In 2018, we launched the Housing Advocacy initiative as public interest and action in support of more housing increased amidst record legislative activity. The initiative provided additional funds to organizations that advocate for housing for low-income families, mobilize local residents, and make housing development more streamlined and accessible by providing technical expertise to change local codes and ordinances and navigate complex funding mechanisms. In 2020, this work moved into our Housing Stability program area.
Families in our region can have incomes from multiple jobs yet cannot afford basic needs such as housing, food, and child care. While many organizations help families directly access these basic needs through programs with a specific purpose, families also need flexible funds to run their households and to ensure their children’s wellbeing. To that end, the Economic Opportunity initiative currently focuses on increasing the drawdown of federal and state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) dollars, which are unrestricted and have been proven to support the healthy development of children and stability and dignity of families.
In response to the proliferation of anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric at the national level in 2017, Sunlight Giving augmented funding in our Family Support program area to protect immigrant communities. Areas of focus include legal services, technical assistance and capacity building, and policy and advocacy. This work launched our Family Opportunity program area in 2022 and is now a part of our core grantmaking.
Regional Capacity Building
In 2019, we launched the Regional Capacity Building initiative with an initial focus on our partners in the San Joaquin Valley. The Valley is a region experiencing a significant increase in the number of low-income families leaving the San Francisco Bay Area in pursuit of affordable housing. Additionally, we were responsive to the Regions Rise Together initiative through which community members and public officials highlighted the relative dearth of philanthropic support in the region amidst growing attention to the shifting demographics and needs of the community. In 2020-21, we paused the initiative to focus on responsive grantmaking related to the pandemic, including significant supplemental general and capacity building support in the San Joaquin Valley and across all of our regions. We continue to offer opportunities for capacity building grants to all of our partners to address a variety of organizational and community needs.
The U.S. Constitution requires a full count of the country’s entire population every ten years, making the U.S. Census a critical element of American democracy. The population data collected by the Census is used to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding, including funding for vital safety net programs. In addition, state and local government agencies and nonprofits rely on data from the census to allocate funding, define where services are delivered, and support communities in need. Research shows that people who are children, homeless, lower income, English language learners, undocumented immigrants, and people of color are least likely to be enumerated properly. To that end, we collaborated with other funders in the region to ensure that the 2020 Census was inclusive and that “hard to count” populations were counted. This initiative was funded from 2018-2020.
Many families with young children who are experiencing poverty are too often excluded from community decisions that affect their lives and well-being. We launched the Community Voice initiative to support multi-issue grassroots organizing and base building organizations working at the intersection of two or more issue areas identified by community members. These local groups provide a platform to engage families in direct work, including leadership development, agenda setting of key community issues, identifying solutions, and advocacy.
Families experiencing poverty are often exposed to additional stress which adversely affects both mental and physical health for children and adults. We support family-centered mental health programs that provide access to counseling, resources, and peer support to guide families on their journey to self-care and emotional wellbeing. As of 2023, this initiative focuses on culturally responsive and affirming support groups and doula care that is free and accessible. This work builds on our Health Care program area and complements the range of mental health services provided by many of our partners across nearly all of our other program areas.