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Reflections on the Inaugural Year of the Women & Girls of Color Fund

// January 14, 2022

Trusting Women of Color is Our Guiding Star

The first cycle of the Women & Girls of Color Fund opened to rural organizations led by women, girls, and nonbinary people of color executive directors one year ago. Since then, our advisory council has made unrestricted grants totaling $447,000 to 33 organizations serving all 64 Colorado counties. Our theory of change centered on one key element: trust. Trust that women of color community leaders – not funders – are uniquely qualified to determine how best to create change. Trust that an executive director’s time and resources are better spent in community than filling out repetitive grant applications. Trust that relationships, not reports, are the best way to measure our impact.

In addition to creating funding priorities which center organizations that are least likely to be viewed as traditionally trustworthy investments by funders, we implemented a simplified application process, minimal reporting requirements, and no-strings-attached funding. As a result, we are proud to have been the first institutional funder for a number of grantees, made valuable connections between both unfunded and funded applicants and our partner funders, and created dozens of meaningful relationships with new community partners working toward gender, racial, and economic equity.

Our Goal is to Fulfill Our Promise of Truly Equitable Grantmaking

Thanks to honest feedback from applicants and community members, we also know that we have a ways to go to fulfill our promise of truly equitable grantmaking. We continue to refine our application process to balance reducing the burden on applicants and asking the right questions to help the advisory council make hard grantmaking decisions. In the 2022 Front Range cycle, which will open in June, we will add a slimmed-down letter of interest process so that only organizations that fit the advisory council’s priorities for the cycle will need to fill out the full application. We will also host a more in-depth grantmaking workshop that will feature a panel of advisory council members and funded applicants who can share more detail before an organization decided whether or not to invest their time in the letter of interest process.

In the second year of the Women & Girls of Color Fund, we will not only open two new grantmaking cycles, we will also spend time deepening our relationships with our 2021 grantee partners and we look forward to sharing their stories with you and how funding from the Women & Girls of Color Fund has impacted their work. Below, learn how one of our Front Range grantees uses culture and love to dismantle homophobia and transphobia in Latinx and Indigenous communities, see our 2022 grantmaking timeline, and meet our new advisory council members.

Fortaleza Familiar is Dedicated to the Wellness of Indigenous, Chicanx, and Latinx LGBTQ, Nonbinary, and Two-Spirit Young People and Their Families

Mimi Madrid headshot
Mimi Madrid
Executive Director & Co-Founder
Fortaleza Familiar

When Mimi Madrid, executive director and co-founder of Fortaleza Familiar, applied for the Women & Girls of Color Fund’s 2021 Front Range grant cycle, they shared Fortaleza Familiar’s excitement about a fund that combined a gender, racial, and economic lens. “This conversation about gender and economic sustainability in our state always makes our hearts pitter patter. Especially working with LGBTQ, two spirit, and nonbinary people in the Latinx and Indigenous community it’s really exciting to be able to have those conversations on the funder level and also on the ground.”

Fortaleza Familiar, founded in 2020 in Adams County, uses a variety of approaches to help Latinx and Indigenous communities resist homophobia and transphobia and create LGBTQ safety and wellness: youth support, family support, and community workshops. But Fortaleza’s real power is using culture and love. “A white, mainstream LGBTQ approach leaves culture at the door. We know that, yes, this work is on an individual basis, but it’s also a systemic, community-wide approach,” he shared in a virtual site visit with WFCO staff last fall. “The homophobic, transphobic messages that we keep seeing generation after generation is inherently tied to the economic discrimination we face, it’s inherently tied to the colonial violence we face, it’s inherently tied to all of these other systems of oppression and I think that’s the core of our work.”

As with many of our 2021 grantees, Mimi is excited to be able to use much of their $15,000 grant to ensure that as Fortaleza Familiar grows, their staff is paid fairly. They soon hope to hire one to two program coordinators as well as a communications position with fair pay and good benefits. They also plan to begin paying youth peer mentors for their work facilitating support groups and workshops as well as creating and evaluating curriculum. While many grant opportunities restrict grantees from spending funds on operating support, the Women & Girls of Color Fund encourages grantees to start from within when considering economic security for Colorado women and their families. Mimi shared that he hopes “to create a model within our organization that we’re proud of, not replicating nonprofit industrial complex burnout.” They’re asking themselves, “How can we really create an organization that lifts up economic equity and prioritizes mental health.”

In the long-term, Mimi’s dream is to create spaces that go beyond just talking about deficits – the hurt, the pain, the healing – to spaces of joy and celebration. “What would it be to create our own queer pride celebrations with Latino pride – Carnival-style!”

We are grateful for Mimi and Fortaleza Familiar’s partnership. Follow and support their incredible work at www.fortalezafamiliar.org.

2022 Grantmaking Timeline

Rural Cycle

Rural applications open: January 3 – February 9 (Learn more and apply)
One-on-one conversations with applicants: February 21 – March 11
Applicants notified of grant status: April 6
Virtual site visits with grantees: May – June

Front Range Cycle

Front Range letters of interest open: June 13 – July 13
Invitations to apply and declinations sent: August 5
Front Range invitation-only applications open: August 6 – September 5
One-on-one conversations with applicants: September 12 – September 30
Applicants notified of grant status: October 7
Virtual site visits with grantees: October – November

Welcoming Our New 2022 Advisory Council Members

The expertise and dedication of our 2021 Women & Girls of Color Fund advisory council was essential to the success of the Women & Girls of Color Fund’s inaugural year. Thank you to the outgoing 2021 Women & Girls of Color Fund advisory council members: Nadia Ali, Magenta Freeman, Carly Hare, Ariana Lopez, Nneka McPhee, Anjanette Mosebar, JoKatherine Holliman Page, Angell Pérez, Sarah Rimmel, and Faye Tate.

As we enter the second year of the fund, we welcome seven new members from across Colorado and a breadth of backgrounds and identities to the advisory council.

Courtney Banayad headshot Courtney Banayad, Denver County
Sophanite Gedion, Denver County Sophanite Gedion
Khali Johnson headshot Khali Johnson, Arapahoe County
Gloria Kat, Larimer County Gloria Kat headshot
Ashley Panelli headshot Ashley Panelli, Denver County
Shannon Robinson, Mesa County Shannon Robinson headshot
Dafina Tucker headshot Dafina Tucker, Arapahoe County

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