The amount of money flowing to nonprofit organizations serving underserved populations and communities of color, and the number of private funders backing such programs, continued to grow in 2012, even as support for those communities from other sources was declining.
Over the course of the year, a number of foundations announced multimillion-dollar commitments to programs designed to address the needs of underserved communities and communities of color. They included the Ford Foundation, which announced a commitment of $100 million over ten years to extend its Ford Fellows program to young scholars from traditionally underrepresented groups; the Lumina Foundation, which awarded $11.5 million to thirteen partnerships working to increase college graduation rates among Latino-American students; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which announced an investment of $9.5 million over three years to improve the health and success of boys of color; and the California Community Foundation, which launched a multimillion-dollar initiative to expand educational and employment opportunities for African-American teenage boys in Los Angeles.
A number of corporate grantmakers also stepped up their support for underserved populations. They included Walmart, which through its foundation awarded $3.35 million to six women's foundations working to help economically vulnerable women achieve financial and economic security; AT&T, which announced a huge, $250 million commitment over five years to improve graduation rates among at-risk youth; and the UPS Foundation, which in February awarded $6 million to nearly a hundred and twenty organizations working to promote diversity and support underserved communities across the country and in June announced grants totaling $6.9 million to support the same kind of work globally.
A number of reports on the state of giving to underserved and underrepresented communities released during the course of the year also served to highlight philanthropy's growing interest in underserved and -represented communities. In January, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation issued Cultures of Giving: Energizing and Expanding Philanthropy by and for Communities of Color (112 pages, PDF), which describes how identity-based funds -- funds specifically designed to pool contributions from donors and redistribute those funds through grants to individuals or organizations working at the community level -- have become essential drivers of social change. In February, Funders for LGBTQ Issues released Forty Years of LGBTQ Philanthropy: 1970–2010 (44 pages, PDF), which found that over the past four decades nearly eight hundred foundations have invested more than $771 million in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities, with a significant portion of that funding -- some 40 percent -- awarded between 2000 and 2006. And in the spring, the D5 coalition released a report (52 pages, PDF) that found a growing number of foundations and grantmaking organizations launching efforts aimed at making philanthropy more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
An article in Louisiana Weekly found more good news, citing the success of the Open Society Foundations' Campaign for Black Male Achievement, which since 2008 has awarded $29.6 million to organizations working to increase educational opportunity for black males and strengthen African-American families; and the Kellogg Foundation's Men and Boys of Color initiative. Around the same time, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy announced that the number of signatories to its Philanthropy's Promise campaign -- an eighteen-month-old effort to encourage grantmakers to provide at least half their grant dollars for the benefit of underserved communities and at least one quarter of their grant dollars for systemic change efforts involving advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement -- had nearly doubled, to a hundred and twenty-five foundations responsible for nearly $3.4 billion in annual grantmaking.
George Soros' Open Society Foundations continues to be an important driver of these efforts, and in the fall, in partnership with the Foundation Center, it released a report which found that philanthropic support for black men and boys has grown steadily over the last decade, from $10 million in 2003 to $29 million in 2010. Two reports released by NCRP in November echoed that finding. The first, The Philanthropic Landscape: The State of Giving to Underserved Communities (6 pages, PDF), found that the share of U.S. foundation grant dollars benefiting economically disadvantaged people, the elderly, women and girls, and other marginalized groups had increased from 33 percent between 2004 and 2006 to 40 percent between 2008 and 2010. And the second, The Philanthropic Landscape: State of Social Justice Philanthropy (6 pages, PDF), found that since 2004 more grant dollars are being classified as social justice grants and that the number of foundations saying that they provide social justice funding at a substantial level has increased.
A final sign of progress was the launch, in September, of the Leadership and Sustainability Institute for Black Male Achievement, a national membership network that aims to support the growth, sustainability, and impact of leaders and organizations across the country working to improve life outcomes and create systemic change for African-American men and boys. Sponsored by OSF, the Skillman Foundation, the California Endowment, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Heinz Endowments, the institute will work to assist advocacy and service programs focused on African-American men and boys that have experienced difficulties in sustaining their own work.
"Black men and boys are challenged by entrenched and systemic problems in need of innovative solutions," said Shawn Dove, who manages the Campaign for Black Male Achievement. "Leaders working in the field of black male achievement have always grappled with a lack of funding, capacity, and momentum. With the strong network of leaders created and sustained by the LSI, we [hope to] create the support system necessary to sustain effective programs and policies that will do much to improve the lives of black men and boys across the United States."