Since the program’s announcement on Thursday, POISE Chief Operating Officer Karris Jackson says the fund has received $2,700 in donations from individuals, and that at this point, the Human Equity and Justice Fund has around $65,000 overall from earlier fundraising. POISE hopes to reach $250,000 in total for the fund and has already received some outstanding requests to donate from other organizations.
“We have so many young Black activists who are out there on the streets every day, bringing attention to these issues, and so we’re hopeful that our dollars will be able to come alongside them and support some of the work that they’re doing in the community,” Jackson says. “We really believe that there’s an opportunity for intergenerational work, for Black people to come together across generations and really spend some time thinking and strategizing on ways that we can continue to fight and advocate for justice for all in our community.”
Applicants send in a short summary of their organization and their goals to apply. Jackson hopes to be distributing grants as soon as three weeks from now and plans to continue the program on a rolling basis as long as funds are available.
The grants came out of a noticed increase in donations to the Human Equity and Justice Fund, which POISE started in 2018 following the death of Antwon Rose Jr. Previously, the fund was mostly supported by other foundations, but following the advent of COVID-19 and the increase in both awareness and incidents of police brutality across the country, more individual donations have been coming in.
“The growth in giving to our foundation has skyrocketed since COVID hit,” Jackson says. “People were looking for a Black institution to put their money in, to support, and as a result, our Critical Community Needs Fund — the fund we launched for COVID — raised over a million dollars.”
Donations came not just from Pittsburghers, but from people across the country and even from Canada.
“When we first started getting donors from places that weren’t Pittsburgh, we would email them to say, ‘Hey, you know this is for Pittsburgh and you’re in California,’” Jackson said. “And they were like, ‘Yeah, but we see what you do, and it’s important, and we want to support you.’’
POISE is also partnering with United Way of Western PA to fundraise through the Mobile Cause app platform, which allows individuals to text to donate and gathers fundraising resources in one place.
“We hope that a good portion of [funds] will come from individuals who really want to find a place to be able to donate and have an impact,” Jackson said. “We really want to connect with individual giving around this.”
POISE announced the grantmaking program in conjunction with the start of Black Philanthropy Month, a global effort in the month of August to celebrate and promote Black giving.
“There’s a very rich and deep history that Black people have in philanthropy. Often times when people think about giving, or about philanthropists, they think about the white male who’s giving 500 million dollars. But there’s actually some really good data that Black people give 25% more of their income,” Jackson said. “That’s what Black Philanthropy month does — it’s really a global effort to increase the visibility of Black giving, and to highlight the ways in which Black people give in their community and have given for generations and generations.”
The project doesn’t stop when August ends. Jackson said that while the fund is expanding its fundraising efforts and developing new methods to get support to the community, the overall mission is continuing. She hopes to uplift projects that are already happening that may be flying under the radar.
“We want to give resources to the people who need it the most — who are on the ground, who are fighting for equality, who are just doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “It’s needed — what they’re doing is for all of us. It’s so that we have a better Pittsburgh — so that Pittsburgh is a ‘most livable city’ for everybody — it’s in all of our best interest.”
Those who are interested in making a donation can do so on POISE's website, through an app with a partnership with the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, or by texting the keyword HEJF to 71777.