GCIR 2019 Annual Report: Pushing Back, Looking Forward

Publication date: 
March 2020
The cover of GCIR's report, Immigration Legal Services in California: A Time for Bold Action, featuring a woman holding a sign reading, "This is America. United We Stand. Resist."


This 12-page report reviews GCIR's efforts to inform, connect, and catalyze philanthropy in 2019, focusing on providing timely updates and expert analysis, working with funders to develop rapid-response funding strategies, and providing multiple vehicles for coordinating and mobilizing philanthropic pushback.

Letter from the President

Dear Colleagues:

In 2019, for the third consecutive year, the federal administration pursued its white nationalist agenda to halt and reverse demographic change in the United States, directly targeting immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through inhumane policies and dehumanizing rhetoric.

In response, GCIR continued to provide timely updates and expert analysis, work with funders to develop rapid-response funding strategies, and provide multiple vehicles for coordinating and mobilizing philanthropic pushback. Our work spanned myriad issues, including public charge, family separation, border enforcement, detention and deportation, primary and secondary trauma, online hate, disaster relief, and housing, among others.

Alongside our defensive work, GCIR prioritized affirmative, forward-looking efforts. Our partnership with California funders on the 2020 census sought to ensure fairness in the allocation of federal resources and in political apportionment over the next decade, and our work on criminalization aimed to bring together immigrants and communities of color to advance shared goals.

We also began developing a case for long-term philanthropic commitment to funding immigration as a defining and cross-cutting issue of our time. As part of this process, we engaged more than 100 stakeholders from the field and philanthropy, analyzed funding trends, surveyed GCIR members across the country, and held scenario-planning workshops involving activists, strategists, and funders. We deepened our understanding of the challenges facing our country and global society, and generated ideas for advancing long-term, high-impact grantmaking in the immigration space. These efforts informed our thinking about how to support philanthropy in building a more just and equitable future, and we look forward to releasing our new immigrant-focused grantmaking framework.

2020 will be a pivotal year for the immigrant rights movement and for GCIR. The immigration policy outlook will be determined by one of the most consequential elections in our lifetimes, and GCIR will have new leadership to guide the next chapter of its work. With full support from our board of directors, the GCIR team stands ready to engage and mobilize members, funders, and allies in our shared quest for equity and justice.

Daranee Petsod


In 2019, GCIR continued to organize programs to keep philanthropy apprised of policies aimed at limiting immigrants’ ability to enter, live, and thrive in the United States—and we did so in close partnership with colleague philanthropy-supporting organizations across the country.

The expansion of the “public charge” rule was a key focal point of our work given its vast chilling effect on low-income immigrants across the country. We also uplifted the plight of Central American and other asylum seekers, whose rights were decimated through policies that blocked their entry at our southern border, forced them to await their fate in Mexico, and indefinitely detained them under abhorrent conditions.

In addition to high-profile issues, GCIR also shined a spotlight on communities that were less visible to philanthropy, from black immigrants to Asian Pacific Islanders subject to detention and deportation. In uplifting both the short- and long-term policy implications, we helped funders see how they can address immediate crises and lay the groundwork for systems and structural change. Finally, we encouraged funders to use the full range of tools at their disposal, from asserting their leadership in the public sphere to divesting from immigrant detention.


In these challenging times, our California Immigrant Integration Initiative (CIII) funder table and national Delivering on the Dream (DOTD) network provided critical forums for mutual support and peer learning. Through CIII and DOTD, funders received not only up-to-date information and technical assistance but also insights from one another on everything from how to move immigrant-related grantmaking within their institutions to strategies for putting in place participatory grantmaking models.

For CIII, this sense of community was enhanced by a day-long, in-person meeting in September as well as a learning lab on the immigrant detention system, both of which fostered deeper connections among the participants. Throughout the year, GCIR continued to expand relationships across California, particularly with funders in the border region. In addition, the CIII legal services working group commissioned an assessment of the legal services landscape in California to identify gaps, opportunities, and points of leverage for philanthropy. The report, Immigration Legal Services in California: A Time for Bold Action, will be published in February 2020.

By the end of 2019, DOTD included funding collaboratives in 19 states, engaging over 160 local, state, and national funders supporting more than 500 grantees. GCIR gathered DOTD members for a two-day retreat in June that provided space for shared learning on diversity, equity, and inclusion; network visioning in the context of the hostile policy environment; and peer-led sessions on topics such as effective funding strategies in rural and other underserved communities.

As in years past, CIII and DOTD provided funders with strong infrastructure that allowed them to be on the leading edge of philanthropic responses to adverse policies and other crises. In 2019 alone, California funders moved $101.7 million to address critical issues in the state with the largest immigrant population. And since its inception in 2012, DOTD funders have deployed approximately $78 million in new funding in service of nearly 900,000 immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in communities as diverse as Denver, Fort Myers, Houston, Los Angeles, and Nashville. As a complement to this rapid response work, GCIR also engaged CIII and DOTD funders in thinking about longer-term issues and approaching their funding from an affirmative stance, focusing on what they envision for their communities in addition to addressing urgent needs.

Finally, recognizing that long-term movement and field building will require all of us to deepen the connection between immigrant rights and other justice and equity issues, GCIR made a concerted effort this year to bring together diverse funders, facilitate strategic partnerships, and foster collaboration, particularly across issues, movements, grantmaking approaches, and theories of change.


The theme of taking the long view extended into our work of mobilizing funder resources for the field. In 2019, GCIR continued to lead the California Census 2020 Statewide Funders’ Initiative, which now includes over 80 members representing more than 55 community, private, and corporate foundations. These funders are coordinating efforts to maximize the participation of hard-to-count populations in the next census, ensuring fairness in the allocation of federal resources and in political apportionment over the next decade. In the process, they are also strengthening the movement infrastructure across the state, which in turn will improve opportunities and conditions for Californians who have been politically, economically, and socially marginalized.

GCIR interviewed community-based organizations, shared on-the-ground needs and gaps with funders, provided technical assistance on census grantmaking, and tracked census funding. We partnered with the California governor’s office to coordinate public and private census efforts and with Philanthropy California to address regional needs and coordinate evaluation. As a result of these multi-stakeholder efforts, California funders have moved over $26 million since 2016 to ensure a complete and accurate count in the 2020 census.

Review the full report for additional information.

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