The Ms. Foundation for Women, through its recently formed Activist Collaboration Fund, is granting $275,000 to 15 organizations across the country that are led by and for women and girls of color, trans women and girls of color, and indigenous women and girls.
The Activist Collaboration Fund (ACF) launched in late January and focuses on social justice and movement-building, including fostering cooperation among organizations. The ACF received over 160 nominations from organizations by and for women and girls of color from 35 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
Organizations received from $15,000 to $25,000, and the grantees are the African American Roundtable (Milwaukee, WI), Black Child Development Institute (Denver, CO), Black Trans Media (New York, NY), Black Women Rising (Dayton, OH), California Black Women’s Health Project (Inglewood, CA), Collective Action for Safe Spaces (Washington, D.C.), HEART Women and Girls (Chicago, IL), Marsha P. Johnson Institute (Columbus, OH), Native Movement (Anchorage, AK), Pueblo Critico (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Rise Up Kingston (Kingston, NY), Safe Return Project (Richmond, CA), Solutions NOT Punishment Collaborative (Atlanta, GA), Southwest Women’s Law Center (Albuquerque, NM), and Youth Rise Texas (Austin, TX).
Ms. Foundation for Women President and CEO Teresa C. Younger notes, “This Fund comes at a time when movements for justice and equality face increased political challenges, which have been further intensified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The formal announcement of the grants seems almost prophetic as it occurred on May 27, at the outset of protests against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Younger states, “As multi-pronged attacks on women and girls of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, indigenous, and low-income communities continue, social justice activists and organizations across diverse movements are organically coming together to build stronger relationships and collaborations to defend against threats and proactively strategize toward a future of justice and shared liberation.” Younger concludes, “The Ms. Foundation is proud to play a role in this fight, and welcome fifteen incredible organizations into our network to support their work towards issues of climate, criminal justice, education, and reproductive rights across the country.”
The ACF aimed to make the application and vetting process for grants flexible and accessible, particularly in light of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications came from 501(c)(3) or fiscally sponsored organizations with budgets of less than one million dollars annually and a focus on state or local movements and campaigns. Rather than fund specific programs with narrowly defined ends, the grants seek to strengthen inter-organization bonds and capabilities so as to build trust and understanding; share resources, analysis and strategies; and strengthen healing justice support.
The ACF’s approach to grant making was born of insights that the Ms. staff and its consulting partner, Groundwork Partners, gained in interviewing over 30 activists, movement leaders and funder partners, as well as reviewing published reports. Their “Activist Collaboration Fund Interview & Research Insights” noted that while organizations may be working for the same broad goals, they operate in different regions and face varied political climates, as well as having differing levels of resources and organizational capacity.
Moreover, the organizations awarded grants have a range of racial, ethnic and linguistic constituencies. The first take-away from the research by the Ms. Foundation and Groundwork Partners was that “Movement leaders and activists view ‘collaboration’ as a core function of organizing.” The grants aim to improve that ability, as well as provide additional–and flexible–funding, particularly for small, understaffed organizations.
Since its founding in 1973, the Ms. Foundation has invested over $65 million to build grassroots movements fighting for gender equity, particularly for women of color around the country. In a December 2019 interview with PW, Ms. Foundation President and CEO Teresa Younger noted, “Women of color have been on the frontlines of nearly every movement in this country — from reproductive rights, immigrant rights, and civil rights, to economic justice, and criminal justice reform.”
Other PW articles on the Ms. Foundation have included:
Ms. Foundation Hosts May 20 Feminist Block Party
Ms. Foundation Announces Four New Board Members
Ms. Foundation to Philanthropy: Grow Local Economies by Supporting Low Wage Workers and Childcare Access
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