Relief for Now, Resilience for the Future

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

By Daranee Petsod, GCIR President

Two months ago, at our national convening, GCIR unveiled our affirmative vision for philanthropy, urging funders to take the long view, cultivate belonging, act with courage, and build power to transform. In the face of this unprecedented public health and economic crisis, we have redoubled our commitment to realizing our vision of a just and equitable society in which everyone thrives, no matter where they were born.

Guided by this vision, GCIR set out to engage philanthropy in addressing the profound structural inequities magnified by this pandemic and its disproportionate impact on people of color, women, and other marginalized communities. For undocumented immigrants, these inequities manifest themselves as exclusion from the CARES Act, ineligibility for unemployment insurance despite paying into the system, serving as essential workers without proper protective equipment or paid sick leave, lack of access to testing, falling ill without health insurance, and living in constant fear of immigration enforcement. These challenges require a multi-faceted philanthropic response, from supporting urgent needs to investing in long-term solutions.
Extending a Lifeline to Undocumented Immigrants. One quarter of the nation’s undocumented immigrants call California home, and we launched the California Immigrant Resilience Fund (CIRF) as part of a public-private partnership to provide emergency relief. Our commitment to raise $50 million in private dollars leveraged $75 million from the State of California to provide one-time cash assistance and has laid the groundwork for longer-term supports for this community. To date, we have raised nearly $30 million from over 60 institutional funders and more than 500 individual donors. And the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation has pledged an additional $10 million challenge grant to help propel us toward our goal. While CIRF is focused on emergency assistance in the immediate term, we also envision it as a statewide infrastructure for organizing and activating funders when future crises and opportunities arise, with the intention of supporting the long-term well-being and resilience of immigrant communities.
Catalyzing Action Across the Country. As a national organization, GCIR seeks to undertake bodies of work that have a reverberating impact. As we had hoped, the California public-private partnership, the first of its kind in the nation, has sparked interest in other parts of the country. Our team has provided consultation, as well as shared lessons and best practices, to help funders, advocates, and government officials adapt this model for their states, counties, and cities. We are heartened to see the establishment of the following funds: Oregon Worker Relief Fund, Left Behind Workers Fund in Colorado, and the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund. We also congratulate leaders in 20 cities across the country that have set up, or are in the process of setting up, relief funds in partnership with the Open Society Foundations. And we are supporting leaders in Connecticut, Illinois, and Washington in their efforts to assist undocumented immigrants in their states.   
Reimagining the Future. GCIR is also uplifting the need to invest in longer-term solutions, recognizing that the challenges during times of crisis reflect deeply entrenched structural inequities. In our briefings and consultations, we are highlighting the need to increase support for organizing, advocacy, narrative change, and movement and power building. And we are creating opportunities for funders to assert their voice in policy discussions, such as the joint philanthropy letter to the Governor of California, asking him to expand unemployment insurance as well as health, food, and other safety-net programs to undocumented immigrants. We see emergency relief as the starting point, not the end goal. As GCIR board member Dimple Abichandani emphasized in her Inside Philanthropy piece, “Pandemic Philanthropy: Moving From Relief to Power,” this is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine/rebuild our social contract.” 

GCIR celebrates our 30th anniversary this year, and we are proud of our long history of galvanizing philanthropy. As we look ahead, we will continue to seize the opportunities within this pandemic as well as future crises to advance a more just and equitable society for all.