Rapid Response Fund

Groundswell’s Rapid Response Fund provides fast funding to grassroots organizations led by women of color, trans people of color, and low-income women and trans people in critical, but unexpected, fights to protect and advance reproductive and social justice. A multi-issue fund, our Rapid Response Fund supports organizations on the frontlines, defending the most vulnerable communities with timely, flexible grants of up to $30,000 and an emphasis on funding in states and communities where women of color, transgender people of color, and low-income women and trans people-led organizing is under-resourced.  

So far in 2018, the Rapid Response Fund has awarded 11 grants totaling $212,500 to local and state-based efforts in California, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, as well as to several national efforts. These grants support a range of strategies and issues, including: 

  • Immigrant justice defense organizing, direct actions, and legal support funds;
  • Opposing an anti-abortion ballot measure in West Virginia;
  • #MeToo: Raising the visibility of low-wage tipped workers fighting to abolish the subminimum wage in order to combat sexual harassment and close the gender wage gap;
  • Supporting women of color farmworkers to win protections from reproductive toxicants;
  • Building the leadership and power of Black trans and queer undocumented immigrants;
  • Proactive climate change resiliency work to provide safe infant feeding kits to women of color in Louisiana in times of natural disasters and other emergencies;
  • Innovative filmmaking strategies led by women of color in New Mexico to shift the national conversation about pregnancy and opioid use in ways that reflect the lived experiences of communities of color.

Rapid Response Fund is no longer considering
new requests for the remainder of 2018.
The Rapid Response Fund will begin taking new requests in 2019

2018 Rapid Response Fund Grantees

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health | National | Grant Amount: $25,000

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) received funding to set up an Emergency Defense Fund to support immigrant activist leaders who are criminalized or detained. Immigration is central to NLIRH’s work and the organization is asking its staff, leaders, organizers, and base members, many of whom are undocumented, to be on the frontlines. Since the election, many NLIRH leaders and activists have been targeted and attacked, and some detained by ICE. While its creation was prompted by the targeting of immigrants, the Defense Fund is also available to people who seek reproductive health care that might later be criminalized, e.g., accessing abortion and use of oral medications. The Fund will be open to NLIRH staff, activists, and anyone who has attended an NLIRH public event, and will focus on NY, FL, TX, and VA, states with an NLIRH Latina Activist Network. Using a simple application, individuals can request up to $5,000 to cover legal and other costs. NLIRH will make information about the fund available on its website and its field staff will inform people about the fund at public events throughout the year. NLIRH’s goal is to raise at least $100,000 for the Emergency Defense Fund over the next few months.

Alianza Nacional de Campesinas | National | Grant Amount: $20,000

Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, founded in 2011, is a national coalition of farmworker women focused on immigration, violence against women and girls, pesticides, and labor conditions. It includes 17 grassroots and policy organizations that use community education, art activism, capacity-building and advocacy, to advance workers’ rights, reproductive justice, and environmental health. In early 2018, the organization made international news after writing a #MeToo letter to the women of Hollywood about the high levels of sexual harassment and workplace violence in low wage work – far higher than in the entertainment industry. The letter led to the formation of the #TimesUp initiative. Alianza received Rapid Response funding to organize, with National Domestic Workers Alliance, an April 2018 Advocacy Day in Washington DC to call for an end of workplace sexual violence. Alianza also used Rapid Response funding to ramp up its response to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) threats to rollback existing pesticide protections that threaten farmworker women’s health, fertility, and infant health. In coordination with its grassroots partners, Alianza ran a Moralitos storytelling and public education campaign to draw attention to the environmental health and reproductive harms faced by migrant farmworker women, children, and communities that neighbor fields exposed to pesticides. Until recently, Alianza was a volunteer-run organization, but thanks to increased publicity from #TimesUp, the organization is now able to scale up the work it has carried out without funding for the past seven years. 

Black LGBTQIA Migrants Project | National | Grant Amount: $15,000

Black LBGTQIA Migrant Project (BLMP) is a national grassroots network launched in 2017 to stand at the intersection of criminal justice, immigration reform, and trans liberation. No other national organization within either the national immigration debate or the Movement for Black Lives addresses the specific needs and priorities of Black LGBTQ immigrants. Led by a 12-person steering committee of Black queer migrants, 50 percent of whom identify as TGNC and 80 percent of whom are under the age of 30, BLMP focuses on leadership development, capacity building, and organizing. BLMP received Rapid Response funding to develop multi-lingual Know Your Rights institutes for its Bay Area and DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) chapters in light of increased ICE raids; and to host a national gathering of 150 Black LGBTQ migrant leaders, the largest ever, to develop organizing and resistance strategies in the criminal justice and immigration movements. Rising homophobic/transphobic sentiments in Africa and the Caribbean are forcing more Black LGBTQ immigrants to the U.S., where they are then met with anti-Black policing, xenophobic backlash, and a lack of intersectional and culturally competent services from immigration groups, Black-led groups, and LGBTQ groups. This leaves Black LGBTQ migrants more vulnerable to the dual threats of immigration enforcement and the criminal justice system. According to recent research by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), nine percent of immigrants in the U.S. identify as Black, yet more than 20 percent of immigrants facing deportation on criminal grounds are Black. Trans and gender nonconforming migrants are at even greater risk. BLMP notes that the immigration pathways upon which Black migrants rely are now under attack: temporary protected status (TPS) revocation for Haiti, changes to asylum “credible fear” thresholds, threatened cps to refugee resettlements, threats to family migration and visa and travel bans for Eritrea, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Chad, Libya, and Somalia. BLMP will coordinate organizing strategies created by Black LGBTQ migrant leaders, particularly transwomen and TGNC people, and develop collective responses to the recent TPS and DACA announcements; the new wave of ICE raids; and increased LGBTQ criminalization globally. Using a base-building strategy that incorporates its’ Know Your Rights institutes and pro-bono legal services, BLMP’s CA and DC -area local chapters will support and recruit Black LGBTQ immigrants who are often isolated and without a cohesive community to organize for action. This base-building work is part of a longer-term strategy to build power in disconnected communities and develop local campaigns driven by the needs of Black LGBTQ migrants.  

Birthmark Doula Collective | Local/New Orleans, LA | Grant Amount: $2,500

Birthmark Doula Collective received funding to better serve Black and brown Spanish-speaking immigrant families with perinatal care in the New Orleans area in response to increased ICE presence and deportations in Louisiana. Birthmark provides birth doula and postpartum doula services, and childbirth, breastfeeding, parenting education, and lactation support to women and their families in the NOLA metro area. Birthmark has long created and translated materials into Spanish, and built relationships with peer organizations that serve and organize Spanish speakers. The current political moment has amplified the importance of this bilingual support and the need to increase both its scope and accessibility. To do so, Birthmark will use Rapid Response funding to help hire a Spanish-speaking administrative staff person, and conduct community teach-ins with other organizations to further understanding of how birth justice is relevant to immigrant families, and streamline the referral process for families to access perinatal services. This work is co-funded in partnership with the Third Wave Fund.  

Ancient Song Doula Services | Statewide/New York | Grant Amount: $25,000

Ancient Song Doula ServicesIn April 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unexpectedly announced his support for Medicaid reimbursement of doulas. While this should have been great news for poor women of color across the state, the Governor’s proposal was developed without the participation of the community and with no accountability to it. Since 2010, Groundswell’s Birth Justice Fund grantee Ancient Song has advocated for Medicaid reimbursement (which the state has always said was too complicated to attempt), and is now concerned that the Governor’s plan shuts out doulas, community organizations, and low-income communities from strategy and implementation, and is overseen instead by a Perinatal Taskforce, none of whose members have doula training. The plan is rolling out without transparency, and even more troubling, reimbursement will likely require complicated licensure requirements that will favor white-led doula organizations over grassroots doulas of color. The Rapid Response Fund is supporting a new coalition, led by Ancient Song, along with Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Center for Reproductive Rights, Caribbean Women’s Health Association, and Village Birth International, to convene strategy meetings, launch a letter writing campaign, develop a webpage to educate consumers, and organize women on Medicaid and their families to pressure the NY State Department of Health and elected officials to bring doulas, especially doulas of color, into the planning and implementation of Medicaid reimbursement and the creation of a state Maternal Mortality Review Board.

SEPA Mujer and Adhikaar One Fair Wage | Statewide/New York | Grant Amount: $25,000

SEPA Mujer and Adhikaar One Fair Wage campaignThe One Fair Wage (OFW) New York Coalition is working to eliminate the lower minimum wage for tipped workers, e. g., workers in restaurants, at car washes, and in nail salons, and ensure that all workers are paid the full minimum wage. As two women of color-led grassroots organizations in the coalition, Adhikaar and SEPA Mujer jointly sought funding from the Rapid Response Fund to mobilize low-wage women of color to highlight the issue of sexual harassment and violence resulting from the sub-minimum wage. Adhikaar organizes low-wage communities to improve the lives of the Nepali-speaking community in Queens, and SEPA Mujer supports immigrant women, many of whom are undocumented immigrants, in isolated communities in Long Island to speak out against injustice, provide access to services, and take a stand against violence against women. Both organizations support the OFW Coalition to center gender issues and WOC low-wage workers, and approached Groundswell to seek funding for its local WOC-led partners so they can participate fully in the coalition. Smaller organizations don’t have dedicated funding to cover staff time and support their bases by covering travel, childcare, etc., so they can participate in hearings, actions, and meetings. With this funding, SEPA Mujer and Adhikaar will organize within the coalition to raise awareness about how the sub-minimum wage puts a predominantly women of color workforce at risk for sexual harassment and legalizes the gender pay gap.  

West Virginia Free | Statewide/West Virginia | Grant Amount: $15,000

West Virginia Free (WV Free): West Virginia is one of only 17 states that allows Medicaid coverage of abortion. However, in late 2017, West Virginia Free (WV Free) discovered that a bill to put an initiative on the November 2018 ballot to amend the state Constitution to make it possible for the state to prohibit abortion and the funding of abortion was moving through the state legislature. Groundswell’s Rapid Response Fund approved a quick $10,000 non-lobbying grant to enable WV Free to carry out a public education campaign to defeat the bill. Unfortunately, the bill passed. WV Free working as part of a statewide coalition is ramping up its fight to defeat the measure, now Amendment 1 on the November ballot. With this additional funding, WV Free will organize in support of women’s health, educate the public of the dangers of Amendment 1, and urge West Virginians to vote no. See for more details.

Young Women United | Statewide/New Mexico | Grant Amount: $25,000

Young Women UnitedThis Rapid Response Fund grant supports Young Women United (YWU) to produce a feature film, one directed by and starring industry professionals: director Ryan Lacen and actors Melissa Barrera and Jorge Garcia. Building on the tremendous success of YWU’s culture change campaign, the film will humanize and raise awareness about drug use, pregnancy, and violence, using a racial justice lens, in hopes of affecting the national conversation about opioid use. YWU members and staff will have leadership roles in all aspects of production and distribution. YWU hopes to market the film to film festivals and mainstream circuits, like Hulu or Netflix, which could reach millions of viewers. The story was created as part of YWU’s cultural work: seven members used their own experiences with substance use, pregnancy and parenting to create the story. The hope is that the film will advance important issues in New Mexico and nationally, like ban the box legislation; reforming Child Protective Services to support mamas and their children; increasing services to pregnancy related care within systems of incarceration; and requiring Medicaid reimbursement for Doula services.  

Free & Fair Montana Coalition | Statewide/Montana | Grant Amount: $10,000

Free & Fair Montana Coalition is a trans-led coalition of primarily grassroots organizations fighting I-183, an anti-trans ballot initiative proposed for the November 2018 Montana ballot. In 2017, the anti-LGBTQ/reproductive rights Montana Family Foundation (MFF) tried and failed to pass an anti-trans bathroom bill in the state legislature. It then began to collect signatures to place a near identical measure on the November ballot that would force people to use the public accommodations, e.g., restrooms and locker rooms, that align with the sex on their original birth certificate, not the gender by which they live and identify; and give cis people the ability to sue local and state governments, universities, and schools, anytime they believe someone used the “wrong” bathroom. If the measure had passed, Montana would have been the first state to enact an anti-trans public facilities ballot initiative, encouraging other states to move forward with similar efforts. Happily, thanks to strong coalition organizing – and in the middle of this request being considered – the signature gathering effort failed and the measure did not appear on the ballot. After the measure win, Free & Fair Montana used Rapid Response funding, to help uplift and support trans people of color, trans youth leadership development and build long-term power in the trans and non-binary community. Given Montana’s demographics (the state is almost 90 percent white), the coalition was not led by people of color, but its steering committee was intentionally 50 percent trans working class leaders, and people of color had meaningful roles on the steering and executive committees.  

New Orleans Breastfeeding Center | Local/New Orleans | Grant Amount: $25,000

The New Orleans Breastfeeding Center (NOBC) is a woman of color-led organization formed by doulas and lactation consultants in New Orleans to promote breastfeeding within communities of color. Earlier this year, with the help of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology students, NOBC created and launched Lac-Pac, an emergency preparedness toolkit to promote safe infant feeding during disasters when young infants and children are at high risk for malnutrition, infection, and death. The toolkit includes an illustrated educational booklet and basic infant feeding supplies (feeding cup, sterilization equipment, sterile water, light, cover) designed to protect breastfeeding and feed babies safely during natural disasters and other crises, including hurricanes, unexpected homelessness, having to flee a domestic violence situation, etc. NOBC aims to get the kits mass-produced and to partner with and train emergency responder/disaster preparedness agencies to distribute them to families with infants and young children. The plan is to pilot Lac-Pac in three cities in 2018 (Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and Los Angeles) and Puerto Rico, where NOBC already has partners. The need to disseminate Lac-Pacs is urgent, since early summer is the time that agencies and families begin preparedness activities in advance of hurricane season. Kits will be used by NOBC itself, as well as in hospitals where the majority of those attending classes and support groups are women of color. NOBC is also meeting with NOLA emergency response teams to distribute the kits at shelters, and is in conversations with breastfeeding suppliers Spectra and Evenflo about mass-producing items in the kit. One of NOBC’s goals is to use kit distribution in NOLA as an organizing opportunity in low income communities, talking with mothers about what women and families of color need from the city during and after disasters.  

Mijente | National | Grant Amount: $30,000

Mijente, a WOC-led, membership-based political home for multi-racial Latinx and Chicanx people and organizations received funding to support direct action and organizing along the border in Texas and San Diego to challenge Operation Streamline, a joint U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Department of Justice program that allows for the prosecution of scores of migrants every day. Operation Streamline has been in place in Texas for more than a decade, and in May, the federal government announced plans to bring Operation Streamline to San Diego in early July. In response, Mijente announced huge actions and demonstrations in San Diego beginning July 1; the goal is to create disruption at such a scale that the program cannot continue. Mijente built a strong coalition that includes Movement for Black Lives, BlackOutBlackBird, Bend the Arc, Faith Matters Network, Working Families Party, SONG, Hand in Hand, JREJ, Jewish Voices for Peace, IfNotNow, Auburn Seminary, all of Mijente’s local grassroots base building groups, e.g. Juntos (PA), Puente (AZ), GLAHR (GA) and more, including the Women’s March. With Groundswell Rapid Response funding, Mijente supported leaders, community members, healers, cultural workers, and faith leaders with travel and lodging to participate in successful, well-publicized, and powerful late June/early July actions along the Texas border and in San Diego under the banner Free Our Future. 

For more information on how to support our Rapid Response Fund, please contact: Program Officer, Cecilia Sáenz Becerra.