WRF staff and board members - meeting
FOUNDATION NEWS

Announcing close to $5 Million in Grants

Our latest grants prioritize advocacy and movement building for ALICE workers and families, operating support to nonprofits that challenge systems to effectively serve all Arkansans, and increasing access to capital to business owners less likely to have access to conventional support from private banks.

October 14, 2022

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF) has made close to $5 million in grants to relentlessly advance educational, economic, social and racial equity in Arkansas. 

The foundation awarded a total of 27 grants in support of advocacy and movement building for ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) families, and in support of increased access to capital for entrepreneurs of color and women entrepreneurs who typically have trouble getting financing from the traditional banking system. 

“AR Equity 2025, WRF’s strategic direction, is based on the idea that hard-working Arkansans should be able to live in a thriving community, earn a living wage, and build generational wealth,” said Cory Anderson, Chief Innovation Officer. 

“Our grants this year are supporting the organizations that work every day to tell a new story of a prosperous Arkansas by creating the conditions that will make that a reality for everyone.”

 

Investing in Advocacy & Movement Building 

So far this year, WRF has awarded more than $1.7 million in general operating support to grassroots, community-based organizations that are creating opportunities for people to organize, advocate and speak out for policies that affect the day-to-day lives of ALICE families. 

This means working across coalitions, to coordinate, advocate, and influence state and local leaders to create public policy that benefits all Arkansans, especially ALICE families.

Our grantee partners Arkansas Public Policy PanelArkansas UnitedEl Centro Hispano, and the Foundation for Social Impact are advancing social and racial equity in Arkansas by engaging youth and families in leadership development and advocacy. 

They are organizing rural Arkansans, people of color, and immigrants from across the state to advocate for statewide, regional and local initiatives that have the power to improve rural infrastructure, increase broadband access, reduce voter suppression, and create new policies that support Arkansas’s ALICE families. 

DecARcerate Arkansas and Restore Hope AR will use their general support grants to challenge structural racism in the justice system.  DecARcerate will amplify the voices of those impacted by excessive fines and fees that keep them perpetually indebted to the justice system. 

More specifically, DecARcerate is advocating to eliminate automatic driver’s license suspensions for non-driving related offenses. Arkansas is one of four states that continues this practice which disproportionately affects ALICE workers and people of color.

Investing in BIPOC & Women-Owned Businesses 

WRF continues to deepen its commitment to economic equity for BIPOC- and women business owners in Arkansas. We fund nonprofit organizations that help Black and Brown entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs have equitable access to funding, training, and the support they need to succeed. 

As demonstrated in our Capital Access Report, there are continued gaps in support for businesses started and run by women and people of color. Conexión de Negocios Latinos will use its general support grant to organize Latinx entrepreneurs and create a vibrant network that connects them to business opportunities and sources of capital that will enable them to grow and succeed. 

Similarly, Venture Noire is a small business incubator and venture capital fund that works mainly with Black and Brown business owners. Venture Noire is planning to open a manufacturing facility that will provide space for Arkansas-based companies, and the technical assistance to connect those companies to the supply chain needs of the large businesses in Northwest Arkansas. WRF’s general support grant will provide Venture Noire with additional operating resources to support its campaign to raise $10M in capital. 

Brandon House will establish the Creative Entrepreneurship Academy with an aim to give creative professionals (artists, musicians, designers, and entertainers) the support, tools, and resources necessary to develop, sustain, and scale a profitable business.  

Through this general support grant, we will gain valuable knowledge that further informs and disrupts the current systems that hinder the growth of creative enterprises by limiting access to capital. 

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center will pilot an innovative access to capital model for BIPOC- and women-owned small businesses that are largely ignored by traditional banks. The pilot is a collaboration among WRF and other funders, community development financial institutions, community banks, technical assistance providers, and community navigators to create a $500k pool of early-stage capital and provide coaching and technical support to participating small businesses to position them to access traditional capital. 

Business owners who participate in the pilot will have access to low-interest capital (up to $10,000), loan guarantee tools outside of traditional personal and/or business collateral, and other business development resources.  A successful pilot will result in a newly co-designed model that would increase access to capital for BIPOC- and women-business owners.

Investing in Communities 

WRF also awarded grants for local initiatives that will support ALICE families and workers.  

  • The Arkansas Construction Education Foundation (ACEF) has partnered with Superior Group of Companies (SGC) to create a pilot program to train and hire 100 new employees in Chicot County over the next three years.  The pilot will help us learn what it takes to bring improved workforce competitiveness and economic impact to the region.
  • The Arkansas Foodbank received a general support grant to explore the root causes of persistent food insecurity in the Delta and to develop policy solutions in response. 
  • WRF has funded the Arkansas Connectivity Coalition to increase the capacity of communities across the state to access federal funds for broadband expansion.
  • The KKAC Organization will use its grant from WRF to organize and mobilize a broad coalition of leaders around land conservation and wealth building for BIPOC farmers, landowners, and communities.

“We’re proud to be able to make such a significant investment to help create the conditions where all Arkansans can thrive and prosper,” said Sherece West-Scantlebury, Chief Executive Officer. 

“These grants represent our continued commitment to the legacy of Governor Winthrop Rockefeller and our appreciation for the organizations across the state that are leading the way to a better Arkansas.”