Our latest round of grants prioritizes movement building in communities of color and poor and working class neighborhoods, supports communities disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and builds capacity in the field of impact investing.
April 11, 2022—The California Wellness Foundation today announced that $17.5 million in grants and $1.5 million in impact investments were awarded in the fourth quarter of 2021 to advance health equity in California. We awarded a total of 88 grants across our four Advancing Wellness portfolios, focusing on power and movement building among people of color, immigrants, low-income and young people. Our impact investments went to entrepreneurs who typically have trouble getting financing, including women, people of color and businesses that operate in historically redlined communities.
“Grantmaking is only one strategy foundations have at their disposal, said Judy Belk, Cal Wellness president and CEO. “Through impact investing, we can harness the power of our endowment dollars to advance health equity and economic security in low-income communities and build intergenerational wealth in places overlooked by traditional financial institutions.”
Investing in Civic Engagement and Movement Building
This quarter, we awarded twelve core operating support grants totaling more than $3.9 million to grassroots, community-based, people of color-led organizations that are creating opportunities for people to organize, advocate and speak out for policies that affect their day-to-day lives. This means engaging people during and between election cycles. It means working together, across coalitions, to coordinate, build power, and leverage influence in order to build communities that work for all.
For example, our grantee partners the Ahri Center, BLU Education Foundation and Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagements (COPE) are advancing health and educational equity in California by involving youth and families in civic engagement and organizing activities. They are empowering youth of color and immigrant youth to organize for statewide, regional and local initiatives that have the power to reverse the school-to-prison pipeline, school pushout, racially based school discipline, among other harmful policies and practices.
Community Asset Development Re-defining Education (CADRE) will use its grant to invest in parents of color to become organizers. CADRE will empower parents to advocate for their children’s right to education and for a South Los Angeles public school system that is racially equitable and that honors the humanity of children of color. Restoring Justice for Indigenous Communities will continue challenging structural racism in the criminal and juvenile justice systems, which disproportionately harm indigenous people in Northern California.
Helping Communities Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a disproportionate impact on some populations, particularly immigrant and indigenous communities as well as migrant and undocumented farmworkers who often do not have access to health care, mental health services, paid leave or other worker protections. Our grants this quarter will help lessen some of these impacts and advance health equity.
We awarded six core operating support grants totaling $632,000 to a group of diverse grantees working in different parts of California. Botanical Bus will provide culturally relevant mental health and healing services to agricultural workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Sonoma County. Catholic Charities of California will provide mental health assistance and other basic needs to undocumented immigrant families living and working in Fresno County.
The IEP Collaborative will provide free legal services and navigation support to families with disabled students in the Bay Area, ensuring that they have equitable access to education and support services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Immigration Project, Inc., known as Mobile Pathways, will support their Vaccine Equity Coalition in providing asylum seekers and new immigrants with accurate vaccine information and equitable access to the vaccine.
The COVID-19 pandemic in our state has been worsened by wildfires so interventions at the intersection of health and environmental justice are necessary. Our grantee partner Northern California Indian Development Council will provide disaster emergency relief in Native American communities related to both the wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. The United Way of Tulare County will provide emergency response services, financial assistance, and COVID-19 resources to rural farm working communities that have been hurt by wildfires and COVID-19 in Tulare County.
Strengthening Philanthropy and Building the Impact Investing Field
We have been investing in Program-Related Investments (PRIs) for five years. PRIs allow us to make low-cost capital available to charitable or social enterprises that align with our mission. They are part of our strategy to support the health, safety, and resilience of underserved communities. Our ongoing investments go to communities of color, particularly those that have been disproportionately impacted by historic disinvestment, unhealthy environments and community violence.
We want to encourage other funders to engage in impact investing. Therefore, we invest in capacity building and offer support and training to foundations and other asset owners who wish to either start on their impact investing journey or harness the full power of their assets to achieve a more just and fairer world.
To build capacity in the field of impact investing, we awarded three grants totaling $430,000. For example, our grantee partners As You Sow and Philanthropy Northwest will deliver trainings and tools to California-based funders and other parts of the west to build knowledge and skills in impact investment. They will also integrate racial equity into their programs, knowledge and communication platforms, and will bring organizations together to share best practices related to place-based impact investing efforts.
Investing at the Intersection of Race, Community and Wealth
This quarter, we invested $1.5 million in the REAL People’s Fund, a community-controlled loan fund created by six community-based organizations to provide affordable loans to Black, Indigenous and people of color (POC)-led small businesses in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. This investment is in addition to a $330,000 grant we awarded the organization this quarter to build capacity in the field of impact investing.
The Fund seeks to build community wealth and advance a just transition economy by providing affordable capital to entrepreneurs of color who are creating good jobs locally. The Fund's investment decisions will be made by organizations representing the communities the Fund seeks to serve, rather than traditional lending officers.
“Our commitment to racial and health equity runs throughout our grantmaking and investments” said Alex M. Johnson, Cal Wellness interim vice president of programs. “By being purposeful about how we get dollars into communities, we can help advance the visions that Indigenous and POC-led organizations have for a healthy California.”