Communities thrive when investments embrace fairness, diversity, and inclusion.
Though IECF’s principles always have been grounded in fairness and inclusion, we took aim in 2020 at strengthening and centering our commitment to equity when our Board of Directors adopted equity – racial, gender, and economic – as the lens by which we will develop programs, partnerships, and grantmaking. When we look at data, we see clearly where disparities exist and for whom. Donors and fund holders serve as essential partners in our efforts to provide greater self-determination, health, and opportunity for the powerfully diverse Inland Empire population. We are acutely aware that positive change for those most impacted by systems that have ignored racial, gender, and economic disparities must happen more quickly.
We had already started practicing trust-based philanthropy, an approach that addresses inherent power imbalances between funders, nonprofits, and the communities they serve. Intentionally putting more trust into the grantmaking process redistributes power and builds relationships based on transparency, dialog, and mutual learning.
In 2021, we deployed our emerging equity framework through our Community Impact Fund by transforming discretionary grantmaking from capacity building to supporting the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) journeys of our nonprofits. Grants were provided to Inland Empire nonprofits, collaboratives, and coalitions whose missions, governance, staffing, and joint-venture relationships prioritize DEI and its role inside their organizations and externally in the communities they serve. In 2022, the initial round of grants from this fund awarded $589,500 to 40 nonprofits.
The foundation’s focus on social justice included IECF and The James Irvine Foundation supporting the formation of Just San Bernardino, or Just SB, a collaboration involving community-based organizations interested in shaping a human-centered economy. The project began with developing strategies in response to historic and growing disparities in education, health, housing, and employment. The resulting People’s Plan for Inclusion launched in March 2021 with a $2.7 million Irvine Foundation grant. In March 2022, Irvine issued a three-year grant of $9,345,000 to support the continued operation and development of the coalition. Increasing our resources for uplifting all people of the Inland Empire, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in May 2020 provided the financial resources to fulfill IECF’s Educational Equity Initiative. The grant of $1 million over two years was invested in nine community-based organizations working on educational issues, including curriculum development and teacher training. It allowed IECF to hire a director of policy and governmental affairs to elevate community voices in educational reform and equitable achievement in K-12 systems.
Formed in 2020, the IE Black Equity Fund completed its first historic round of grantmaking. In September 2021, the Black Equity Initiative of the Inland Empire, in partnership with IECF and the IE Funders Alliance, invited nonprofits to apply for one of three tiers of IE Black Equity Fund grants geared toward core sujpport of Black-led organizations. With the BEI’s mission to end systemic racism and build economic and political power for the Black community, this inaugural round of 16 grants totaled $740,000. Recipients fell into three categories: “learning” (orgnaizations new to systems change), “emerging” (organizations with three or fewer years of experience in systems change), and “scaling up” (organizations with momentum in successful systems-change work).
COVID-19 also exacerbated inequities and heightened need among historically underrepresented students, including low-income students, girls, and students of color. To combat these discrepencies, IECF received $2.7 million through the Expanded Learning Advancing Educational Equity Program to expand learning and advance educational equity for students ages 5 to 19 residing in San Bernardino County. In the summer of 2022, IECF awarded $1,162,900 to 10 organizations with before- and after-school programs to help address learning loss and gaps caused by the pandemic. Most recently, IECF secured supplemental funding through the Helen and Larry Hoag Foundation to strengthen similar programs benefitting students in Riverside County.