Greater Toledo Community Foundation’s Equity and Access Initiative

The Truth Staff

The Greater Toledo Community Foundation is preparing to open its application process for the fourth round of its Equity and Access Initiative Fund during which all new and experienced Toledo-area non-profit organizations, regardless of size, are encouraged to apply for funding to support projects that align with the focus of the fund.

Those focus areas – advocacy, economic development, employment and non-profit capacity – are the “concerns raised by the community,” said Keith Burwell during a conversation with The Truth earlier this year.

“We looked at lack of access and we took up the challenge and put together a fund. We created an independent committee comprised of some current board members but also community members and gave them the authority to see how we could tackle [diversity, equity and inclusion] issues in our community,” he said.

“Those grants by that committee were pushed forward with the understanding that they would know best what was needed in the community. So, we created a fund – $600,000 over five years. Not to say it stops there but we had to start with a numerical amount.”

The GTCF, which has over three dozen established funds but recognized the need for education and access to the availability to those funds, established the Equity and Access Initiative in August 2020 and in the first round set up a two-step process, says Artisha Lawson, GTCF program officer. Applicants then needed to file a letter of intent and then a full application.

With the third round of the fund, the letter of intent was not necessary, only the application, says Lawson. That process remains intact for the fourth round which begins on May 2 and extends through July 2.

To date, the Equity and Access fund has benefitted 26 different organizations, all local. Most are single organizations but there have been collaborations as well, seven collaborations in fact.

And while it is still early in the process to have an accurate assessment of all the benefits of the fund, already “a few have done great work,” says Lawson. She cites two recipients in particular: Wilber A. Williams Community Life and Technology Center and GreaterGenerations.

Wilber A. Williams has undertaken a focus on  board development training “which we felt was very critical … and necessary,” says Lawson.

GreaterGenerations has formed a collaborative with City Park League. Both organizations focus on different aspects of work with the city’s youth. “We could foster a year-round experience [for youth],” says Lawson. The City Park League and GreaterGenerations combined programs offer athletics, community service, financial education and family planning counseling.

The GTCF grant enabled GreaterGenerations to maintain services throughout the year, says Ebony Robinson, executive director of the six-year-old organization. “We were able to provide work experience for participants,” she says. “I am very happy that I was able to work a complete year and have the kids around me all year.”

The fourth round of funding will provide $100,000 in grants. “WE need more applicants from minority-led organizations,” says Lawson, “especially from those who have never applied or haven’t applied recently. I hope this will lead to more opportunities and more philanthropy.”

In addition, notes Lawson, the hope is that this Equity and Access process will open up the conversation among those not aware of what GTCF has to offer- the other funds such organizations might be eligible for.

“We need to increase awareness and encourage community leaders to tap them on the shoulder and ask them ‘have you looked at this?’”

There will be a community conversation about the next round of funding that will take place at the Mott Branch Library on Thursday, April 27 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The funding opportunity will open on May 2 and extend through July 2.