© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
To contact us with news tips, story ideas or other related information, e-mail newsstaff@ideastream.org.

Cleveland Black Futures Fund Announces $1.89M In First Round Of Grants

The Cleveland Black Futures Fund distributed nearly $2 million to 49 Black-led and Black-serving nonprofit organizations. [Cleveland Foundation]
Cleveland Black Futures Fund logo

Updated: 4:02 p.m., Thursday, July 1, 2021

The first round of grants from the Cleveland Black Futures Fund, a new initiative by the Cleveland Foundation, was announced Tuesday with $1.89 million going to 49 local Black-owned and Black-serving organizations.

Prior to 2020, the Cleveland Foundation was already having a “frank and forthright” public conversation about race, supporting the Racial Equity Institute and conducting workshop on the issue throughout Cleveland. But the non-pandemic events of 2020 – like the murders of Brionna Taylor and George Floyd and the renewed national movement for Black Lives Matter – had the Foundation asking, “What more should we be doing?” said Courtenay Barton, the foundation’s program director for arts and culture and racial equity initiatives.

The Black Futures Fund is an answer to that question.

The grants, ranging from $25,000 to $100,000, are going to groups mostly in the “incubation” stage, meaning they are in need of resource to help them grow. All of the nonprofit grant winners serve Northeast Ohio’s communities of color and all are Black-run nonprofits.

Only about 8 percent of grants go to people of color nationwide. That means Black leaders aren’t getting the resources to match their representation in the total population, Barton said. Having the philanthropic community address that sad statistic is simply a matter of equity, she said, adding funding Black-led organizations is very effective for addressing needs on the ground.

“We are working with people who know who people are, where people are, people who need assistance, know where to get it, who already have the doors open to them in a way that communities that have been historically marginalized, oppressed, etcetera,” Barton said. “I believe it is very important to work with who the community trusts, in order to get access and entry.”

The Cleveland Foundation received more than 220 submissions during the initial application period for the Cleveland Black Futures Fund – and more than 40 percent were first-time applicants to the Foundation. A seven-person committee, comprised of community leaders and foundation representatives, selected the recipients.

Barton said going through the thousands of pages of application material was an immense learning experience, shedding light on the work being done in Northeast Ohio.

Barton said she learned that many forms of public assistance “even for mothers with children, do not cover diapers.” The Diaper Bank of Greater Cleveland received a $25,000 grant.

“Diapers are expensive. Imagine that need- the number of diapers that you will need to go through on a daily basis,” Barton said. “And to find out that there are a number of organizations that specialize in that need specifically, who are sourcing diapers, dropping them off to organizations and individuals. Nobody is getting paid for this work, right? These are all volunteers and what they would be able to do with more resources.”

The LGBT Center of Cleveland received a $100,000 grant and Black Space, a nonprofit organization that supports transgender and non-binary youth of color received a $25,000 dollar grant, based in part on the urgent and pressing needs they’re addressing.

“We just came out of a pandemic period in which people had to stay at home, often in unsafe situations for youth who may be LGBTQ,” Barton said. “And a lot of youth experienced abuse trauma at home during this period, a huge demand, an increased demand for services. And in the conversations that we've had for this Fund, in the community, it was expressed that one of people's biggest concerns was that there weren't enough safe places to send people at this point in time specifically.”

With a $250,000 contribution announced Monday, KeyBank joined Facebook, the George W. Codrington Charitable Foundation, The HealthComp Foundation, Saint Luke’s Foundation and the Treu-Mart Fund as partners in the Black Futures Fund.  

The Cleveland Black Futures Fund has amassed more than $4.3 million since its inception in late 2020.  A second round of grantmaking is already set for the fall.


An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the grant recipients did not yet have their 501(c)(3) status.

Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”