In September, Inland Empire Community Foundation and the Black Equity Initiative – Inland Empire (BEI-IE) invited nonprofits to apply for one of three tiers of IE Black Equity Fund grants that addressed “learning,” “emerging,” and “scaling up.” These grants focused on increasing capacity and offering core support to Black-led organizations. BEI hopes to assist in ending systemic racism as well as building economic and political power for the Black community. This initial round of grants totaled $740,000; individual grants ranged from $10,000 to $75,000.

The 16 inaugural Black Equity Initiative grantees are Curls, Coils, Crowns; Youth Action Project; Magdalena’s Daughters; IE Rebound; Youth Mentoring Action Network; The B.L.A.C.K. Collective; IE Black Worker Center; Community NOW; The Empowerment Center; Nehemiah Charitable Fund; CEEM – Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement of the Inland Empire; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Starting Over, Inc.; Clay Counseling; Sigma Beta Xi; and Victor Valley Family Resource Center.

BEI-IE looked to the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project’s philosophy in the creation of the granting process. This philosophy recognizes “the inherent power imbalance between foundations and nonprofits.” Working with regional nonprofit leaders in the planning process, BEI-IE developed a grant program that gives multi-year, unrestricted funding and centers their leaders in decision-making. Additionally, BEI-IE simplified and streamlined paperwork while striving for transparency and responsiveness.  Grantees are also offered support by participating in peer learning with Initiative leaders.

The “learning” tier of grants will assist organizations that are new to systems change. Grantees in the “emerging” tier of grants have three or fewer years of experience in this work. Acknowledging that there are leaders and organizations in the community that already have a long history in pursuing the goals BEI-IE has identified, “scaling up” tier grants focus on building the momentum of experienced organizations doing successful systems-change work.

The response to the first round of grant applications was overwhelming according to BEI-IE co-founder and Associate Director of C.O.P.E., Felicia Jones. BEI-IE received more than 50 applications to the IE Black Equity Fund.

“While we were only able to award a modest number of grant awards at this time, it was really nice to get to know many of the organizations for the first time and to learn about their work,” Jones said. “We are grateful that this process surfaced organizations that would not have otherwise been on our radar.”

The Fund created a planning committee to establish the granting process, criteria, and funding tiers.  The applications were reviewed, evaluated, and scored by a community review board. Reviewers evaluated and determined the merits of the applicants submitted for alignment with the scope and intent of the fund.  The decisions were difficult, especially knowing that Black-led organizations are under-resourced and so many are doing important work, Jones said. However, reviewing the grants created a comprehensive list of organizations making it possible to share additional funding opportunities and resources with all of the nonprofit organizations.

BEI-IE hopes that this is just the first step in a long-term effort in the pursuit of equity at large. Jones encourages those who can use their voice, their vote, and their power to move racial equity forward.

“The fact that there are resources to invest in Black organizations to pursue power building and systems change work and diversity of work makes me hopeful about our collective work to address black racial justice and equity,” Jones said.

The Fund is a partnership between BEI-IE, IE Funders Alliance and IECF to advance the mission of Black-led organizations in the Inland Empire through core support, program and project support, and capacity building.

Follow along on the blog as we feature these organizations in upcoming posts. You’ll want to learn about the good work they’re doing!