Black Voters Matter


The Hill-Snowdon Foundation is committed to working with low income families and communities to create a fair and just society.

Photo Credit: Black Voters Matter - NY Times

HSF’s Board is deeply concerned about the growing economic, racial, and social injustices, as well as the decreasing role and influence that middle and working class people have in the daily practice of democracy in this country.


Fundamentally, we are interested in improving the concrete material and socio-political conditions of low-income families and communities so that they are thriving.  We believe that the most sustainable and effective way of achieving this is for low-income families and communities to build the power necessary to move themselves away from the political, economic and social margins of our society. Thus for us, poverty, income inequality and constrained opportunity are indelibly linked to social and political marginalization.  Therefore we have chosen community organizing as our core strategy because it has proven effective at securing concrete improvements for low-income families and communities by engaging them in the public sphere and consequently, and consequently, increasing their voice, power and capacity to achieve social change. 

HSF has several grantmaking programs and initiatives that are all grounded in the practice of community organizing and social justice:

Youth Organizing

Economic Justice Organizing

Fund for DC

Making Black Lives Matter Initiative

Defending the Dream Fund

Democracy's Promise Initiative

​Opportunity and Capacity-Building Fund​

HSF has a particular focus on supporting community organizing in the US South, and the majority of our grant funds are directed in this region. The Foundation also has an on-going interest in supporting organizing in Native American communities. All of our current grassroots partners, as well as some alumni, are eligible to receive small supplemental grants to help them respond strategic opportunities and/or capacity building needs. Finally, through our Board Discretionary Grants, Employee Matching Grants, and Rapid Response Fund, HSF has a limited pool of staff and board directed funds to respond to natural disasters and support strategic partnerships that advance our work. 



The Hill-Snowdon Foundation has made grants in support of youth organizing since 2000, making us one of the most enduring supporters of the youth organizing field in the country.  We are committed to supporting youth organizing because  low-income youth of color suffer severe social and economic deprivations in this society and youth organizing helps low income youth of color build the power to influence critical policy decisions, secure material changes in their communities and challenge the prevailing social deficit stereotype.  Ultimately, HSF wants to move the leadership of low income youth of color and other marginalized youth to the center of the social, political, economic and cultural life of American society, thus helping to ensure that these youth can thrive.  We believe that youth organizing is an essential means to achieve this, as well as, “Building a Movement for the Ages”, thus revitalizing and ensuring the sustainability of social justice movements in the US over the long term.

Over the last few years, we have seen youth organizing evolving towards a multi-generational approach, and in so doing, achieving broader impact, scale and scope. We have seen the broader organizing field integrating multi-generational organizing as well. Consequently, our Youth Organizing Program Area will focus exclusively on multi-generational organizing, because we see it as a very effective means of securing systemic changes necessary for low income youth and their families to thrive.   By adopting this focus we anticipate the following outcomes:

  • Larger scale and more substantive changes and improvements for low income and marginalized youth and their families.

  • A greater number of groups adopting and effectively employing a multi-generational model.

  • Substantively expanded roles for youth in social justice organizations and the movement overall.

  • A more stable and expanded base of funding that allows youth to organize to help their families and communities to thrive.


Eligibility Criteria:

Organizations seeking support from HSF’s Youth Organizing Program have the strongest likelihood of receiving a grant if they fit the following the criteria:

  • Have a track record and commitment to multi-generational organizing, as evidenced by their leadership structure and organizing model.

  • Employ a community organizing approach to systems, institutional or policy level change (we do not support youth leadership, advocacy, or service programs that are not grounded in a community organizing model).

  • Engage in multi-issue, base-building organizing

  • Employ a sophisticated, strategic and explicit racial and gender justice frame

  • Have a track record of organizing wins and institutional and policy changes

  • Work in coalition with social justice organizing groups and/or hold leadership positions in multi-generational organizing coalitions.

  • Integrate civic participation or voter engagement strategies into their ongoing efforts whenever possible.

  • Are located in the US South (the majority of HSF’s Youth Organizing grants are directed towards the US South, but we still support organizations outside of the South).​



The Hill Snowdon Foundation began its Economic Justice Program Area in 2002 as part of its desire to address growing income inequality in the US.  In 2007, HSF further refined its focus to support organizing that strengthened the “Public Good” and multi-ethnic/multi-racial alliance building to re-knit and expand the social safety net and base of political power for low income families and communities.  In 2012, to reflect changing needs, opportunities and challenges, HSF’s Economic Justice program adopted a focus on groups or campaigns centered on promoting family-supporting and community-strengthening jobs. Examples of family supporting efforts could include Improving wages and work conditions and advancing better work-family policies; and preventing discrimination based on gender, race, age, immigration status or sexual orientation. Community strengthening could include community-benefit agreements for publicly-funded projects, promoting living wage jobs, preserving and expanding affordable housing and protecting the right to organize into unions or other collective bargaining units.

By adopting this focus we anticipate the following outcomes:

  • Significant improvements in job quality—better wages, benefits and work conditions in low wage sector jobs, especially in the South.

  • Stronger enforcement of worker protection and less discrimination against or fewer barriers for undocumented workers.

  • Stronger strategic alliances between labor, community and worker organizations that are working to strengthen the quality of jobs to ensure there isn’t a race to the bottom, but rather for jobs that can support a family and help communities thrive.

Eligibility Criteria:

Organizations seeking support from HSF’s Economic Justice Organizing Program have the strongest likelihood of receiving a grant if they fit the following the criteria:

  • Must employ a community organizing approach to systems, institutional or policy level change (we do not support research, advocacy, or service programs that are not grounded in a community organizing model).

  • Focus on organizing campaigns that seek to secure policies to create or strengthen family supporting or community strengthening jobs.

  • Have a track record of organizing wins and institutional and policy changes

  • Employ a sophisticated, strategic and explicit racial and gender justice frame

  • Use a cross-racial or multi-ethnic alliance building strategy to build power

  • Integrate civic participation or voter engagement strategies into their ongoing efforts whenever possible.

  • Are located in the US South (the majority of HSF’s Economic Justice Organizing grants are directed towards the US South, but we still support organizations outside of the South).



The Hill-Snowdon Foundation created the Fund for DC in 2006 to strengthen the infrastructure for community organizing in the District of Columbia: As noted in Making the Case: Supporting Community Organizing in our Nation's Capital, advocacy and organizing groups in the District of Columbia have tended to be under-resourced by local can national foundations, although these groups have produced significant results.

The Hill-Snowdon Foundation is committed supporting community organizing groups in the District of Columbia and strengthening their capacity to achieve larger scale victories for marginalized residents in the District.  Specifically, the Fund for DC:

  • Provides general support grants to base building, community organizing groups in the District of Columbia

  • Implements  a Community Organizing Capacity Building program for Fund for DC groups that helps to enhance specific organizing capacities (e.g., base-building, campaign strategy, communications, etc.) of Fund for DC grassroots partners.

By adopting this focus we anticipate the following outcomes:

  • Greater ability of local organizing groups to influence local policy decisions and win larger scale changes for low income families and communities in DC.

  • Greater ability for DC community organizing groups to develop effective campaigns, recruit and engage more residents, and hold elected officials accountable.

  • More formal, effective and expansive working relationships between community organizing, advocacy and service groups in the District.

Eligibility Criteria:

Organizations seeking support from HSF’s Fund for DC Program have the strongest likelihood of receiving a grant if they fit the following the criteria:

  • Employ a community organizing approach to systems, institutional or policy level change (we do not support youth leadership, advocacy, or service programs that are not grounded in a community organizing model).

  • Engage in multi-issue, base-building organizing

  • Have a track record of organizing wins and institutional or policy changes

  • Work in coalition with other social justice organizing groups in the District. 

  • Employ a sophisticated, strategic and explicit racial and gender justice frame

  • Integrate civic participation or voter engagement strategies into their ongoing efforts whenever possible.


HSF is an advocate for significantly more philanthropic resources for Black-led social change and strives to be more strategic in our investments for social and racial justice in the Black community.  


In May 2015, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation launched the Making Black Lives Matter Initiative (MBLM), a three year grantmaking and strategic co-funding initiative that seeks to maximize this historic movement moment to begin building long term institutional and political power for Black social change and racial justice.  HSF committed $900,000 in new funds over three years to support Black-led organizing, Black leadership development and strategic convenings for Black racial and social justice leaders. In partnership with the Association of Black Funding Executives (ABFE), HSF coordinated with the Black Social Change Funders Network to advocate for significantly more philanthropic resources for Black-led social change and to be more strategic in our investments for social and racial justice in the Black community.


The long-term goals of the MBLM Initiative are to:

  • Actual policy wins that remove racialized barriers and produce concrete outcomes to enable Black communities and people to thrive across a spectrum of issues and places.

  • A dynamic, strong, connected and powerful Black-led and allied ecosystem for building power for the Black community

  • Notable progress in shifting the public discourse and prevailing narrative that de-legitimizes the need for Black social change and justice.

  • Significantly increase philanthropic support and coordination to strengthen Black institutional and political power.

In 2017, the Hill-Snowdon Foundation Board decided to make the focus on Black-led Organizing a permanent priority for the Foundation and made the Making Black Lives Matter Initiative an on-going program area for HSF.  Currently, more than 50% of HSF's overall grant portfolio are Black-led organizing groups.

In 2020, the foundation announced its commitment of $5.5 million dollars over the next 5.5 years to support Black-led organizing and movement infrastructure under our Black Movement Infrastructure for Racial Justice strategy. These resources will come from HSF’s endowment and are in addition to HSF’s on-going commitment to Black-led organizing through its Making Black Lives Matter Initiative. Overall, HSF seeks to help build a more robust, powerful and lasting infrastructure for Black-led organizing and movement to ensure that all Black people are thriving.


…O, let America be America again—

The land that never has been yet—

And yet must be—the land where every man is free.

The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—

Who made America,

Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,

Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,

Must bring back our mighty dream again.


--Excerpts from Let America Be America Again, Langston Hughes (1936)


A collaboration between several national foundations (General Service Foundation, Hill-Snowdon Foundation, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, Whitman Institute, and UU Veatch Program) and other funders, the Defending the Dream Fund supports a groundswell in grassroots engagement to defend and promote deep and inclusive democracy in the US. 


DDF was launched in 2017 with multiple philanthropic partners and since then, we have granted almost $2 million in six grant cycles (two each in 2017 and 2018, one each in 2019 and 2020). In our last grants cycle, we awarded $495,000 to 23 organizations to carry out critically important work extending into 2021. While we began by providing relatively small grants of $10,000 to help grassroots organization defend and protect their communities from the onslaught of the 45th President and others emboldened by his administration’s harmful policies, we gradually pivoted to providing larger grants for the past two years to groups who were adding more proactive strategies that integrated strategic voter engagement activities.

2021 Priorities

As the nation welcomes a new Administration and a new decade, the Defending the Dream Fund (DDF) has decided to suspend our grantmaking at this time. Named after the famous Langston Hughes poem, Let America Be America Again, which recalls our nation’s tumultuous struggle to achieve the promise of America, we felt that Hughes’ hopeful dream and prospect of a fair, just, inclusive and equitable country had been endangered by the election of the 45th President of the United States. At that time we wrote “we are in for the fight of our lives to defend the dreams of a more just and equitable America that is in severe jeopardy in our present social and political reality.” Our response was to gather whatever additional resources we could along with our philanthropic colleagues, and get funds out quickly to the most vulnerable communities that we knew were going to be targets for the new Administrations.

We have been honored to support many grassroots organizations throughout the US who helped defend and protect vulnerable communities and fight for social and economic justice. DDF also adopted some innovative practices, such as accepting common proposals through the newly created JustFund online portal, allowing us to leverage at least $400,000 from other funders. We also experimented with streamlining proposals and reports, using audio reports and phone conversations to hear about outcomes and future priorities. Most importantly, we were able to learn about some impressive organizations, many of whom we were able to incorporate into our individual institutions’ grant portfolios. We are planning to produce a more detailed account of DDF’s achievements, both internal and external, and look forward to sharing learnings with our colleagues. Here are just a few highlights of our grantee partners’ accomplishments and victories:

  • Florida Rights Restoration Coalition’s campaign to restore voting rights to formerly-incarcerated residents by passing Amendment 4 and pursuing legal battles to ensure its implementation (2018-2020).

  • Adhikaar, TPS Alliance’s campaign and UndocuBlack’s campaign to prevent immigrants holding Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from being deported, and instead winning a path to citizenship (2018-2020).

  • Native Organizers Alliance helping to support tribal and Native community leaders and organizations in nine states (AZ, MI, MN, NC, NM, NV, OK, SD, WI) to carry out increased voter registration, education, and mobilization of Native voters. (2019-2020).

  • Black Voters Matter Education Fund’s efforts to support grassroots-led registration, education and mobilization of Black voters in a number of states in the South and Midwest (2018-2020).


DDF is very proud of the amazing accomplishments of all our grantee partners, all achieved under extremely challenging conditions. We realize that there remains a lot to do to revoke and repair the tremendous harm caused by the previous Administration’s policies and practices. However, in a way we feel we have achieved what we set out to do with DDF—creating a vehicle to pool resources and expertise, to get funds out to some of the most under-resourced and vulnerable grassroots communities in the country, all based on the values of trust, cooperation and a commitment to justice. And if needed, the Fund is easily resurrected, and able to resume grantmaking as needed. For now, we look forward to better days.


We’d like to thank all those who helped us ensure the success of DDF – all our philanthropic partners, past and present, the dedicated and extremely responsive staff at JustFund and Amalgamated Foundations, and most of all, the many organizations who applied and worked with us. It was a privilege to partner with you all.

Always Forward. Forward Always.


2020 Priorities

The Fund renewed its focus for it's fifth round of grants on supporting grassroots-led organizing efforts by communities most targeted and vulnerable to increased attacks from the current Administration and harmful forces at the local and state level. We believe it is important in these times to focus on the larger goal of building a more just, equitable and free society. To do this, we provided resources to fortify community power to develop and build a society where all people belong and thrive. The 2020 Defending the Dream Fund grants will consist of renewal grants to the groups previously funded in 2019.​

2019 Priorities

In 2019 we began supporting shifts from reaction and defense to proactive and offense — the intention was to build on this and further strengthen effective strategies to build community voice and power. The Fund supported grassroots power building, with a focus on Civic Engagement. In addition to C3 ONLY GOTV work, we defined civic engagement broadly to include work to define a political agenda and to hold elected officials accountable at all levels of government. This included traditional activities like non-partisan voter registration, education and mobilization, education on ballot measures, protecting voter rights and access to polls, as well as both integrated voter engagement (IVE), deep canvassing and relational organizing that helps build longer term power and strengthens social justice movements.


The Fund also supported the development of power building infrastructure (e.g. coalitions, networks, alliances, etc.), that intersected with civic engagement, such as efforts that focus on bringing together diverse and underrepresented constituencies/voters to effect systemic change across a range of issues.  Finally, the Fund continued to have an interest in supporting vulnerable, targeted and under-resourced communities and issues such as Native communities, immigrants and refugees, youth-led efforts, protecting and promoting reproductive justice, etc… 

  • Priority was given to grassroots, community-based organizations with budgets under $1 million; as well as work that was focused on under-resourced regions of the country (e.g. the South, Midwest, etc.). 

  • Grants ranged from $10,000-25,000 and were awarded at the end of 2019 for a one or two year period.   

  • We were only able to support organizations with a 501c3 organizations or a 501c3 fiscal sponsor.


Additionally, we encourage funders and grassroots partners alike, to check out JustFund and register to learn more. Find out more about the organizations who who have received support through the Defending the Dream Fund, or browse through the uploaded proposals to discover new organizations and connect with other funders.



Launched in 2020, the Democracy’s Promise 20/21 project will award $520,000 in grants over two years to eleven grassroots organizations working to strengthen the promise of our country’s democracy.  The idea of American democracy is based on noble principles of justice, equality, liberty  and  tolerance and these principles are meant to be a compact between the residents of this country and our government. 2018-2019 under the Trump era has reminded us how ugly, destructive and terrifying America can be when it chooses to turn its back on its founding principles. However, it has also reminded us that the true promise of America’s democracy is and always will be everyday people – often those pushed to margins – coming together in power to demand that the country live up to its’ most noble ideas.

The Foundation decided to launch Democracy’s Promise 20/21 to help contend with the rare and critical confluence of three key events for American democracy: the 2020 Presidential Election, the decennial Census and the beginning of the redistricting process across the country.  These events represent a critical crossroads for our democracy that will define either a more hopeful or more desperate future for many of us. The eleven Democracy’s Promise 20/21 grants, will support strategic organizing and non-partisan coalition work around the 2020 Census, the 2020 election cycle (e.g., local, state and/or federal), and/or redistricting; in addition to developing contingency plans for the aftermath of the 2020 election cycle.  In addition to these multi-year grants, an additional $40,000 is available for capacity building and convening purposes as requested by our Democracy's Promise partners. 


The following is a quick synopsis of the Census, Civic Engagement and/or Redistricting work of the eleven groups that Hill-Snowdon Foundation is supporting through its Democracy’s Promise initiative. This synopsis mainly focuses on their work in 2020 and does not reflect the shift in focus/work related to the COVID-19 health crisis.

In making these grants, HSF was guided by a simple philanthropic best practice: to get the resources to the groups when they need it, with as few restrictions as possible, and over an extended period of time. This is even more important for civic engagement related grants.  Consequently, we released the full two year grant in November 2019 to be used for 2020 and 2021. We wanted to make sure that the groups had their resources in advance and that they weren’t spending their precious time during the height of the election cycle applying to us for funding.  HSF extended this principle to our regular grant making as well, and we streamlined our grant application and collapsed our two grant cycles into one so that we can get all our grant funds to all of our groups by June 2020.  We would encourage our philanthropic partners to consider similar strategies in the future.


HSF also used the Just Fund portal ( to make the Democracy’s Promise grant, to share the good work being done by these grassroots groups and to encourage other funders to support these important efforts. For more information on the Democracy’s Promise 20/21 project visit the JustFund Portal.


The Hill-Snowdon Opportunity and Capacity-Building Fund was established to help current HSF Grassroots Partners respond to urgent and unanticipated events, unique opportunities and capacity building needs between grant cycles. Groups can apply for one-time discretionary grants of up to $7,500 (originally $5,000) per year between regular grant cycles. (Funds are available on a first come first served basis, and we ask that applicants make every effort to calculate actual costs, rather than general requests for the full $7.500.) Groups have been approved to use the resources for a wide range of needs including, but not limited to the following: strategic planning, conference travel, staff training, program evaluation, peer exchanges, emergency bridge funding and technology upgrades.

In 2015, HSF offered an opportunity for former grant recipients who were no longer receiving HSF funding due to our change in guidelines that limited funding to eight years. These Alumni Grants were available to former Grassroots partners to submit a proposal for a small grant of $7,500 or less under either our Opportunity Fund or Capacity Building Fund. The Foundation decided to continue this practice, and has made it part of it's grants budget ever since.

Additionally, in 2018, HSF began implementing a new report template for previous small grants (grants of $7,500 or less).  In lieu of a written report, and in an effort to streamline the process, groups could submit a completed and signed copy of our Small Grant Report form.

In 2020, the grants size was increased from $5,000 to $7,500.