The Cleveland Foundation has announced an initial $2.5 million in funding for the creation of the Cleveland Black Futures Fund, designed to invest in and strengthen Black-led and Black-serving social change organizations.
updated sept. 1, 2020, 1 P.m. EST
An Introduction to the Fund
This summer, in the midst of a global pandemic, we have borne witness to what is believed to be the largest civil rights movement in the history of the United States. As more people across our community and our country engage in a long overdue reckoning with the ugly reality of structural racism in America, many of us are thinking about our experiences and roles in this reality – individually and collectively.
In the field of philanthropy, we must be honest about our historic shortcomings in addressing the devastating racial disparities that so directly impact our work. The Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) has reported on the significant inequities that exist within the national philanthropic field at a time when outcomes and disparities for Black children, families and neighborhoods in many areas have widened.
While structural racism is a problem affecting our entire country, the movement for Black lives has resonated in Greater Cleveland for deeply local reasons. According to 2018 research from The Center for Community Solutions, Black residents in Cleveland are more likely to experience higher rates of infant mortality and childhood poverty, be overrepresented in the criminal justice system, be disproportionately represented in lower wage occupations and have shorter life expectancies – all of which cross socioeconomic boundaries.
The Cleveland Foundation and our donors have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to improve education, housing, job opportunities and access to healthcare in our community. And while these investments have improved the quality of life for individuals and families in Greater Cleveland, they have not yet eliminated the disparities that exist along racial lines. More than 50 years after the Fair Housing Act, our city remains one of the most racially segregated in the nation – both geographically and in terms of educational, economic and health outcomes – among other measures.
The launch of the Cleveland Black Futures Fund, seeded with $2.5 million to invest in and strengthen Black-led and Black-serving social change organizations, is just one step in what must be a long-term community-wide effort to dismantle racist systems that have made communities of color vulnerable for generations. As the Greater Cleveland community’s foundation, it is incumbent upon us to respond to the place where the need is greatest, and there is no doubt that the need is great in Cleveland’s Black community. With the understanding that those who are closest to the problem are often closest to the solution, the fund will elevate specific interventions to strengthen the ecosystem of Black leaders and Black-serving organizations in Greater Cleveland by providing intentional resources to help grow organizational infrastructure and capacity. Long-term, the foundation aims to deepen the field of leaders working to dismantle systemic racism and advance the community toward racial equity.
The Cleveland Black Futures Fund builds on the ongoing work of the African American Philanthropy Committee of the Cleveland Foundation (AAPC), which has promoted awareness and education about the benefits of wealth and community preservation through philanthropy since 1993. Established in 2010, the African American Philanthropy Committee Legacy Fund supports a variety of organizations within the African American community of Greater Cleveland. The Cleveland Black Futures Fund will complement the impact of the AAPC and its Legacy Fund, offering an additional pool of resources to support the Black community in Greater Cleveland.
The Cleveland Foundation recognizes that racial inequity is not a simple Black-white divide. However, the needs of various racial and ethnic communities are too vast for one fund to address. The effects of systemic racism on non-Black communities of color must be addressed through interventions that are designed and tailored to the specific needs of each community. As we launch the Black Futures Fund, we are laying the groundwork for future population-specific strategies to address the needs of other ethnic and racial communities in Greater Cleveland.
The launch of the Cleveland Black Futures Fund represents a new and more intentionally anti-racist approach in the Cleveland Foundation’s work, a direction that is necessary if we wish to move our entire community forward. We do not yet have all the answers, but we will continue to listen, learn and act. We hope you will join us.
sept. 1, 2020
“The ongoing national reckoning with systemic racism in America in recent months cannot be separated from the COVID-19 crisis, which has disproportionally ravaged Black communities,” said Courtenay Barton, Cleveland Foundation program director for arts & culture and racial equity initiatives. “Similar to our community’s response to COVID-19, now is the time for philanthropy to show a sense of urgency to address systemic racism. Black-led and Black-serving social change organizations are the frontline workers in this effort, and we must invest in them just as we have invested in the workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the funding priorities?
The Cleveland Black Futures Fund will invest in social change organizations that (1) have Black leadership and (2) serve the Black community, with the goal of building organizational infrastructure and sustainability. Ultimately, we believe this will strengthen partner organizations for long-term, transformative action towards the dismantling of racist systems that have made communities of color vulnerable.
- Why a specific fund?
The Cleveland Black Futures Fund was established to acknowledge that Black residents of Cleveland face a higher likelihood of negative life outcomes solely because of the color of their skin. In the city of Cleveland’s historically redlined neighborhoods, where more than 90% of residents are Black, the life expectancy is nearly 24 years less than in suburbs a mere seven miles away, where more than 90% of residents are white.
According to 2018 research from The Center for Community Solutions, Black residents in Cleveland are more likely to experience higher rates of infant mortality and childhood poverty, be overrepresented in the criminal justice system, be disproportionately represented in lower wage occupations and have shorter life expectancies. Data indicates that these disparities in life outcomes cross all socioeconomic barriers.
The Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) has also reported that significant inequities exist within the national philanthropic field at a time when outcomes and disparities for Black children, families and neighborhoods in many areas have widened.
We are guided by the principle that the people closest to the problem are often closest to the solution. We know that there are many dynamic, trusted organizations already working within the community to eradicate these disparities and more. This fund is an intentional opportunity to incubate and accelerate the visions of active Black community leaders, especially those who have not previously secured much institutional philanthropic support.
- When will the fund begin making grants? How often? How can I apply?
More information about the grantmaking process, including applications and timeline, will be released in the upcoming weeks. You can sign up to receive email updates about the fund here.
- Where did the money come from for this fund, and will it affect the foundation’s traditional grantmaking?
Foundation staff identified a restricted fund as the source for the initial $2.5 million investment. This means that no unrestricted sources need to be utilized this year, allowing for our traditional grantmaking to proceed unaffected, which includes funding for Black-led and Black-serving organizations that apply as part of our standard monthly and quarterly grantmaking cycles.
- How long will this fund exist?
Dismantling structural racism is not an overnight project. This fund is designed to launch a long-term strategy of building Black-led organizations to lead in this work. This work should be additive to, not in replacement of, what we are already funding to improve the lives of all Greater Clevelanders. We must be committed for the long haul.
- Why were other people of color and marginalized populations not included in this funding list?
We believe in working with specificity and intention. Racial inequity is not a simple Black/white divide, and the strategies and tactics to address racial inequities must be specific and tailored to communities. Furthermore, the needs of all racial and ethnic communities are too vast for one fund to address; we felt it was critical to initially develop a strategy to address some of the funding inequities that have specifically affected the Black community.
At the same time, because solutions will not be one-size-fits-all, the Cleveland Foundation is working with partners to develop strategies that address the particular needs of other communities of color.
- I want to help. Can I contribute to this fund?
The foundation encourages individual donors, philanthropic foundations and companies to contribute to the fund. Donations of any amount are welcomed, and all contributions are eligible for a charitable deduction. You can give here: ClevelandFoundation.org/FuturesFund.
If you are a Cleveland Foundation fund holder and would like to recommend a grant from your fund, please log in to the donor portal or contact your donor relations officer for instructions.
- I have additional questions. How can I learn more?
Please email us at ClevelandBlackFuturesFund@clevefdn.org. Because of the anticipated volume of inquiries, we cannot respond to each question individually, but we will compile questions and update the webpage as we continue through the process. We will also schedule future webinars and learning opportunities to engage in more dialogue around the Cleveland Black Futures Fund.