Charities that help immigrants and refugees fare better when raising funds from private sources
Many American charities that work to help immigrants and refugees have learned the importance of fundraising the hard way. Many of these organizations rely heavily on government assistance and, to a lesser extent, billing for services such as helping newcomers complete required paperwork. Their incomes plummeted when former President Donald Trump reduced the number of refugees entering the United States.
While some of Trump’s predecessors allowed 100,000 or more refugees into the United States each year, Trump reduced that number to 45,000 in fiscal year 2018; 30,000 during the 2019 financial year; 18,000 in fiscal year 2020; and offered only 15,000 refugee admissions for fiscal year 2021. Trump’s cuts came as his administration adopted other policies to prevent asylum seekers from entering the United States through the border. south until they were granted a date for their case to be heard in US court.
“For those who have received government funding tied to the number of refugees entering the United States, they have been stripped to the bone, they have been decimated,” said Sarah Hidey, director of development at RefugePoint, a charity in Boston which has helped over 100,000 people. refugees find solutions through resettlement, self-reliance or other pathways to safety.
A refugee crisis attracts funding
On the other hand, charitable donations often pour in from individuals, foundations and businesses sensitive to the plight of newcomers, such as the thousands of Afghans brought to the United States after the American withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. .
The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service helped resettle more than 11,000 Afghan refugees in the United States out of some 76,000 Afghans brought here. Last year, the charity received contributions from 15,000 new donors, and contributions have grown from a high of $5 million a year to some $20 million last year. The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service used some of the money to bolster its staff, which has grown from 60 to 240 since 2020.
Other donations to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service were used to create new programs. One such initiative, called New American Cities, aims to help newcomers develop their skills and advance in the job market. In April, the new program won a $1 million grant from the Walmart Foundation. The retail giant views newcomers as potential employees and customers, said Andrew Steele, the charity’s vice president of development.
Another new program from the Lutheran charity offers counseling and other forms of assistance to refugees, mostly unaccompanied young clients whose displacement has impacted their mental health, Steele said.
Serving LGBTQ refugees, asylum seekers and migrants
Other charities working with immigrants and refugees have increased their fundraising performance by focusing on subgroups within the broader immigrant and refugee population. Since 2019, under the leadership of Executive Director Steve Roth, the Organization for Refugees, Asylum and Migration (ORAM) has focused on helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. and homosexuals. Prior to 2019, the organization relied heavily on charging fees for its services, but that approach no longer worked, Roth said.
In response, ORAM has created an online platform for LGBTQ customers to share their stories, and the charity is also using their real-life experiences in its fundraising solicitations. Since adopting new practices, ORAM has seen an increase in contributions from individual donors, corporations and foundations. Corporate support, Roth said, has increased — it was zero before 2019 and now accounts for 15% of all donations.
Meanwhile, three new foundations also supported ORAM last year. Gaining support from new foundations is particularly notable – a study by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found that while immigrants and refugees make up 14% of the US population, local foundations gave just 1% of their total grants for the benefit of persons born abroad. Additionally, less than half of one percent of local grants in the United States were for advocacy or organizing on behalf of immigrants and refugees.
In its 2022 fiscal year, which ended March 31, ORAM raised $600,000 in contributions, up from $420,000 in 2021. Roth said he’s confident his organization can attract $1 million in donations to the during the 2023 financial year, which began on April 1.
Centering refugee voices
Since the summer of 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and other racist tragedies across the country, a renewed focus on diversity, equity and inclusion has also affected the fundraising landscape for charities that help immigrants and refugees.
“Many funders have asked us what we do to be fair. How do you ensure refugee voices are heard and part of your board? It’s become a key priority, and we’re trying to lead by example,” said RefugePoint’s Hidey.
To that end, RefugeePoint, which raised more than $7 million in 2020, the latest year for which data is available, has recruited refugees to serve on its board of directors and an advisory board in Kenya, said Hidey. He also hosted a presentation called Centering Refugee Voices at a global meeting for philanthropists, sharing insights into how refugees inform the work of the individuals and charities that support them.
Current challenges: COVID and the economy
Whether they’re struggling to raise funds or receive new contributions, charities that help immigrants and refugees are also facing new fundraising challenges that have only emerged in recent months and that don’t should not subside any time soon. “The public is in a very bad mood,” said Tim Delaney, chief executive of the National Council of Nonprofit Organizations. “We have the pain of inflation, the threat of recession. I think it will be more difficult to raise funds. Then you have nonprofits going bankrupt because of the pandemic.
Delaney said the amount of online traffic to his organization’s website for content about dissolving a nonprofit increased by 30%. Taking one state as an example, according to Forbes, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office found that nearly 200 of the state’s nonprofits closed between April 2020 and March 2021 as a result of the pandemic. And up to 38% of charities could close permanently due to COVID, according to a 2020 Candid analysis of more than 315,000 nonprofits under different pandemic-related financial scenarios.
Additionally, there have been numerous nationwide reports of nonprofit organization closures resulting from factors such as COVID-related service disruptions, staffing shortages, and increased operating costs. , but definitive information on nonprofit organization closures since the start of the pandemic remains elusive.
Established operations are one step ahead
Ultimately, it’s probably fair to say that the nonprofits working with immigrants and refugees that are best equipped to survive the pandemic and the new fundraising challenges of the economy are those who have gone far beyond government support and charging fees for their services.
HIAS, a century-old charity originally founded to help protect Jews from anti-Semitic violence, raised $100 million last year. The charity, which now helps anyone seeking safety, had planned to raise $140 million by the end of this year. But Miriam Feffer, HIAS vice president for development, now predicts contributions will be closer to $180 million by December 31. The reason: Donors have responded generously to HIAS’s work to help Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s invasion of their country in an ongoing war. .
Additionally, rather than depressing charitable contributions, Feffer said the pandemic appears to have prompted new bequests and other planned giving to his organization as donors contemplate their own mortality. “We’ve seen an increase in planned giving,” Feffer said. “We believe that the planned gift presented itself as an opportunity to plan for the long term. We came back roaring as the world continues to cause crises.