EA Rapid Response Fund

The Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color Rapid Response Fund


Our rapid response fund provides urgent resources to mission-critical, on-the-ground organizations serving boys and men of color during pivotal moments of crisis and opportunity.

The Story

After people of color were killed by police officers in St. Louis and Baltimore, the challenges encountered by foundations that were coordinating responses inspired the EA to establish a rapid response capacity to assist community stakeholders serving boys and men of color in times of urgent need.

The protracted “movement moment” of recent years has put philanthropy to a critical test, demanding urgent action in response to a litany of increasingly common tragedies and injustices. EA staff identified a lag in philanthropic support to communities of color during moments of escalating crises, and responded by moving dollars to key movement-building efforts more quickly than most foundations are able to do on their own.

Our first grants went to support social-justice movements in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Orlando, and indigenous communities. We began making these grants following the shooting and killing of Black men by police and vigilantes in 2015 and 2016.

In Baton Rouge, we covered administrative costs for the Foundation for Louisiana so that 100 percent of other donors’ contributions could go directly to mission-critical organizations in the wake of triple tragedies—the police killing of Alton Sterling, the slayings of three police officers, and massive flooding.

The Foundation for Louisiana was able to leverage the EA’s early investment to inform communications strategies, improve platforms for police accountability, and support the creation of community data-collection processes. Underwriting these administrative costs was a non-traditional approach, but, as the Foundation for Louisiana president Flozell Daniels said, “One of the advantages of the EA as a group of seasoned executives and grantmakers is that they understand the operational context,” allowing them to respond in exactly the way that was needed.

Likewise, after 24-year-old Jamar Clark was killed by police and five local Black Lives Matter activists were shot by White vigilantes in Minneapolis, the EA provided seed funding to an effort coordinated by the Headwaters Foundation for Justice.

“When we got the funding commitment from EA, we were able to get on the phone instantaneously with our donors and inspire others to give,” said Maria de la Cruz, the associate executive director of Headwaters. The EA’s investment catalyzed additional investments, totaling over $100,000 to local advocacy organizations. Lorraine Ramirez of the Funders for Justice network added, “The EA partnership with Headwaters was exciting to witness. The emergency fund was able to raise more than its original goal. I believe early support from the EA was a catalyst for this momentum and success.”

In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the EA quickly convened its network to learn more about on-the-ground response efforts in the LGBT and Latinx communities, which include boys and men of color whose stories are too-often untold due to common stereotypes and normative views about gender and masculinity.

We also provided a grant to the CONTIGO (“With You”) Fund as part of a set of aligned investments by other EA members. In all, the support exceeded $2 million in only two weeks. Former Arcus Foundation president Kevin Jennings observed that this experience “was proof positive of the enormous leverage the EA can bring to bear in supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society.”

In the midst of the efforts of indigenous communities to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation from the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the EA provided funding for Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) to make rapid response grants.

NAP leveraged $30,000 in funding from the EA to secure additional funds from other donors for the #GenIndigenous Response Fund. Sarah Eagle Heart, CEO of NAP, said, “The rapid response grant allowed NAP to start building the bridge between youth-focused groups and longer-term funding” for Native American-led, youth-focused groups that are often overlooked by funders.

Since these initial grants, we have also supported organizers responding to the neo-Nazi presence in Charlottesville, Virginia; a public education campaign for immigrant youth targeted by school-based police officers in North Carolina; and key community-building efforts in Houston and Puerto Rico following devastating hurricanes, among other efforts.

The impact of the EA’s rapid response grants is significant, and it illustrates the need to increase availability of these nimble resources on a local, regional, and national basis. These funds provide protection to partners in the streets and support to coalitions that put themselves on the line in the fight to secure equity and justice for boys and men of color.