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Strengthening Community Leadership Through Trust-Based Funding

May 05, 2022
Phil Fitzgerald, Senior Program Officer, Citi Foundation

The word "unprecedented" has been used time and again to describe the last two years and the many ramifications of a once-in-a-generation pandemic. A similar description may also be applied to the once-in-a-generation response to racial disparities that have, for too long, limited social and economic opportunities for low-income and underserved communities in the U.S. But moving the needle on these long-term challenges won't happen without change agents raising awareness of the challenges but also innovative solutions that can break the status quo.

National and community-based organizations have always played an instrumental role in building coalitions that highlight community needs, producing research to inform policymakers, community stakeholders, private sector leaders, and testing new solutions to some of the country's most entrenched social and economic challenges. According to a recent report from Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions, multiyear, unrestricted funding is one of the most effective ways to support these organizations and their leaders, giving them the space to innovate and scale.

The Citi Foundation has long been an investor in community-based change agents and innovative, flexible grantmaking through initiatives like Community Progress Makers and its support of research such as Funding from a Place of Trust. To deepen our commitment in this space and to help drive an equitable economic recovery, the Citi Foundation launched the $10 million Strengthening Community Leadership initiative, which is providing flexible funding to 10 of the country's leading nonprofit organizations that are jumpstarting economic activity in hard-hit communities. Each organization will receive a $1 million grant over two years to advocate for fairer housing, strengthen and protect civil rights, and reimagine workforce development programming. The 10 organizations that form the $10 million initiative are:

  • Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law increases economic stability, wealth and health for Black communities by advocating for worker protections and addressing inequities in access to healthcare, housing choice, quality employment opportunities and credit.
  • The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal and state policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. It serves as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, representing more than 200 national organizations.
  • NAACP Empowerment Programs engages in training, education and advocacy and works to build inclusive criminal justice policies, healthcare systems, economies and classrooms for Black people and all persons of color.
  • National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) is a coalition of nearly 100 community-based organizations spanning 21 states, working to improve the lives of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders living in poverty nationwide.
  • National Disability Institute (NDI) empowers people with disabilities and their families to build a better financial future through education, public policy, pioneering research and the delivery of training and technical assistance.
  • National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) is the country's only national civil rights organization dedicated solely to eliminating all forms of housing and lending discrimination, and through its education and outreach, member services, public policy, advocacy, housing and community development, tech equity, enforcement, and consulting and compliance programs, NFHA works to dismantle longstanding barriers to equity and build diverse, inclusive, well-resourced communities.
  • National Urban League collaborates at the national and local levels with community leaders, policymakers and corporate partners to elevate the standards of living for African Americans and other historically underserved groups.
  • PolicyLink is a national research and action institution dedicated to advancing racial and economic equity, focusing specifically on policies that help the 100 million people in America living at or near poverty become economically secure.
  • Smart Growth America helps create healthy, prosperous, and resilient places to live for all people through research, advocacy, and direct community support. Our work spans housing and land use, transportation, and economic development to find solutions to communities' most pressing needs.
  • UnidosUS seeks to transform the economic trajectory for Latinos by building Latino wealth, reshaping the homeownership landscape, scaling proven housing and financial empowerment programs and narrowing the homeownership gap.

As economic recovery efforts continue to take shape, there is an opportunity to invest in efforts that will help people of all backgrounds to rebound and advance. Working alongside these leading community organizations, the Citi Foundation aims to bring local solutions to the national stage and amplify the voices of a diverse set of stakeholders as part of our ongoing Action for Racial Equity efforts. It is also an opportunity for the Citi Foundation to collaborate with on-the-ground organizations that are attuned to the evolving needs of underserved communities and the best solutions which are helping to close income and wealth gaps. But most of all, through this new initiative, the Foundation hopes to play a supportive role in creating stronger networks that will accelerate measurable impact at scale.

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