Announcing the 1st Wave of Communities First Fund Grant Recipients

April 17th, 2020

Good afternoon Community,

It was clear to me from the start that the coronavirus pandemic would change daily life for all Minnesotans—both in the short- and long-term. I also knew that systemic racism would make these changes feel heavier in communities where Black People, Indigenous People, and people of color (BIPOC) lived, worked, and organized. Communities of people who risk their safety making deliveries, cleaning hospital rooms, or having to shelter in place with a violent partner or in overcrowded conditions.

The pandemic has brought some changes that Headwaters can’t control. Even as we shifted our own operations, we knew we had to take action for our community. So, on March 15th, Headwaters launched the Communities First Fund for our grantee partners—prioritizing organizations led by and for BIPOC. My team and I got to work and started fundraising. Thanks to our relationships with individual and institutional donors, the Fund secured over $500,000 in its first 24 hours. To date, we have raised over $900,000.

Today, we announce 30 new Communities First Fund grant recipients:

This first wave of 30 general operating grants totals $443,500 and will support work that:

  • promotes healing, solidarity, and mutual aid;
  • helps people build power and organize in the name of systems change; and
  • strengthens organizational and community capacities to be their most resilient and creative.

When we let organizations know about their Communities First Fund grants, we listened as their stories came in:

  • This news honestly made me cry. We’ve really been struggling to provide technology, food, and other support to our families as the world changes minute by minute. Our entire staff has been working long hours trying to meet the needs of our community.
  • You cannot even know how much this wonderful grant means to us! It’s not only that we will receive such a generous amount of funding to use for operating (which is so needed right now), but just to know that people are thinking about us and supporting all the work we do for our community members!

Launching a new fund isn’t an easy thing to do now, but it is the right thing to do now. It’s encouraging to see new rapid response funds pop up across the region and the nation. I’m calling on even more funders to speed up their responsive grantmaking pace and practice. We have the resources. Now is the time to let grantees know we have their backs. That means turning restricted gifts into flexible funding and making it easier for organizations to access grant opportunities.

I’m also calling on donors at all levels: keep learning about and giving to as many funds and grassroots BIPOC-led organizations as you can. Headwaters is so proud of how our supporters have stepped up for the Communities First Fund. Thank you for making these grants possible.

What isn’t changing at Headwaters is our fierce commitment to the power of relational fundraising and grantmaking. Our brilliant Giving Project cohort is closer to their individual and collective goals, leading work under less than ideal circumstances. Later this summer, after our volunteer review panel makes recommendations to the Board of Directors, we’ll announce our next round of Community Innovation Grant recipients. We’re still checking in with current donors, and we’re always excited to connect with a new donor.

My team and I are making plans to support grantees beyond the Communities First Fund and will share details with you soon. Until then, let me share one last message from a grantee partner that I think captures our shared spirit and resiliency: “Although we’re in a challenging time, we’ll continue advocating for a just and more prosperous community.

In radical solidarity,
Maria De La Cruz, JD
Executive Director