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Vice President’s Message
Equity in Action: The Expanding Opportunity Fund

Our recently announced, full commitment to equity signifies a long-term commitment to base all of our policy and program decisions on achieving the goal to advance fairness, inclusion, and opportunity for all Southern Californians, especially those communities hit hardest by persistent poverty.

This equity commitment is a logical extension of our historical practices, as our Foundation has always prioritized supporting organizations that serve those in need. Now, we will deepen our efforts by identifying opportunities to make greater investments in those people and communities facing the most entrenched challenges. This will mean working with our nonprofit partners in new ways and experimenting with different strategies.

One significant area where the Foundation’s grant guidelines have changed this year is within our Expanding Opportunity Fund (EOF), formerly known as the Small Grant Program. The new and refined guidelines of the EOF are designed to increase our impact in specific areas related to advancing equity by employing an issue-based approach. Nonprofits that focus their work in one or more of the following issue areas are eligible to apply for an EOF grant: Reentry, Immigrant Integration, Education, Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Youth, and Basic Needs

While the EOF was announced just recently, in many ways the Foundation has already been moving toward making larger investments in support of inclusion for people and communities facing the greatest barriers. In fact, a powerful example of equity in action can be found last spring, when we issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to nonprofits working on immigrant rights and integration in the Inland region. This RFP, which was issued through our former Small Grant Program, provides a useful look at how the Foundation will approach advancing equity in different ways moving forward.

Supporting Immigrant Integration in the Inland Region

In May 2016—as part of our Immigrant Integration Initiative and through the EOF—the Foundation partnered with the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ) to shape an RFP focused on supporting a network of community-based organizations in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. These groups are engaged in groundbreaking immigrant rights and integration work in their communities, in spite of being undercapitalized due to the historic scarcity of funding for this region.

Grants in Focus: Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition

In July 2016, the Weingart Foundation awarded 14 grants though a Request for Proposals for nonprofits focused on immigrant rights and integration in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition (IEIYC) is a strong example of the type of organization we are proud to be supporting through this process.

Founded in 2010, IEIYC is a small, grassroots organization led by undocumented youth and based in Ontario, California. They are committed to creating a safe space for immigrant youth regardless of legal status, race, gender, sexuality, educational background and other intersections they hold as crucial to the undocumented identity. One of the only immigrant youth organizing and education agencies in the Inland region, IEIYC organizes undocumented youth and advocates for policies related to access to health care and higher education, wrongful detention, and driver’s licenses. Their informational workshops have reached several hundred undocumented youth, who through IEIYC have been able to apply for DACA, access college scholarships, and apply for Medi-Cal.

The Weingart Foundation’s grant of $25,000 in Unrestricted Operating Support will help IEIYC increase their membership base and build members’ leadership capacity. The organization also plans to use the grant to implement a mentoring and community internship program, and to continue to advance immigrant rights through grassroots organizing and policy advocacy.

We have been inspired by these organizations’ commitment and leadership, and by the impact that they have had in their communities. The ICIJ and its members are active in a range of critically important activities with Latino and Asian American communities, including organizing and advocacy, civic engagement, and direct services to help people access health care, obtain driver’s licenses, enroll in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and become U.S. citizens.

Our goal to reach these nonprofits prompted a different grantmaking strategy for the Foundation, using an RFP to enable us to be more targeted and focused. Together with the ICIJ, we held an informational meeting with prospective applicants in Riverside, where we walked attendees through our grantmaking process.

As a result of the RFP, this past July we announced Unrestricted Operating Support grants through the EOF to 14 grassroots organizations, eight of which we are funding for the first time. Most grantees’ annual operating budgets range from $200,000-$600,000. The grants are all at the full $25,000 level (in the past these types of “smaller” grants ranged from $10,000-$15,000) as part of our effort to provide more significant levels of support to nonprofits in communities up against deeply rooted challenges.

This group of grants illustrates how the Foundation’s commitment to equity is expanding our grantmaking to include organizations we have not previously funded and, in many cases, may not have reached without this intentional focus. In addition, we are looking at ways to provide greater support to communities facing the most obstacles to opportunity, in this case stemming from race, income level, immigration status, language, and geography.

Just as importantly, we are unwavering in our focus to provide unrestricted funding to support organizations’ capacity and effectiveness, and we remain driven by responsive grantmaking based on listening and learning from nonprofits on the ground.

We are continuing to learn from this vibrant network of nonprofits that are leading the way in immigrant rights and integration in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. We look forward to identifying more opportunities to advance equity in Southern California, taking each step in partnership with nonprofits and community members working to effect lasting change.

 


Belen Vargas
Vice President, Programs