Three Steps Grant Writers Can Take Toward Racial Justice

By: Jessica Williams, MA, MSW

It is long past time that we address racial justice head-on in our grants work.

Housing discrimination, lower quality healthcare, predatory lending practices, decades of select community disinvestment, inequitable economic opportunities, school-to-prison pipelines, and environments that do not support healthy lives are examples of systemic racism.

These inequities were further exposed by COVID-19 on these same communities.

You are at the front lines of targeting structural, institutional, and interpersonal racism in our  communities. Community based organizations (CBO) target these social determinants of health by providing critical direct services.

You, the grant fundraiser, play a critical role in translating a CBO’s work to foundation and government funders.

These three steps will assist you in establishing a racial justice framework:

Step 1: Map Social Determinants of Health to Your CBO’s Service Profile

Your CBO should conduct regular community needs assessments to highlight the most pressing social determinants of health and health disparities. The grant writer should then clearly map these disparities to your CBO’s service profile. Equally important is to highlight program outcomes focused on ameliorating the social determinants of health, such as self-sufficiency, early intervention, prevention, and treatment of health conditions. Here’s an example:  nonprofit provides community health workers (the community health intervention) to provide self-management coaching to individuals with diabetes (the health disparity).

Step 2: Assure that Your Staff Represents the Community You Serve

After documenting your community demographics, assure that the program staff reflect that community. Staff with bilingual abilities are often needed. Be proactive about hiring Black, Brown and Indigenous People of Color who come from the communities you serve. It is also important to address adequate caseloads, staff coverage, and quality clinicians for high needs communities. Underscore how program leaders ensure that staff are trained regularly in trauma-informed care and evidence-based practices, and how supervision is embedded in a strong quality assurance process.

Step 3: Map Barriers to Service Delivery

Identify barriers to care and clearly describe how your nonprofit is working to reduce them. Here are examples: Offer evening and weekend hours for working families; provide telehealth for safe social distancing during COVID-19; offer education to combat myths; deliver community-based care for individuals that need a higher level of care but cannot make it into an office due to homelessness or extenuating circumstances. These strategies to reduce barriers to care should be documented through process metrics that focus on consistency of care (retention rates and no-show rates), walk-ins (virtual and physical), mobile van contacts, community contacts, social support self-report measures, access to entitlements, and provision of immediate food and housing needs.  

These three steps also serve as a framework for you to conduct a gap analysis of how they are impacting the effects of racism on your community. Such an assessment would ideally start with an honest question: “How is racism operating here, in structures, policies, practices, norms, and values?” Once gaps are identified, your CBO can plan for (and ask for funding for) the required service enhancements.

Finally, mapping community assets in a gap analysis process is important to deepen a CBO’s commitment to racial justice. Such an engaged process of reflection on racial inequities will steer your CBO to a more just world. This is the enduring promise of being truly community based.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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