The world is experiencing the largest refugee crisis in recorded history. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are at least 26 million refugees worldwide. Community sponsorship can provide a means of response.
In this Executive Order issued by President Joseph R. Biden on February 4, 2021 it is noted that “To meet the challenges of restoring and expanding the US Refugee Admissions Program, the United States must innovate, including by effectively employing technology and capitalizing on community and private sponsorship of refugees, while continuing to partner with resettlement agencies for reception and placement.
At its heart, community sponsorship creates opportunities for people to play a key role in supporting refugees as they settle into their new homes. Sponsors commit to providing financial and/or in-kind support and volunteer services to assist newly or previously arrived refugees, asylees, asylum seekers, or other forcibly displaced populations as they establish themselves in new communities. In this way, community-based sponsorship programs enable individual citizens, as well as local civil society organizations, faith groups, and businesses, to be directly involved in welcoming and resettlement.
Community sponsorship is a significant commitment, but it also has proven to be an extremely rewarding one that often builds powerful bonds between sponsor groups and the refugees they welcome. The current moment presents a critical opportunity to reimagine resettlement and lay the groundwork for a future, reinvigorated system built on community participation.
In support of this community-driven effort, a coalition of funders including the Open Society Foundations, The Shapiro Foundation, and philanthropists G. Barrie Landry and Laurie T. Franz, came together in late 2019 to establish a new fund to help organizations across the United States develop, implement, and enhance community sponsorship programs. After launching the first call for proposals in the Fall of 2020, more funders have now contributed to this effort and the Fund has continued to grow.
For hundreds of years, refugees have been welcomed to the US by private citizens, often affiliated with houses of worship. Most typically, this has been done in partnership with resettlement agencies who have a long-standing history of working with refugee populations. Their networks of community-based organizations provide resettlement and integration services in approximately 200 locations across the country.
Community sponsorship programs, as implemented already in the US and other places around the world, have shown that the entire community benefits when neighbors engage vigorously in welcoming refugees.
We believe that community sponsorship of refugees begins in local communities, and we are eager to provide further support to organizations facilitating these community-led initiatives.
An independent, diverse review committee, oversees the review of all applications, selects the most promising proposals that meet the Fund’s criteria and objectives, and makes final funding recommendations. Final funding decisions are made by the coalition of funders. Grant recipients will be notified no later than July 30, 2021.
Through the Catalyst Fund, local resettlement agencies or other local-level organizations can apply to receive up to $100,000 over a two-year period (with up to a $50,000 annual limit), to support the development and implementation, and/or meaningful enhancement of CS programs, inclusive of co-sponsorship.
While the focus of this initiative is on supporting local community sponsorship programming, the Catalyst Fund will also offer one-time grants ranging from $50,000 - $250,000, to national resettlement agencies seeking to pilot and/or scale co-sponsorship programming
To learn about the inaugural cohort of grantees and how they are leveraging this grant opportunity from the Community Sponsorship Catalyst Fund, please visit the Grantees section of the website.
Local resettlement agencies, other local-level organizations supporting the resettlement and/or integration of refugees or other forcibly displaced populations, and national resettlement agencies are eligible to apply.
Applicants must be a 501(c)(3) or fiscally sponsored by a 501(c)(3). Additional details are included in the Request for Proposals.