RISE Together Fund

RISE Together Fund: 2020 Year in Review

By the RISE Together Fund Team

This year brought with it a global pandemic, national racial justice uprisings, a divisive presidential election, and a chance for the RISE Together Fund to reflect on our role in addressing these challenges and building a just, multiracial democracy. Over the last year and into 2021, we are well positioned to both respond to the needs at hand and build for the future.

RTF Expanded Grantmaking to Meet the Needs of the Moment

  • In response to the initial COVID shutdown, RTF repurposed $25,000 of the convening fund we co-manage with Open Society Foundations to support the digital and technology needs of our grantees. We offered technical assistance to groups who wanted to apply to the Paycheck Protection Program and supported initiatives to provide mental health resources, document and respond to the impact of COVID on Black Muslim communities, and advocate for the incarcerated.
  • In 2019, we made 22 core grants totaling $1,700,000. In 2020, we supported 28 grantees with over $2.1 million. We increased our rapid response support from $150,000 in 2019 to $250,000 in 2020, addressing some of the urgent needs such as COVID, the Movement for Black Lives, and nonpartisan voter engagement.
  • RTF examined our grantmaking and programming to deliberately and sustainably increase our support for Black-led work. In 2019, 15% of our core grant funding went to Black-led groups and in 2020 we increased that support to 33%.We increased our c3 rapid response funding to Black-led work from about 18% to 25% in 2020 and our c4 rapid response support has been steady around 30% of total funding to Black-led groups. In October 2020 we cohosted the first in a series of funder briefings highlighting Black Muslim organizations and leaders working on policy, organizing, civic engagement, arts & culture and healing & wellness. We raised nearly $20,000 from funder attendees to support the panelists and their organizations.

RTF Fostered Collaboration in the Field and Provided Digital Security Support

  • The RISE Organizing Team provides field-wide coordination and rapid response support. They maintain a listserv of over 550 members from across the Muslim, Arab and South Asian field and allied organizations, with reach in 29 states. In the past 12 months, the RISE Organizing Team hosted 15 field calls and webinars to address key rapid response concerns including conflict with Iran, detentions and deportations, and general election scenario planning on potential hate violence and voter intimidation. The Team facilitated meetings on deepening support for Black-led movement work, outlining immigration policy priorities, and learning transformative justice strategies. They also compiled and shared critical resources, including a Rapid Response Toolkit and an Election 2020 Toolkit.
  • For the fourth year in a row, RTF funded Equality Labs, a South Asian power-building organization who provides a range of tailored and comprehensive digital security training and support to grantees. They offer training webinars and personalized coaching on topics including secure file sharing and collaboration strategies, data stewardship for small nonprofit organizations, and resilience & self-care. They provide rapid response support to grantees facing increased security threats from infiltration, doxing, infrastructure and physical attacks. RTF’s work on grantee safety & security was recently highlighted in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

RTF Increased Investments on Nonpartisan Civic Engagement

In 2020, RTF supported field-wide coordination and increased funding to support civic engagement work being led by Muslim, Arab and South Asian organizers. 

  • RTF organized a two-day online data training boot camp in April for 24 grantees with Dr. Tom Wong, who specializes in mobilizing high potential voters of color and immigrant communities. He developed an algorithm to identify Muslim, Arab and South Asian voters and worked individually with grantees to tailor their civic engagement outreach lists.
  • From April through November, Dr. Wong supplied voter data to 20 grantee organizations and worked one-on-one with nine of them to organize their phone banking operations including writing scripts, programming survey questions, providing training and oversight on the management of field teams and implementation. For example, with just one grantee, the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, he identified a list of 80,000 potential voters, far exceeding the 900 names they originally had on their outreach list. 

Looking to 2021 and Beyond

While sustaining the core areas of support for our grantees, including digital resilience and specialized leadership training for women in our field, we will grow our work in the following ways:

  • Expanding RTF’s efforts to increase our engagement with Black Muslim and Black immigrant communities. We will start the new year by reviewing the language we use to describe our work, the communities we support, and our request for proposals to ensure they are an accurate reflection of our intention to address the structural and lived experiences of racism and xenophobia in our communities. We will convene a panel of advisors to support our learning about and connections to Black immigrant and Muslim communities, and amplify their leadership among our philanthropic partners. 
  • Twentieth anniversary of 9/11. The twentieth anniversary of 9/11 is a critical opportunity to correct and complete the historical record, to bear witness and share the ongoing harms of the past 20 years on Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and other targeted communities. RTF will work closely with grantees, allies and national leaders to ensure that the human and civil rights impacts of 9/11 will not be overlooked in the narratives of national security and forever wars that will likely dominate news stories about the anniversary.
  • Building out c3 and c4 legislative advocacy work. Many of the policy challenges we see playing out in the pandemic and included in the demands for police reform are ones in which the Muslim, Arab and South Asian field has built deep expertise. These include surveillance and criminalization on tracking of COVID cases, the monitoring of protest, the militarization of police, and over policing of low-income communities of color. We will support the field to mobilize around federal, state, and local policy work related to these and other issues.

Appreciations from our Grantee Organizations and Field Partners

As we look to 2021, we are inspired by our grantees’ leadership and proud of the role we play in supporting their work. As one of our grantees told us this year, “Thank you so much RTF Team! You are literally the wind beneath our wings to be able to do this work effectively.” These quotes from our grantees and field partners motivate us to fight for the future we believe in: Rights, Inclusion, Solidarity, and Equity (RISE) Together.

“RISE Together Fund (RTF) are essential thought-partners and collaborators. RTF has been at the forefront of work to combat anti-Muslim prejudice and to strengthen the civic engagement of the Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian communities, and they’ve taken bold and courageous positions. Their multi-year investment in ReThink Media’s work has allowed us to train over 250 Muslim, Arab, and South Asian spokespeople across the country to ensure that Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities and organizations are respected as expert spokespeople in critical national conversations about the advancement of civil rights and the future of our country.”

“In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, and unprecedented state and hate violence against Muslim, Arab & South Asian communities, the RISE Together Fund immediately responded through a series of rapid response interventions, including creating a listserv, supporting monthly field calls, supporting quarterly workshops and trainings, and providing rapid response grants to local and national organizations. This intervention was critical and ameliorated the harm experienced by these communities. It also brought the field together, connected activists and organizations in the field, and allowed for greater solidarity between Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities and the broader racial justice movement.”

“RTF has resourced community organizing and power-building efforts led by Muslim women who are rarely supported. In addition, RTF truly believes in and supports investing in the leadership of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian women. Through RTF’s support and connections to other funders, JMC was able to build a team of Muslims who called 60,000 Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian voters in VA to get out the vote in the 2020 general election. In other instances, RTF has found us the support to respond in critical moments to immigration raids, the Muslim Ban, and defend our communities. RTF is unlike any other funder, and truly supports, advocates for and finds the resources for their grantees to respond in critical moments.”

“Georgia Muslim Voter Project is a young, small organization that is just beginning to make a foothold in organizing its Georgia Muslim community. The success that we have achieved in a tumultuous year should not be possible. However, with the continued support of RTF, GAMVP was able to organize not just to survive this year, but to thrive and grow and be ready for the next leap of growth next year. None of our successes would be possible without the dedication and support of the RTF team.”

  • ReThink Media

    “RISE Together Fund (RTF) are essential thought-partners and collaborators. RTF has been at the forefront of work to combat anti-Muslim prejudice and to strengthen the civic engagement of the Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian communities, and they’ve taken bold and courageous positions. Their multi-year investment in ReThink Media’s work has allowed us to train over 250 Muslim, Arab, and South Asian spokespeople across the country to ensure that Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities and organizations are respected as expert spokespeople in critical national conversations about the advancement of civil rights and the future of our country.”

  • Deepa Iyer & Arjun Singh Sethi

    “In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, and unprecedented state and hate violence against Muslim, Arab & South Asian communities, the RISE Together Fund immediately responded through a series of rapid response interventions, including creating a listserv, supporting monthly field calls, supporting quarterly workshops and trainings, and providing rapid response grants to local and national organizations. This intervention was critical and ameliorated the harm experienced by these communities. It also brought the field together, connected activists and organizations in the field, and allowed for greater solidarity between Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities and the broader racial justice movement.”

  • Justice for Muslims Collective

    “RTF has resourced community organizing and power-building efforts led by Muslim women who are rarely supported. In addition, RTF truly believes in and supports investing in the leadership of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian women. Through RTF’s support and connections to other funders, JMC was able to build a team of Muslims who called 60,000 Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian voters in VA to get out the vote in the 2020 general election. In other instances, RTF has found us the support to respond in critical moments to immigration raids, the Muslim Ban, and defend our communities. RTF is unlike any other funder, and truly supports, advocates for and finds the resources for their grantees to respond in critical moments.”

  • Umer Rupani, Director of GAMVP

    “Georgia Muslim Voter Project is a young, small organization that is just beginning to make a foothold in organizing its Georgia Muslim community. The success that we have achieved in a tumultuous year should not be possible. However, with the continued support of RTF, GAMVP was able to organize not just to survive this year, but to thrive and grow and be ready for the next leap of growth next year. None of our successes would be possible without the dedication and support of the RTF team.”