While many California nonprofits work to mitigate disparities, it's also notable that the nonprofit community reflects many of these disparities as well. As the economic impact study Causes Count showed, nonprofits have many fewer resources if they are located in southern California, rural areas, poor neighborhoods, and/or communities of color.

We're pleased to call out for praise the California foundations that formed the African American Civic Engagement Project, because it addresses a crucial aspect of these disparities: strengthening African American-led nonprofits in African American communities.

"In various meetings about civic engagement we had been struck by the relative absence of African American partners at the table," says Cathy Cha, one of the co-founders of the initiative and Vice President at the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. "For us, civic engagement is the way to community power. We need to build a black electorate, and build power, voice and leadership in African American communities."

Through this initiative -- other leaders include Fred Blackwell of the San Francisco Foundation, and Anthony Thigpenn of California Calls -- several funders have committed to multi-year financial and other support to twelve African American nonprofits across California. The project provides general support grants and capacity building assistance.

California nonprofits appreciate foundation support for services to communities of color. But this initiative is especially meaningful because it strengthens the institutions that communities of color have created and which represent them to government and the public in a way that can't be done by a "mainstream" organization.

Too often we hear foundations -- including community foundations -- say that they can't find strong African American nonprofits to fund. We appreciate that this initiative didn't go down that dead-end street. Instead they worked with California Calls and other African American leaders to seek out a mix of strong and emerging community nonprofits and think through appropriate support.

Please join us in saying thank you and kudos to the African American Civic Engagement Project -- its funders and its community partners. It is a great way to fund, and shows genuine philanthropic leadership.

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