As we are witnessing with this past month’s evacuations and resettlement of Afghans forced to leave their country and the thousands of vulnerable Haitians seeking safety in other countries due to multiple calamities in Haiti, refugees fleeing violence or persecution must employ remarkable courage and resourcefulness to survive a long and harrowing journey to safety. However, their contributions go far beyond their individual inspirational stories of escape and survival.

Unbound Philanthropy’s recently published report, “From Resettlement to Belonging: Opportunities for Refugee Leadership and Civic Participation,” highlights the remarkable impact that refugees are having as leaders across all different sectors of American society, and the power of investing in refugee leadership and civic participation programs. While we completed this report before the current evacuation of people from Afghanistan and the thousands of people from Haiti seeking refuge in the US, we see the strategies employed by Unbound grantees and other frontline organizers as useful tools for funders to consider when mobilizing their response to the moment.

The number and scale of refugee leadership and civic participation programs have grown tremendously over the last five years; yet this field holds significant potential for growth and is ripe for philanthropic investment as more refugees enter the US.

According to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, barely 1% of all foundation funding is intended to benefit immigrants and refugees, and even less so at the local foundation level. And among this funding, an even smaller percentage goes towards strengthening the leadership and civic engagement of people resettling as refugees in the US.

So where can those interested in doing more start? Here are just some of the many different entry points for funders to consider to engage refugees:

  • If you are a funder committed to leadership development, civic participation, organizing, and advocacy, integrate refugees into your portfolios.
  • Funders who already work locally to support refugee services, investing in refugees’ leadership and civic engagement can be a natural extension of your grantmaking.
  • For all funders: Engaging refugees can advance your broader portfolios, including health, education, economic justice, immigration, racial justice, or gender equity priorities.
  • If you support women and girls; Muslim communities; Black, AAPI; or Latinx communities, make refugees an explicit part of your portfolio.

Read the full article about how to engage and support refugees by Taryn Higashi at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.