Cleveland Foundation announces creation of Cleveland Black Futures Fund

Goal is to invest in and strengthen Black-led and Black-serving social change organizations
engaged in anti-racism work in Cleveland

Release Date: 9.1.2020

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Foundation Board of Directors today announced the approval of an initial $2.5 million for the creation of the Cleveland Black Futures Fund, designed to invest in and strengthen Black-led and Black-serving social change organizations.

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. In 2019, Cleveland was listed as the ninth-most segregated city in the country, while earlier this year, Cleveland was found to be the worst city in the country for Black women when measuring several factors related to education, income and health.

In recent months, both the COVID-19 pandemic and the historic protests happening nationally and locally have prompted a bolder call to action to address systemic racism and its devastating effects in the Greater Cleveland community. While Cleveland is home to a dynamic network of Black leaders working on solutions to these problems, The Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) has 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.

“As a community 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,” said Ronn Richard, Cleveland Foundation president & CEO. “The Cleveland Black Futures Fund was established to acknowledge that Black residents in Cleveland face a greater likelihood of negative life outcomes solely because of the color of their skin. It is just our first step in what must be a long-term, community-wide effort to dismantle racist systems that have made communities of color vulnerable.”

Inspired by community foundation peers in Seattle, Cincinnati, Rhode Island, Central New York and Minneapolis, among others, the overarching goal of the Cleveland Black Futures Fund is 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 towards racial equity.

“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.”

The Cleveland Black Futures Fund builds on the 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.

Today’s announcement follows a June vote by Cleveland City Council in which racism was declared a public health crisis, with the city required under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take action to eliminate disparities causing health issues. Earlier this summer, Cuyahoga County Council also passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis and announced a Citizens’ Advisory Council on Equity, to which Cleveland Foundation Senior Vice President for Program, India Pierce Lee was appointed.

Additional details on the grantmaking process – including the application process and timeline – will be available in the near future. For more information or to donate to the Cleveland Black Futures Fund, visit

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