What is the California Black Freedom Fund? 

The California Black Freedom Fund (CBFF) is a five-year, $100 million initiative to ensure that Black power-building and movement-based organizations have the sustained investments and resources they need to dismantle systemic and institutional racism.

We believe that increasing the capacity and effectiveness of Black-led organizations will, in turn, enhance the freedom and self-determination of Black people most impacted by structural racism in order to drive our state as a whole toward systemic transformation.

Why now? 

California, like the rest of the country, is reckoning with systemic racial injustice. We are at a turning point against anti-Black racism and the current public spotlight presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to usher in transformative change. 

Black leaders and grassroots, Black-led organizations are harnessing this moment and building alliances with institutions—the media, corporations, sports and entertainment. They are expanding our collective vision for what is possible if we sustain the movement to dismantle systemic racism and injustice. This chain of unprecedented civic action and policy reform would have been unthinkable a few months ago. We are at a critical inflection point. If we allow this historic momentum to wane, the gains made could stop accruing or be reversed altogether.

Why is it unique? 

The California Black Freedom Fund is the first state-based effort of its kind with the goal of investing $100 million in Black-led organizations over the next five years.

What does the fund hope to achieve? 

Black communities’ attainment of decision-making power over the policies, systems and opportunities that shape their lives will be the ultimate outcome that determines the impact of California Black Freedom Fund’s work. This outcome cannot be realized by any individual organization or momentary effort. It will take a powerful statewide movement of Black-led organizations working individually and collectively with multicultural allies over a sustained period of time to continue to inspire and mobilize people to action, to achieve positions of leadership, to take control of the prevailing narrative, and to transform racially unjust policies and systems in California.

Expected outcomes include:

How did the fund begin? 

The California Black Freedom Fund was born out of racial justice discussions led by Executive Roundtable on Philanthropy and Equity in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests that swept the country. The Executive Roundtable is a group of 16 foundation leaders in California sharing inventive strategies to achieve equity in communities throughout the state. The Executive Roundtable includes members that are knowledgeable about civic engagement and power building and members that are connected to Black communities throughout the state. 

The Executive Roundtable is convened by James Ferris at The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California (USC); Elwood Hopkins of Emerging Markets, Inc.; and Manuel Pastor at the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at USC. 

The California Black Freedom Fund was co-created in partnership with  the leaders of the largest Black networks in the state: Anthony Thigpenn, Kaci Patterson and Reverend Ben McBride. As partners, their lifelong commitment to lifting up Black communities and knowledge of Black nonprofits, leaders and communities as well as power building add tremendously to the California Black Freedom Fund and have shaped our joint response to this moment which brings new opportunities and challenges. We expect they will be active throughout the life of the initiative beyond the design phase of the California Black Freedom Fund and partner in the rollout, implementation, evaluation and learning phases.

Who is eligible to receive financial support from the fund? 

The fund will support organizations addressing the multiple and intersecting harms of systemic racism and racial inequities faced by California’s Black communities. These organizations should meet the following criteria:

How do organizations apply for funding? 

The application process is invitation only, based on the criteria above. In 2021, the California Black Freedom Fund will begin by supporting three established Black networks with statewide reach that are building Black power infrastructure.

These statewide entities — Black Census and Redistricting Hub, Black Equity Collective, and Live Free/ Bring the HEAT — have proven, long-term working relationships with over 50, local regional and statewide Black-led organizations across the state. 

These networks also have ongoing, collaborative working relationships with one another. They are larger than the sum of their parts and have proven their ability to effect critical policy and systems change. 

Among their collective priorities are ensuring that all California residents are registered to vote and counted in the Census; training and expanding a pipeline of Black leaders; building sophisticated online mobilization platforms; and ensuring the implementation of policy wins already secured even as they continue to fight for greater wins to improve the lives of Black and other communities of color in California. 

By supporting and enhancing these existing Black-led networks, we will ensure that their capacity needs are met.  Then, and only then, will we be able to ensure that our investments in supporting the current moment are leveraged into undergirding and sustaining a powerful Black-led movement.

Over the next five years, the California Black Freedom Fund will strategically increase the resources available to Black-led organizations throughout California, prioritizing the courageous and visionary grassroots advocates and organizers leading California as a whole toward systemic transformation. 

Three rounds of grantmaking are anticipated in 2021 to reach a wide and diverse set of Black-led organizations across the state, with the next round of grantmaking anticipated in late February 2021.

Targeted areas of support (including economic empowerment, voter education, social justice and leadership development) will vary and will be guided by an organization’s expertise and/or needs.

How does the fund intend to reach its $100 million over five years goal? 

Through direct outreach, the California Black Freedom Fund aims to raise funding from a diverse set of state and national foundations, corporate and individual donors in order to strengthen the Black-led organizations at the center of a sustained movement for racial justice and equality in California. Resources will be both pooled and aligned to support movement-building for the kind of deep, social and structural changes that can only be achieved by investing in the infrastructures of Black-based organizations committed to sustained movement-building.

What will the funds support?

The funding will be allocated as follows:

How does the California Black Freedom Fund operate? 

Adopting a co-creation and co-decision making approach, the California Black Freedom Fund will be a collaborative effort bringing together community organizations, private and corporate funders, and other thought leaders. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) will provide administrative and fiscal management of the California Black Freedom Fund. 

Two leadership teams will guide the fund: The Advisory Team will set the strategic direction. Its members will represent a diverse mix of funders and practitioner organizations, representing multiple regions of the state and issue areas of work. The Impact Team will manage strategy implementation, grants distribution and community partnerships and be responsible for the fund’s day-to-day operations.

These structures will ensure that the California Black Freedom Fund distributes resources in an equitable manner with attention to regions of the state that have higher density populations of Black people, yet are under-resourced and have  less fundraising capability. Lastly, the fund will adjust rapidly as opportunities and challenges arise, while also providing patient, longer term support necessary to strengthen movement infrastructure, build trust and relationships, and expand Black-led organizations’ expertise and effectiveness.

Who can contribute to the fund, and how? 

State and national foundations, corporate and individual donors interested in contributing to the fund should contact Stuart Burden.