People listening to a presentation in a conference room

In the spirit of Ubuntu, bay area philanthropic community comes together to support inaugural cohort of black-led organizations.

“[Ubuntu is] recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others.”

President Barak Obama

This week, leaders from the Bay Area’s philanthropic community came together in Google’s Community Space in San Francisco to celebrate the transformative work of five (5) organizations selected for the inaugural Accelerator cohort of the ASCEND:BLO Initiative. In 15-minute presentations, each group pitched bold, compelling ideas to a panel of funders and investors who provided strategic input, and announced five $10,000 grants to each organization, along with an additional $15,000 community choice award made to the African American Art & Culture Complex based on audience input.

Since June of 2018, the inaugural cohort of these five (5) extraordinary Black-led organizations – African American Art & Culture Complex, Black Organizing Project, Community Housing Development Corporation, The Hidden Genius Project and Roots Community Health Center – has participated in a learning cohort and built community as they honed bold ideas for organizational and community impact. What started with a group of concerned philanthropic funders coming together to discuss the sudden closure of several Bay Area Black-Led Organizations (BLOs; registered nonprofit organizations with Black staff and/or Board Leadership) has blossomed into ASCEND:BLO (Accelerating and Stabilizing Communities through Equitable Nonprofit Development): an Initiative to ensure the long-term vitality of BLOs and the communities they serve while applying a dynamic and replicable approach to collaborative capacity building that further develops the sector – all through the critical lens of race and equity.

“We have come a very long way from the days when we first started researching accelerator models,” said Bob Uyeki, CEO of the Y & H Soda Foundation. “It’s one thing to have an idea and another to bring it not only into reality, but into a reality that builds community, collaboration and solidarity between the participants. The day modeled the very best aspects of a beloved community committed to service.”

The organizations selected have demonstrated a vision for growth, promising ideas, and a willingness to work in new ways to catalyze personal, organizational, and community change. In addition to the grant awards from the Accelerator showcase, each organization will receive investment of up to $300,000 over three (3) years to implement its bold ideas.
The Bay Area’s BLOs primarily serve majority Black, Latino, low and moderate income and underserved communities. These communities have enormous need, yet the local organizations tasked with fulfilling those needs often have limited staff, small budgets, and nominal or no reserve funding or endowments. As commercial rents skyrocket, many are seeing their rents nearly double, unable to keep pace with the rapidly shifting economy in the Bay Area. To create a more just region, means increasing local organizations’ capacity to serve the needs of our fellow citizens; creating the conditions for all people to reach their full potential.


The ASCEND:BLO Initiative is a capacity building program designed to support the growth, sustainability, and impact of BLOs (anchor institutions that provide vital services in communities of color and low-income communities) in six (6) core Bay Area Counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara. The first of its kind in the Bay Area, ASCEND:BLO has three (3) key components for effective nonprofit development – 1) A six-month accelerator to bolster emerging, innovative BLOs; 2) a three-year stabilizer designed to support mature BLOs through planned leadership transition and; 3) a peer learning community featuring peer networking and learning with access to relevant workshops and speakers. ASCEND:BLO is a collaborative effort that is supported by leaders from the East Bay Community Foundation, Akonadi Foundation, The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, the County of Alameda, Kapor Center, The San Francisco Foundation, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund and the Y & H Soda Foundation. More information about ASCEND:BLO can be found at