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2010 National Immigrant Integration Conference - Strategy Sessions

Fundraising Initiatives for Immigrant Integration:


Funders’ Perspectives
Oct. 1, 2010

This seminar focused on the Immigrant Integration initiatives of foundations; it provided an inside
view of funders’ concerns and priorities.

Moving forward, integration efforts are being funded through coalitions and interfaith organizations
more and more. Foundations are more likely to invest in a network of organizations as opposed to one.
This strategy optimizes the chances of a successful program. By supporting coalitions, advocacy, and
organizing, there is a greater opportunity to build bridges between different segments of the community.
Collaborative efforts are able to cut across demographic lines, and engage larger groups to spur greater
change. Focusing on coalitions allows for small organizations to join their efforts together into a stronger
force, and lessens duplication of small-scale efforts. Foundations have also become increasingly interested
in state coalitions because it is difficult to push for change at the national level. National foundations
especially are interested in broader policy change, not geographically-focused service organizations.
Funders also have an interest in changing the public’s views on integration. By making integration a
positive, community experience, we can set the stage for larger change. The E Pluribus Unum Prizes are a
great example of this type of effort. This is a collaborative effort between the JM Kaplan Fund and the
Migration Policy Institute that awards outstanding integration initiatives. This type of program not only
rewards great integration programs, but also positively publicizes immigrant integration.

Looking forward, funders want to see more knowledge sharing between organizations. This will
allow for a more efficient, cohesive, and cooperative effort in support of integration. There is also a desire
to see the immigration reform movement and integration efforts take ideas from other social movements
and incorporate these successful strategies. Integration advocates can also ally ourselves with other social
change movements with common concerns. For example, they can partner with advocates for better
schools, workers’ rights, adult education, and so forth. This in itself is an act of integration. This will
change the perspective from immigrants v. native-born to immigrants, parents, and concerned community
members v. policies.

There are many different reasons funders are interested in immigrant integration. Of course, there
are dedicated foundations that have an interest in immigrant rights, human rights, and so forth. Economic
inclusion of immigrants however, cannot be underestimated as a motivating factor. Corporate foundations,
Western Union for example, are interested in empowering their consumers economically, and therefore
have a strategic interest in furthering immigrant integration. Businesses can also support integration
through providing services to workers and the community, such as ESL programs and Family Scholarships.
These efforts strengthen workers skills and communities. The bottom line for these corporate funders is
that immigrants are an important source of economic growth in this country, and it is in their best interest
to support integration and tap into this market.

How exactly foundations make decisions can often be unclear. A decision-maker at the foundation
has personal interests, but is largely swayed by the interests of the board. Personal relationships are also
vital in securing funding. Foundations may strategically select grantees and work with them to determine
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the gaps in integration initiatives and what areas to focus on, rather than take unsolicited proposals. One
example of a gap in integration practices is professional re-credentialing. This is an important issue that has

not yet coalesced into a field. A small investment in this area may make a large difference in integrating
immigrants more fully economically and socially.

The recession has also made a difference for funders. Though their endowments may still be high,
some have lost significant amounts. Carnegie for example, lost 1 billion out of 3 billion dollars in their
endowment. While this is still an extraordinary amount, they have had to scale back funding to keep their
programming on track. What this all means is that funders want to get the best results for the least amount
of investment. This does not necessitate weaker programs; instead we can see this as an opportunity to use
creative solutions for social injustice issues. That being said, it is very dangerous for an organization to be
entirely dependent on grants, especially in this economic climate. In the nonprofit world, individual
sponsorships support 80% of programs, while foundations and corporations each account for 10%. A
varied approach to development is necessary to ensure an organization’s survival.

As anti-immigrant sentiment grows across the nation, integration meets steeper challenges. Many
immigrants are undocumented or part of a mixed-status household. It is of course difficult to integrate
these immigrants into American society when they cannot drive a car, find living wages, and find education
funding. The main challenge to integration lies in Federal and State policies. There must be a commitment
to social change, strategic communications, and building capacity in the field.

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