Resilience Funding: A Long-Term Strategy for Responding to Urgent Needs

photo:  Ms Jane Campbell/shutterstock

photo:  Ms Jane Campbell/shutterstock

If “equity” was a key philanthropy theme in 2017, perhaps “resilience” will be a key theme of 2018.

Equity grantmaking largely centers on leveling the playing field and giving equal opportunities to everyone regardless of who they are or where they live. But resilience in grantmaking is all about equipping nonprofits with the tools they need to sustain those equitable strides and be ready for whatever happens next. This often comes in the form of capacity building grants and unrestricted funds that aren’t tied to one specific program or project. A key idea here is that nonprofits need to have robust infrastructures and a fair amount of flexibility to navigate a political climate filled with threats and protect hard won gains. 

To address the issue of nonprofit resilience, one leading funder in the state of Washington created a specific Resilience Fund to strengthen community groups and protect vulnerable local residents. With some help from King County, Medina Foundation, Stolte Family Foundation, Bank of America, Emerald Fund, and the Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation, the Seattle Foundation developed the Resilience Fund to provide grants of up to $20,000 to local nonprofits. This year, grant cycle deadlines fell in June and September for this fund, and money was awarded to groups in need of flexible funding to address unanticipated challenges that impact marginalized populations in the region. These grants typically go to groups that provide legal guidance and advocacy to address threats and discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and country of origin.

Last month, the Seattle Foundation announced $371,000 in new Resilience Fund grants to 24 organizations as the second round of resilience grantmaking for 2017. Topics in focus for this latest round of giving include immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ communities, and low-wage workers. But what’s interesting about this particular grantmaking fund is that it’s mission goes beyond the typical emergency or responsive fund that we’ve been seeing lots of community foundations latch onto. This fund addresses the needs of vulnerable residents whose rights are eroding under federal policy changes, but it has a more long-term approach to addressing those needs. It’s a fund that isn’t solely focused on urgent needs but also is taking a big-picture look at systemic issues that have allowed those urgent needs to develop.

For example, Neighbors in Faith and the Muslim Association of Puget Sound-American Muslim Empowerment Network (MAPS-AMEN) are using a Resilient Fund grant to combat Islamophobia through forums, training sessions, and dialogue. Meanwhile, the Gender Justice League is using a Resilience Fund grant to offer transgender people legal support in regards to hate crimes. Other grants of up to $20,000 each went to Partner in Employment, Open Arms Perinatal Services, GotGreen, and Kids4Peace Seattle.

Tony Mestres, the president and CEO of Seattle Foundation said:

One of our community’s deepest-held values is to provide an equal playing field for all and to safeguard the rights of those whose voices have been suppressed. Our Resilience Fund aims to ensure that all people are valued in our community by supporting nonprofits that are leading the way to a more inclusive, stronger community.

The need for resilience is likely to only grow in 2018 and fortunately the Seattle Foundation will continue awarding grants through its Resilience Fund in the new year. The 2017 Resilience Fund giving total was $930,000, which is only a small part of the funder’s overall giving, but significant because of the targeted approach these grants take. This funder has over $1 billion in assets, making it a powerful philanthropic force in the Pacific Northwest and a model that other funders in the region often look to emulate.

Overall, major topics of interest for the Seattle Foundation are access to the arts, youth and the outdoors, women and girls, homelessness, mental health, economy, and health and wellness. Learn more about this funder in our full IP profile, and review the list of current Seattle Foundation grant opportunities here.

Related: In Seattle and Beyond: Current Grantmaking Trends in Washington