half of all pro-immigration movement funding between 2014 and 2016. Since the 2016 election, however, a small but representative sampling of pro-immigration groups have identified more than sixty foundations that have provided first-time grants to the movement.
In the report, which includes interviews with movement leaders as well as quantitative data from Candid (formerly Foundation Center and GuideStar), NCRP identified two areas where philanthropic funding can help fill gaps: by funding state- and local-level organizing and by explicitly identifying immigrants and refugees as key constituencies in supporting a broad range of issues, including criminal justice, children and youth, health, and gender equity. Other ways in which foundations can influence the pro-immigration movement include providing long-term, flexible, and capacity-building support to frontline groups; funding organizing efforts and services aimed at addressing short-term needs while seeking long-term solutions; helping grantees access funds from 501(c)(4) groups; working with other funders to ensure that all aspects of the movement have adequate resources and to fund across different social issues; and deploying 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 NoVo Foundation CEO Pamela Shifman, who is 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."