Photo credit: photograph by Brooke Anderson of protest organized by Black Organizing Project.   

Since Fall 2017, East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) has distributed over $6.5 million in grants and contributions to support community-driven systems change. We strongly believe individuals and families who have first-hand experience with the root causes of inequity have the most valuable insights and are critical to developing best-fit solutions for their communities. For this reason, we fund organizations that work with individuals, families, and coalitions to develop, execute, and support community-led solutions. These are organizations that we fund through our Community Organizing, Power Building, and Movement Building program strategy. 

This list of top five reasons why we fund community organizing highlights the work of five of our core grantee partners. We invite you to read the list, get familiar with issues affecting East Bay residents, and learn about these fantastic organizations leading the work toward an inclusive, fair, and just East Bay.  

#1. COMMUNITY ORGANIZING IS A TOOL TO ADDRESS THE HISTORIC AND INEQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF POWER AND RESOURCES. 

Historically, governmental and business practices and policies based on racial bias have negatively impacted Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities across America. An example that still affects East Bay residents today is redlining, a mortgage risk evaluation tool developed after the Great Depression, which segregated neighborhoods and inhibited economic advancement by barring non-white families from loans and home ownership. Today, many organizations are working to reverse the harm caused by this and other unjust practices and policies related to housing access. 

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action—a  grassroots, member-led, statewide community organization working with more than 15,000 members across California—is dedicated to raising the voices of everyday Californians, neighborhood by neighborhood, to fight for the policies and programs we need to improve communities and create a brighter future.  

In 2021, ACCE Oakland Chapter led three community organizing campaigns designed to keep people in their homes and protect families over corporate profits. Their No Evictions on Stolen Land, Cancel Rent Mortgages, and Fighting Corporate Real Estate campaigns resulted in legal protections against evictions, the strongest local eviction moratorium in the country, and accountability of corporate property owners.

#2. COMMUNITY ORGANIZING AMPLIFIES AND UNITES VOICES FOR CHANGE.  

It is easy to overlook issues affecting one person, especially if they do not have political power. But when a group of people gets together behind one cause, their collective voice is indisputable.  

The work of Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA) illustrates how community organizing amplifies and unites unheard voices. MUA is a grassroots organization of Latina immigrant women with a dual mission of promoting personal transformation and building community power for social and economic justice. A 2020 study revealed the economic vulnerability of domestic workers and confirmed the need for community organizing among domestic workers. According to the study, domestic workers were among the first workers to be left without work during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are less likely to have health benefits, and are three times as likely to be living in poverty as other workers (Economic Policy Institute, Domestic workers chartbook).  

In 2021, the California Domestic Workers Coalition—housed at MUA—led arduous advocating and organizing efforts that resulted in the unanimous passage of the Access to Paid Sick Leave Ordinance by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The ordinance makes San Francisco County the first in the country to create a portable benefits system for domestic workers to access paid sick leave. Domestic workers will be able to accrue paid sick leave hours from multiple employers through a centralized account that they will access through an app.  

#3. COMMUNITY ORGANIZING PROVIDES BEST-FIT SOLUTIONS FOR THE COMMUNITY BY THE COMMUNITY.  

Social movements led by communities most harmed by injustice are the most effective drivers of change, and when we center justice and equity with communities that have been disproportionately impacted, all communities benefit. 

The Black Organizing Project (BOP) demonstrates how community organizing provides best-fit solutions for the community by the community. BOP is a Black multi-generational, member-led community organization working for racial, social, and economic justice through grassroots organizing and community building in Oakland, California, and across the Bay Area. For years, BOP has worked alongside community members, families, and students to rethink safety in schools and abolish the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) police department to create a school envrionment that no longer criminalizes Black and Brown youth. 

In 2020—after a nine-year campaign—the OUSD Board of Education approved the George Floyd Resolution. The resolution eliminated the district school police department and reallocated funds to student support and resources such as school-based social workers, psychologists, restorative justice practitioners, and other mental or behavioral health professionals. The resolution is expected to have a particularly positive impact on Black and Latino students who, according to a 2021 nationwide study, are unfairly and disproportionately arrested by school police (ACLU, No Police in Schools: A Vision for Safe and Supportive Schools in CA). OUSD is the first school district to eliminate its police department.  

#4. COMMUNITY ORGANIZING DEVELOPS THE LEADERSHIP NECESSARY FOR EFFECTIVE SOCIAL CHANGE MOVEMENTS.  

At its core, community organizing is about developing people’s power to advocate for themselves, their families, and the community. Organizations engaged in community organizing are effective in building leadership with the communities they serve through on-going training, skill-building, and leadership development programs. 

Restore Oakland provides free training series where community members (1) learn critical concepts and principles of restorative justice practices, (2) explore how identities and experiences shape our relationship to justice, power, safety, and healing; and (3) build the skills to use restorative practices and hold community-building circles. The organization serves as a movement incubator where residents can come together to vision, experience, and build strategies for solidarity, restorative economics, and healing justice in their neighborhood. Restore Oakland has trained and developed hundreds of community leaders who act as avid advocates for their communities.

#5. COMMUNITY ORGANIZING STRENGTHENS OUR DEMOCRACY BY HOLDING ELECTED OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE.  

The more communities are engaged in decision-making and the political process, the stronger and more effective the outcomes will be for everyone. Elected officials at all levels of government are accountable to all their constituents and community organizing ensures that elected officials make decisions in the best interests of unrepresented communities.  

Faith in Action East Bay is a nonpartisan federation representing over 60,000 families throughout the East Bay. They work to develop leaders who build power through their congregations and schools to drive systemic change and improve the quality of life for their families. In 2021, as part of their Immigrant Rights work, Faith in Action East Bay led community organizing efforts to make members of Congress accountable for creating a pathway to citizenship for essential workers and their families. Their efforts to include a pathway to citizenship in the Build Back Better bill were unsuccessful, but they continue to organize and build support for Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers, and essential workers. Their work is truly relevant to the East Bay. In Alameda County alone, “nearly one in three residents is an immigrant. That is over 526,000 residents—naturalized U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, temporary migrants, humanitarian migrants, and foreign-born residents.” (Alameda County Public Health Department, Immigration)  

OUR COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY ORGANIZING 

In March 2022, East Bay Community Foundation awarded unrestricted general operating support grants to 25 organizations totaling $1,095,000 through our Community Organizing, Power Building, and Movement Building core program strategy. Out of the 25 grant recipients, 18 have received annual grants since 2020. Also unrestricted, the 2022 grant awards include an automatic straight-line 5% increase in funding to reflect rising costs and respond to grant recipients’ feedback. Grant recipients also had the flexibility to direct their grant award to any combination of their 501(c)(3) charitable organization or affiliated 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, allowing for greater impact in their issue and policy advocacy work.  

Grants from this program strategy are made possible with support from multiple funding sources including the Foundation’s discretionary grantmaking funds, the Community Organizing Fund, and the Just East Bay Fund

Based on the success of our core grantee partners, we know there are countless benefits of funding organizations that engage in community organizing efforts. During the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, our core grantee partners’ efforts resulted in substantial tenant and eviction protections, the increase of equitable access to vaccines, support for youth and their families in school transitions, key wins on local ballot measures, stronger policies in favor of worker and immigrant rights, and efforts to reimagine public safety. In addition, grantee recipients have been crucial in shifting racial equity narratives and building racial solidarity through campaigns such as Stop API Hate, Black Lives Matter, and Ending Deportation.    

We invite you to get to know our core grantee partners in Community Organizing, Power Building and Movement Building. You can donate directly on their websites, fund this work through the Just East Bay Fund at EBCF, and EBCF fund advisors can make grant recommendations directly through Donor Central.