Board member discussion at breakout session during meeting.

Close to $6.5 Million in Grants and Program Related Investing in 2022

Our latest grants prioritize advocacy and movement building for ALICE workers and families, operating support to nonprofits who 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.

December 2022

The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation today announced close to $6 million in grants to relentlessly advance educational, economic, social and racial equity in Arkansas.

We awarded a total of 30 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 every hard working Arkanans 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 support the organizations who work everyday to tell a new story of a prosperous Arkansas and create the conditions that will make that a reality for everyone.”

Investing in Advocacy & Movement Building 

So far this year, we awarded more than $2 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 Panel, Arkansas United, El 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 access to broadband, 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 continue this practice that disproportionately affects ALICE workers and people of color.

Arkansas Immigrant Defense (AID) will use its grant to support its operations to continue to advocate for local and statewide policy that promote equitable access to resources for immigrants in Arkansas. AID will launch a Health Equity for Immigrant Survivors pilot program that seeks to provide healthcare coverage for children of migrant families. They will also employ legal and advocacy strategies to compel state agencies, such as the Arkansas Department of Human Services, to comply with equitable policies regarding the care and well-being of immigrant families.

Investing in BIPOC & Women-Owned Businesses 

We continue to deepen our 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 Arkansas Small Business Access to Capital Study, 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. The Academy will 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 traditional banks ignore. 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 develop policy solutions in address. 
  • 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.”