Foundation for Black Communities seeks $200 million from federal budget to support Black-led charities

Interesting. During the Conservatives Community Historical Recognition Program, Canadian Ukrainians argued successfully for a World War 1 internment endowment, but for $10 million.

Their main argument was to provide greater flexibility in responding to proposals, which largely has been born out with reasonably transparency on the projects funded. It was easier for the government to agree, given that the Ukrainian Canadian community had an established foundation, the Taras Shevchenko Founcation, with a track record and established governance structures.

But $200m is a big ask:

Eugenia Addy remembers what it was like as a young Black girl in Toronto’s The East Mall, trying to envision her future.

“I grew up in one of the communities that we do work in, and really not being able to see myself represented anywhere on TV [or] in my textbooks,” Addy said. “So to really believe that I could be a scientist or an engineer was something that I literally had to dream about, because I couldn’t see it in reality.”

While pursuing her PhD in chemistry, she met Francis Jeffers, the founder of Visions of Science, an organization that brings interactive science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programming to kids in marginalized communities. Now as the CEO, Addy aims to open doors for others like her.

Umoja operates with just three staff members and a dedicated team of volunteers. Munyezamu says the organization is struggling financially to keep up with so many responsibilities.

“One thing I do every day is fundraising, fundraising, fundraising. Every month. We don’t know where we’re going to get the money for next month,” said Munyezamu.

Source: Foundation for Black Communities seeks $200 million from federal budget to support Black-led charities

Confronting racial bias in government funding

Hard to balance these calls for greater flexibility and unrestricted funding with long-standing government accountability requirements:

The federal government has proclaimed itself committed to the pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion. The 2020 Treasury Board directive calls for an “equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace where no person is denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability or job requirements.” The federal budgeting process is supposed to use GBA+ analysis in decision-making. And yet, the government continues to ignore the entanglement of race in the organizations they fund. This has only served to disadvantage Black-focused, Black-led, and Black-serving (B3’s) organizations.

Recently, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), launched the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative (SBCCI) – a capacity-building funding program. B3’s from all regions of Canada, outside of Quebec, submitted applications in the desperate hope of securing funding. You see, the funding apparatus in Canada, including the philanthropic sector, leaves Black-led organizations and groups that serve primarily Black communities without support to operate at their full potential. A recent report by the Foundation for Black Communities outlined the “miniscule” amount of funding provided to B3s, and how that funding is “sporadic, unsustained, and does not invest in the long-term capabilities of Black community organizations.”

And so when an initiative emerges that lays claim to building the capacity of B3’s, there is a collective hallelujah throughout Black communities. However, for many applicants to the new ESDC funding program, shouts of hallelujah quickly turned into groans of frustration. Organizations such as Black Lives Matter, the Somali Center for Family Services in Ottawa, and Operation Black Vote Canada, disclosed through various media channels that they received emails from ESDC rejecting their applications for funding because “information provided…was insufficient to clearly demonstrate that the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black.”

The grant application required all applicants to “describe the extent your organization is Black-led, serving or focused.” The aforementioned organizations and others easily satisfy this criterion (by a glance at their websites) – Black leadership and service to Black communities are at the core of their being.

Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen responded to the outcry stating that the initial communication sent to organizations like Operation Black Vote Canada was “completely unacceptable” and that his department “has implemented new measures” (details not publicly shared) to ensure such a “mistake” does not reoccur.

Was this a mistake? We will probably never know. What B3’s know with certitude is that when it comes to securing financial support from the government or other funding sources, it’s a vicious cycle. The organizations that tend to get funded are organizations that can demonstrate capacity and effectiveness. But how do organizations increase capacity in the first place? Of the millions of federal dollars in grant money we hear about in the news that are dispersed every year, only a small percentage reach Black communities and B3’s. The federal government should consider this a consequential failure on its part.

Black-focused, Black-led, and Black-serving organizations’ struggle has not been due to a lack of quality programming, ability, innovation, or dedication. They struggle due to a lack of funding and access to resources – funding to increase and strengthen their capacity and unrestricted dollars to operate at their full potential. (Unrestricted funding is not tied to any particular project or initiative, and can be used at the organization’s discretion.) The clientele served by B3’s is the constituency most impacted by injustice, and that regularly navigates multiple systems of oppression.

Further, leaders of B3’s have smaller budgets to work with compared to their white counterparts. Leading these organizations is not merely a job. It is their community. It is their life. And yet, the work they champion remains unfunded and under-resourced.  This leaves the issues and neighbourhoods they advocate for lingering in a perpetual state of community disadvantage.

For many B3’s, their experience with the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiativehas only exacerbated racial inequities and highlighted, yet again, the need for frank conversations about race and funding access.

There are four measurable steps the federal government can take now, to remove the barriers to equitable funding:

  • Explicitly acknowledge that broad change cannot happen without comprehending the reality that the grant-making process still operates in a system of inequity, making the journey to acquiring funding difficult to traverse for B3’s. Things that are not acknowledged remain unchanged.
  • Consult, engage, and convene B3’s in the design of funding programs and disbursement of funding dollars. This ensures an explicit eye toward inclusion and equity.
  • Design funding programs that take into account and provide financial support (e.g. seed funding) to B3’s at distinctly different points in their development.
  • Support B3’s with multi-year, unrestricted funding. This would provide an infusion of resources that would enable B3’s to address the needs prevalent in Black communities in a transformative way; increase organizational capacity and sustainability; and foster transparency and accountability between the government and organizations. This approach also prevents B3’s from being trapped in the annual application cycle.

Federal grant funding access and success are deeply entangled with inequities – stifling the success of B3’s and their ability to drive social change in the communities they serve. Black-focused, Black-led, and Black-serving organizations know that racial disparities matter. The mistakes made in the management of the SBCCI have elevated awareness. This must now lead to deliberate action.

Source: Confronting racial bias in government funding

Unfunded: Black Communities Overlooked By Canadian Philanthropy

While revealing, hard to assess given the absence of comparative data with respect to other visible minority and Indigenous groups. A missed opportunity, IMO, one that weakens their arguments and case:

The COVID-19 pandemic and contemporary anti-Black racism movements have shone further light on the systemic racism and hardships faced by Black people in Canada. The experience of Black people in Canada points to the inadequacy of public policy in addressing the concerns of Black communities. It also suggests that Canadian philanthropy has not sufficiently invested in the well-being of Black communities and Black community organizations.

This research report provides the first systematic, empirical examination of the extent to which Canadian philanthropy has responded to the unique and intersectional challenges facing Black communities. In establishing the social context and lived experience of Black community members, the report makes apparent that the needs of Black people in Canada are both specific and urgent. Despite the clear case for investment, Canadian philanthropy has largely been absent in supporting Black people in Canada. Evidence that illustrates how Canadian philanthropy has failed to meet the needs of Black people in Canada is drawn from the analysis of two sets of original data:

1) Semi-structured qualitative interviews with ten Black and non-Black philanthropic leaders from across the Canadian philanthropic sector; and 2) a review of the funding portfolios of 40 Canadian foundations.

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

Our research and analysis suggest that the Canadian philanthropic sector has failed to support the urgent and specific needs of Black communities in Canada. As the philanthropic sector stands, it lacks the tools and knowledge to support Black communities effectively. Our key findings are:

  • Both public and private foundations underfund Black-serving and Black-led community organizations. Only six of the 40 public and private foundations we reviewed funded Black-serving organizations over the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years, and only two foundations funded Black-led organizations in the same timeframe.
  • Compared to private and other public foundations, community foundations have a better record of funding Black-serving organizations, but both Black-serving and Black-led organizations remain under-funded.All but one of the community foundations we reviewed funded Black-serving organizations over the 2017
    and 2018 fiscal years, but only six funded Black-led organizations in the same timeframe. Across all community foundations we reviewed, grants to Black-serving organizations represented a meagre 0.7 percent of total grants during the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years. Grants to Black-led organizations were only 0.07 percent of total grants made in the same period.
  • The total amount of grant funding going to Black-serving and Black-led organizations is miniscule. Moreover, grant funding is sporadic, unsustained, and does not invest in the long-term capabilities of Black community organizations.
  • Philanthropic and nonprofit leaders see the need for and the potential of a Black-led philanthropic foundation. Such a foundation would allow for the self-determination of Black communities, build the capacity of Black community organizations, ensure collaboration with other foundations to share resources and networks, and challenge the current philanthropic paradigm that wields ‘power over’ people with a top-down flow of resources. They assert that inadequate data, a lack of representation of Black communities in philanthropy, and systemic barriers, including anti-Black racism, have led to a severe underfunding of Black communities in Canada. This has resulted in the philanthropic sector not understanding the needs of Black communities, nor the extent to which they are being supported by the sector.

Source: https://www.forblackcommunities.org/