Who’s Funding Philanthropy for Boys and Men of Color (and What About Women and Girls?)

It was just last November when the Obama Administration released a report highlighting the need for more investment in support for girls and women of color. At the same time, the White House was responding to criticism that there was no corresponding effort for women to “My Brother’s Keeper,” the Obama initiative for boys and men of color.


Photo: Finalcall.com

The world of funding for racial justice is taking shape in different ways and at different paces for men and boys of color versus women and girls of color. From my analysis of the Foundation Center’s database of grants, it appears that the movement and infrastructure for funding of initiatives for men and boys of color far and away outpace the support for women and girls of color.

So what do some of the big initiatives in philanthropy for men and boys of color look like, and which funders are a good bet if you are looking for funding in this arena?

The largest nationally dispersed investment has come from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich. It began a focused grant-making effort in the race arena in 2008, and in 2010 officially launched “America Healing” with a slate of national grants, and then honed the initiative in on Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans, La.

According to its website, WKKF has made 649 grants related to racial equity since 2008.

Interestingly, one of the biggest grants in this arena for 2015 came from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and went to the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies in New Orleans, Louisiana.

A grant for boys and men to an Institute of Women? This grant is focused on helping interns “develop concrete media and production skills that create new narratives about boys and men of color.”

This three-year $450,000 grant will be used to provide “skill building, on-the-job learning opportunities, effective mentorship and processes that address the traumas and obstacles faced by disadvantaged youth.” In other words, these could be interns of any gender, but the attention of their work will be video production of new narratives about boys and men of color.

In 2015, Kellogg also gave $450,000 to RAI Ministries of New Orleans for the purpose of restoring “faith, home and community” through Camp Restore, a volunteer camp in New Orleans which helps to rebuild homes in New Orleans. Camp Restore “aspires to introduce to the nation and world a more accurate, youth-informed narrative of young men and boys of color” and plans to use the money to train disadvantaged youth, who are out of school and unemployed, as interns at the camp. These interns “will define their stories and share them through interactions with thousands of Camp Restore volunteers.”

Overall, the California Endowment is one of the biggest grant-makers in this area, having made approximately 200 grants since 2003 related to boys and men of color. Here are a few examples of the endowment’s sizable grants in this arena:

  • A $215,006 grant this year to Sierra Nevada Journeys for its Healthy Youth Summer Enrichment Camp. This camp helps boys and young men of color “improve their health and well-being through leadership development and outdoor recreational activities in Northern California.”
  • A $2.5 million, 2014 grant to PolicyLink for the purpose of “Advancing Health Equity in California: To support coalition building and advocacy aimed at healthy land-use and improving the health and well-being of boys and young men of color in California.”
  • The Northern California Office of the National Compadres Network in  San Jose received $491,000 in 2014 for the purpose of supporting health and wellness through the National Latino Father and Family Institute. These funds will go particularly to “training and technical assistance on trauma and healing-informed practices in California.”
  • A $397,670 grant to Second Chance Youth Program of Monterey County in 2014 for the purpose of “strengthening capacity to reduce violence and improve health” for boys and men of color in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.
  • A $300,000 grant for The Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment, aimed at juvenile justice and school climate issues in Los Angeles County for boys and men of color, in an effort to social and emotional health for this population.

Another big grant-maker in this arena is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). In 2015, RWJF supported PolicyLink with a $1,086,464 grant for the purpose of improving “the health of young men and boys of color and enhance their opportunities for success in school, work, and life.”

In 2014, RWJF also gave $130,000 to Frontline Solutions International, LLC, of Philadelphia, for the purpose of supporting staff and infrastructure development for the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color.

RWJF also has an initiative called Forward Promise that received nearly $2.5 million in funding in 2013 to support program that seek “to improve health, education, and employment opportunities for boys and young men of color.”

These funds were particularly for community-based organizations and networks helping young men of color in the Southeast and Southwest United States.

Another important grant-maker in this arena is the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which gave the Urban Institute $50,000 in 2014 for a “boys and men of color research brief.” Casey also makes addressing racial disparity issues a basic tenet of juvenile detention reform work for its partners in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.

Finally, another funder working this terrain and helping to get other funders on board is the Open Society Institute. In June 2008, Open Society Institute started its Campaign for Black Male Achievement, which helped develop BMA Funders, a project of the Open Society Institute and the Foundation Center. In January of 2015, BMA Funders became its own nonprofit organization. Open Society is also a big player in the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color, a collective of over 26 foundations “committed to improving life outcomes for boys and men of color.”

One more to note: between 2012 and 2014, Open Society Institute provided a total of $400,000 to the CEL Education Fund for Color of Change to develop and implement a Black Men and Boys Culture Project and “to support Color of Change’s public education efforts tied to the evolving case of Trayvon Martin.”

Other significant funders of boys and men of color over the past ten years include The San Fransisco Foundation, the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, and Atlantic Philanthropies.

All of this activity does beg the question: What about women and girls of color? Some of the foundations discussed have funded initiatives aimed at women and girls of color, particularly the Ford Foundation and the California Endowment, but not nearly to the extent of their male counterparts.

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