Our Commitment to Immigrant Rights: How We Compare Nationally and What We’ve Learned along the Way
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy published a striking report recently on funding for pro-immigrant movements by U.S. foundations. Among their findings is the unfortunate reality immigrant communities face when seeking resources for their movements:
“According to Foundation Center data, between 2011 and 2015, barely 1% of all money granted by the 1,000 largest U.S. foundations was intended to benefit immigrants and refugees.”
The report also highlights the increasing need for support in combatting anti-immigrant groups and the narratives they spread—and calls for more funding for activist-led organizing, and more equal distribution of resources across the national and grassroots levels. The report shows that 65% of grants went to “national organizations doing litigation and federal policy advocacy through the courts and Congress” while national and state groups shared remaining resources. This means only a small fraction of total grants went directly to grassroots organizations.
This leads us to ask: how do we compare? The question is critical because immigrants make up nearly 38% of Brooklyn’s population. Last year, through both our Immigrant Rights Fund and Invest in Youth grant program, we deployed $929,800 to 44 pro-immigrant organizations—representing nearly 25% of our overall Community Fund discretionary grant funding.
For our Immigrant Rights Fund, we specifically designed an approach aimed at supporting small, grassroots organizations led by trusted members of their communities, which are unlikely to attract the kind of resources large national nonprofits do. The approach starts with a “Request for Conversation” through which nonprofits reach out to us to discuss their immediate and long-term needs by phone rather than through a traditional, potentially onerous, application process. Our IRF grantees are also focused on direct service, community organizing, and policy and advocacy work—all essential components of effective movement building.
In the more than two years since the launch of our Immigrant Rights Fund, we have learned a great deal about the critical importance of supporting grassroots pro-immigrant groups—chief among them is that investing in hyperlocal pro-immigrant strategies and movements has repercussions at the national level.
From Brooklyn Defender Services suing ICE for violating immigrants’ right to due process, to Safe Passage and Legal Aid Society bringing a class action suit in federal court for their handling of child separation at the border, and the large number of our grantees that are leading the ICE Out of Courts campaign—local Brooklyn organizations are making significant contributions to the national fight, and our support for them has never been more important or had greater impact.