Every day, organizations worldwide are engaged in a collective two steps forward, one step back march toward improved immigration services and policies. What hard-earned lessons are these nonprofits, and the foundations that support them, learning from their persistent efforts? This collection of evaluations, case studies, and lessons learned exposes and explores the nuances of effective collaboration, the value of coordinated messaging, the bedrock of ongoing advocacy efforts, and the vital importance of long-term and flexible funding.

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From Resettlement to Belonging: Opportunities for Refugee Leadership and Civic Participation

July 1, 2021

This report summarizes various models of refugee leadership development and civic participation programs, identifies keys to success, and uplifts the stories of diverse training components with refugee leaders and their impact, both within the refugee community and in the broader society.This report is written for a variety of funders, including those who work locally in supporting resettlement services for refugees, as well as those who work at the national level in supporting organizing and civic engagement. Funders who currently support resettlement services can leverage the impact of their funding by investing in leadership and civic participation efforts. And those who fund leadership, civic participation, organizing, and advocacy can diversify their grantmaking strategy and magnify their overall impact by adding refugees to their portfolios. Funders can also examine how refugees are connected to their broader portfolios, including health, education, economic justice, racial justice, and gender equity. In tapping this funding opportunity, philanthropy can support refugee leaders across the country to project their own voices and stand in their own power. 

The Role of Philanthropy in the U.S. Immigrant Rights Movement

December 1, 2014

As the Ford Foundation marks 25 years of involvement on U.S. immigration issues, it is a good time to take stock of what has occurred and to examine more closely philanthropy's role in supporting the growth of a national immigrant rights movement. There are many reasons for the field's rapid growth, including extraordinary leadership by those who have headed the movement. But the support of numerous foundations and other donors has played a vital part in fueling the field's expansion. Contributions have come from all parts of the philanthropic community. Smaller foundations, for example, have played a significant role in strengthening the capacity of regional and local immigrant-serving organizations that are backbone of the movement.To help tell the story of philanthropy's contribution to the development of an immigrant rights field in United States, the Ford Foundation commissioned journalist Louis Freedberg, with assistance from Ted Wang, to write this report. It describes how Ford initially entered the field, the challenges the Foundation and its grantees faced in the early years, how funders have worked together to support an emerging but vibrant movement, and the lessons learned to help inform future efforts to support the field. The authors' observations are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Ford Foundation. They point out that the power of philanthropic grantmaking in this area has come from a combination of factors: committed long-term funders who have supported this field for many years; a willingness to fund a wide range of organizations that provide complementary activities; flexibility to adjust grantmaking to changing conditions; and an openness among funders to collaborate with each other and as well as with grantees to achieve a shared vision.

Advocacy; Field Building

Eliminating Language Barriers for LEP Individuals: Promising Practices from the Public Sector

January 1, 2010

While the focus of this report is on eliminating language barriers for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals, any strategy to improve communications with this population must also include English learning and address the shortage of high-quality English as a Second Language (ESL) courses for adults. State-administered ESL programs currently serve only about a million of the estimated 12.4 million LEP adults in the United States who need language instruction. The underfunding of ESL programs means that large numbers of immigrant adults who wish to learn English are unable to enroll in classes or face overcrowded classrooms. For instance, a 2006 national survey of ESL providers found that 57 percent of these programs maintained waiting lists -- ranging from a few weeks to more than three years -- and could not accommodate the high numbers of immigrants interested in learning English. Policy experts and organizations that work with adult English learners have proposed various strategies to increase the availability of high-quality ESL courses, but lack of political support at the national level -- coupled with the current fiscal crisis -- has weakened efforts to help immigrants improve their English skills.

Coalition Building & Collaboration; Communications & Media

Investing in Our Communities: Strategies for Immigrant Integration

May 1, 2007

This report gives the historical context of U.S. immigration, its vital and unyielding role in shaping the US and how grant makers can help assimilate populations, social change and community building in the future. The toolkit provides grant makers with integration frameworks, case studies, funding examples and opportunities, information resources, strategic planning steps and evaluation platforms for several different arenas. These arenas include: health, education, civic involvement and language.

Civic Engagement; Community-Based Outreach & Activity; Research & Evaluation

Immigrant Integration Toolkit

January 1, 2006

Investing in Our Communities: Strategies for Immigrant Integration, published in 2006, is a succinct, easy-to-understand guide that describes how grantmakers at all levels can play an important leadership role on this issue. This toolkit for grantmakers draws on extensive research and interviews with hundreds of foundation, community, business, and government leaders. It incorporates academic research as well as policy and community-based concerns into a resource that also can inform the work of practitioners in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors.

Supporting English Language Acquisition: Opportunities for Foundations to Strengthen Immigrant Families

August 15, 2005

By investing strategically in English acquisition programs, foundations can make an important contribution to improve social and economic outcomes for working-poor immigrant families. To help funders gain a better understanding of the issues, this briefing paper provides an overview of characteristics of the LEP immigrant population in the United States and discusses the impact of limited English skills on newcomer families. It highlights proven and promising language acquisition programs and strategies that help improve immigrant families' social, educational, and economic well-being. Finally, the paper offers a set of recommendations for investing in effective language acquisition programs that can help immigrants maintain strong family relationships, improve their long-term economic security, and become full, participating members of our community.

Children; Field Building