It was six months ago when I stepped into my current role as Interim President of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. Since then, I have been inspired by the amazing upsurge of leadership and activism across this country. It is a powerful testament to the strength of our democracy that people are standing up and speaking out for the values of fairness, equality and opportunity.
At the Haas, Jr. Fund, we are engaged in deep, ongoing conversations with our many partners about what we can and should be doing differently to address the challenges and the opportunities of this moment. It’s because of these conversations that we’ve launched new partnerships and initiatives aimed at bolstering the organizations and social movements we support, and furthering the work of social change.
For example, we created the Fortify Fund to provide immediate, one-time grants to help social justice grantees address leadership and organizational pressures they tell us they’re facing in today’s highly charged political and policy environment. A project of the Haas Leadership Initiatives, the new fund will support more than 30 organizations with urgent needs, such as managing stretched staff and volunteers, strengthening technology and communications, or adopting new tools for rapid-response planning.
In other areas, we’ve expanded the scope of our Immigrant Rights work, given the extraordinary uncertainty that immigrant communities face in the current environment. For example, we are working with advocates and grassroots partners across the state to help undocumented immigrant communities defend against the threat of deportation. We’ve also launched a new partnership with the State of California to preserve our state’s impressive string of pro-immigrant policy wins. Last but not least, we’re launching a new research effort to learn how to build more public support for policies that help immigrants and that affirm the vital role they play in our communities and our economy.
The Haas, Jr. Fund is also embarking on new work in our Gay and Lesbian Rights program. In addition to our ongoing efforts to protect marriage equality and advance the cause of nondiscrimination, we’re supporting LGBT movement groups to inspire more people to become involved in the movement’s work. It’s hard to believe, but it is still legal under the laws of more than two dozen states to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We will keep listening to our partners so we can identify further opportunities for action. At a time when so much is at stake, we continue to find hope and inspiration in all the important work that is happening to ensure a just and compassionate society for everyone.