Human Services in Tulsa: This Funder Plays a Critical Role

photo:  Monkey Business Images/shutterstock

photo:  Monkey Business Images/shutterstock

For many family foundations across the country, human services are often just one among several priorities. This broad category includes such things as emergency housing, health, and food security. On the other hand, human services are the driving force for other family funders that put such critical needs at the center of their mission. The George Kaiser Family Foundation is definitely one of these funders, as the bulk of grants each cycle go towards basic needs and social services.

Ken Levit, executive director of GKFF said:

Tulsa’s social services community plays an essential role in ensuring that tens of thousands of children and families have access to critical services, often having life and death consequences. At a time when the state has not been able to meet even basic obligations in health and education, these organizations are playing a heroic role.

Levit's illusion to government budget cuts is something that we're hearing a lot of from local foundation leaders these days. With Republican lawmakers dominant in many states, social service programs are often facing cuts. In turn, federal spending on such programs has been on a downward slope for years now. These trends translate into greater pressures on local funders to fill the breach. 

Just recently, GKFF awarded $6.7 million in grants to 75 nonprofits in the Tulsa area of Oklahoma. Of that amount, around $2.8 million is going towards human services, with even more funds going out the door for basic needs. Meanwhile, safety net grants have gone out to local groups to the tune of $67 million over the past decade.

One of the largest GKFF grants recently ($460,000) went to Family and Children’s Services to provide onsite mental health services for Tulsa Public School children. Other human services-related grants have gone to Domestic Violence Intervention Services, Youth Services of Tulsa, and Tulsa Habitat for Humanity lately. These are all typical types of grantees for GKFF, as this is a funder that often sticks to familiar names around the city of Tulsa.

It's safe to say that GKFF has found its grantmaking groove and settled into it with consistency and ongoing commitments. This foundation still doesn’t accept unsolicited proposals, but its support occasionally extends elsewhere in Oklahoma beyond the Tulsa borders as well. Any efforts to reduce the cycle of poverty in the state are likely to catch GKFF’s attention, as this is the heart of its human services mission.

And the good news is that grantmaking is back up to its normal levels after a slight dip in 2016. There have been no signs of GKFF’s human services support shifting or slowing down anytime soon, so you can expect at least six million dollars to go to more than 100 social services agencies in the year ahead as well. GKFF is well-aware that the city of Tulsa is performing worse than other comparable cities in terms of social service delivery, so look for even more future grants for food, shelter, clothing, youth development, health care, mental health, and trauma services here.