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Toolkit for Racial, Ethnic and Tribal Funds and Foundations

Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers


Diverse communities are molding and stretching models of giving to fashion something new. Funds and foundations are a promising and growing tool used to organize racial, ethnic and tribal giving. Sometimes called “ethnic funds,” these are typically public foundations that mobilize the giving resources of a community for that community’s benefit. This involves organizing groups of donors to invest in the foundation, pooling resources, developing giving priorities and a process, and making grants.
Usually, donors contribute to a pooled fund, and make grants from that fund through a collective decision making process. By pooling resources, donors come together to have greater impact. Often, the fund establishes an endowment to ensure that the philanthropy can continue into the future.
Some racial, ethnic and tribal foundations offer a wide variety of fund options for donors to give with others – or set up funds to support their personal philanthropic goals. In another model, foundations (sometimes called “federations”) raise and pool resources to support member nonprofit agencies, nonprofits that are led by and serve their particular racial or ethnic group. This includes groups that raise funds directly through large and small contributions, and a few organizations that receive contributions from workplace giving and payroll deduction.
The form used depends on the culture and needs of the community, its financial profile, and what other philanthropic players are present. No one size fits all, and each community has multiple choices.
This toolkit is designed to walk you through some of the key steps and choices to consider as you establish or grow your fund, reflecting lessons and experience gathered from existing funds and foundations in Black, Asian, Arab, Latino and Native-American communities.