Protesters at Logan International Airport in Boston. Scott Eisen/Getty Images
In the Spring of 2017, TSNE MissionWorks launched the Urgent Response Fund in an effort to support an emerging need for grantmakers to provide financial resources to community organizers who were coordinating rapid responses to policy shifts that threaten the civil liberties of immigrants and other vulnerable populations. The amount was small, only $1,000 per group, but made a difference in the ability of people to organize against the injustice of executive orders threatening our communities.
"This emergency grant will serve the purpose of providing the safe space that our immigrant community members are in such need of. Our gratitude will be reflected in the lives that you have now enabled us to impact more deeply… " Haitian Services Organization in Greater Boston
The models for the rapid development of this fund stemmed from several years of investments TSNE MissionWorks has made in both its community-led grantmaking process and internal staff innovation fund that allowed it the flexibility and responsiveness required to aid community organizers in their emergency efforts.
For several years, TSNE MissionWorks has been developing unique grantmaking strategies through its Inclusion Initiative, that accelerates the leadership of people in communities of color most impacted by poverty to take the lead in creating the solutions. This approach to grantmaking and the relationships TSNE MissionWorks has built with grassroots groups served as a foundation for the Urgent Response Fund that helped groups react to short-term, specific needs, threats or risks. The Urgent Response Fund application process was short and placed trust in the community leaders to know what the crisis is, what needs to be done and the most effective way to address it.
"The ‘battle’ is literally on our doorstep ... so the nature of the Urgent Response Fund is particularly important to us right now! Thank you, thank you! $1,000 in funding support...will take us far." An Organization supporting 'know your Rights' training in different Languages
At the same time, TSNE MissionWorks was experimenting with a staff-led Innovation Fund. A pool of funds that anyone on the staff could access when a new or innovative idea emerged after our normal budget process was completed. Staff control the fund and vote on projects they determine are worthy of support. The proposal writing process and voting took less than three weeks and the Urgent Response Fund was launched with a $30,000 allocation toward this effort. All of the funds were dispersed between April 20, 2017, and June 30, 2017.
"The application process was wonderful - brief but comprehensive and not repetitive. We were very excited to see the opportunity for an Urgent Response Fund grant. The process was easy and seamless. The response was quick and we were grateful to receive the grant." Grantee response to the application process
Organizers asked for a range of support for training initiatives, outreach, convenings and events, travel expenses, creating safe spaces, expanding services and other urgent unforeseen expenses that arose from their support for people at-risk in our communities. What we learned from our grantees is that on the frontlines of fighting for social justice, they don't have time to think about whether or not they have funding in their budget to act. As grantmakers, we must also act when we see these kinds of 'civic disasters' unfolding and institute processes that allow us to become flexible and responsive in our grantmaking practices.
The following is the FAQ we developed for groups applying for funding:
Urgent Response Fund FAQ
Q: Who is eligible for funding?
A: Any organization with a 501(c)3 legal status (or a fiscally sponsored project or group under a 501(c)3) located in Massachusetts or Rhode Island is eligible to apply for funding including TSNE partners, NPC tenants, current or former Inclusion Initiative grantees, current or former fiscally sponsored projects. Any interested organization is encouraged to apply. Priority for funding is given to organizations with an annual budget of $300,000 or less. Funds cannot be used for regranting, staffing, general organizational operation, union organizing, nor can they be used for electioneering or lobbying. Grants are not to be used for ongoing program work or operational support. Organizations can only receive funds from the URF once every 12 months.
Q: What kinds of proposals does TSNE want to fund?
A: The Urgent Response Fund is for specific activities that take direct action to protect the rights and civil liberties of immigrants or other vulnerable populations served by organizations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Successful proposals will describe a timely, concrete activity that identifies a specific incident, threat or risk and outlines the need for an urgent response. We will also give strong consideration to the organization’s position in its community, level of direct community engagement, and capacity to carry out this activity successfully. Proposed activities might include convenings of grassroots organizers and community leaders to address a specific need or threat, travel funds for community leaders to attend national days of action or trainings, funds to support pressing communications/advocacy needs or “Know Your Rights” campaigns, legal responses to address a crisis, creating safe spaces for community building and healing, new projects or coalitions to advance movement-building efforts, opportunities for youth engagement and outreach events, and other related activities.
Q: How do I apply?
A: Applications must be submitted using our online form, which is available here. You must also submit a brief budget for the activity you are proposing, which you can attach at the above link at the time you submit your application. More details are available on the application form.
Q: How much money should I ask for?
A: One-time grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis between now and June 30th, 2017. We have a pool of $30,000 available for this initiative. Please ask for what you need, and be clear about how funds from TSNE will be used in the budget you submit. Note that TSNE may also be able to contribute in-kind donations, such as promotional support and meeting space at the Nonprofit Center in Boston, so please include that in your proposal if it is something you’ll need.
Q: When will I find out if I’m funded?
A: Because the spirit of this initiative is to enable TSNE to respond rapidly to the emergent needs of our communities, we are aiming for a very quick turnaround in our funding decisions. Our goal is for no organization to have to wait more than 7-10 business days for a funding decision. Applicants will be notified via email.
Q: What are the requirements once I receive funds from TSNE?
A: We require only a brief written reflection on the event or activity (how it went, how the funds were used, what the community gained from this event, and any next steps that your organization may be taking). We also encourage you to send along photos of the event or activity after it is completed.
Q: Who should I contact if I have questions about eligibility, guidelines, or anything else related to the Urgent Response Fund?
A: Please feel free to reach out to us directly via email by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.