The Next Phase: TSFF’s First New Strategy Grants Are Unveiled

Not long ago, we wrote about The San Francisco Foundation’s revamped grantmaking strategy that’s all about racial and economic equality. Racial divides feel wider than they’ve been in a long time in this country, while San Francisco has a serious economic equity problem, even more so than most U.S. cities. These trends are entwined, of course, and TSFF is keen on working that nexus with its new funding approach. 

Since this new chapter in the foundation's life was announced, we’ve been dying to know how the first round of grants would play out. Well, the wait is over.

Related: This Community Foundation Just Got Edgier. Will Others Follow?

TSFF just announced $5,265,000 in new grants, along with a declaration from Vice President of Programs Judith Bell that the foundation has a regional agenda for the first time in the foundation’s history.

(Bell's fingerprints, as we've said before, are all over TSFF's revised strategy, which draws on ideas about race and equity—including the imperative of regional solutions—that she helped develop over many years at PolicyLink. Meanwhile, foundation chief Fred Blackwell has also long been working the equity beat.)

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For organizational purposes, the new TSFF grants can be separated into three categories: people, places, and power.

People” grants are all about helping Bay Area residents find jobs by removing employment barriers, such as having a criminal record. There’s a big criminal justice angle with this employment grant category, at least initially. New grantees that TSFF is supporting include Californians for Safety and Justice and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. The big focus in this recent grant round is on jobs, training, and education. However, this category will also cover affordable housing, transit, and infrastructure in future grant rounds too.

There’s a bit of overlap with “place” grants because they support affordable housing efforts, too. But something interesting about this grantmaking category is its focus on race and culture. TSFF is looking for organizations that not only find reasonably priced homes for Bay Area families and individuals, but also homes that reflect their race, culture, and values. Over a dozen of these grants were recently awarded to groups, and Alameda County was the big geographical focus. The list of new grantees includes Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal and the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. In addition to affordable housing support, place grants are designed to support community leadership and small business efforts as well.

And finally, “power” grants are the awards going towards strengthening civic engagement, starting with voting in elections. Immigrants are the big focus here, and new grants went to Mobilize the Immigrant Vote and the East Bay Asian Youth Center. There are an increasing number of immigrants who are citizens eligible to vote, and TSFF believes their voices must be heard to transform vulnerable communities into powerful ones. Another demographic in focus with these grants is the elderly in the Bay Area. Overall, the big strategy here is to develop the next generation of leaders in low-income communities of color and to strengthen existing organizations’ infrastructure.

With the strategy recent shift, we were certainly expecting to see some new opportunities in the fields workforce development, affordable housing, cultural identity, and civic engagement. And with this initial round of grantmaking, TSFF touched on all of them. Going forward, we’re expecting to see a few more collaborations highlighted to emphasize the partnership aspect of TSFF’s new strategy a bit more.  

The best way to keep up with future grant opportunities is to head over to TSFF’s grantseeker page and subscribe to its mailing list. What this funder is up isn't yet 100 percent clear and nicely laid out on its website. There’s also a good “Ongoing Q&A” on the site that might answer some questions you have at this early stage of the strategy game.