Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Gary E. Frank headshot

Salesforce Boosts Black-Led Nonprofits with Unrestricted Funding

By Gary E. Frank
black man wearing volunteer shirt - nonprofits led by people of color

Cloud-based software company Salesforce recently announced $1 million in grants to 10 nonprofits in the United States and Canada. The grants come from the Salesforce Catalyst Fund, which provides critical, unrestricted funding for nonprofits led by underrepresented leaders. The grantees are nonprofits headed by Black leaders who are providing innovative programs to boost educational achievement and increase the chances for career success for young people of color in the United States.

“To improve the futures of our Black youth and close the wealth gap, we need to invest in leaders who are trailblazing solutions in their own communities with flexible capital that enables these leaders to take risks and pilot new ideas,” said Ron C. Smith, vice president of philanthropy for Salesforce, in a public statement.

As income and wealth inequalities have widened, increasing access to capital for nonprofits led by people of color and underrepresented groups is critical to closing the wealth gap, Echoing Green and the Bridgespan Group found in a 2020 report, “Racial Equity and Philanthropy." Black and Latino nonprofit leaders receive only about 4 percent of philanthropic funding in the U.S., though they make up roughly 10 percent of nonprofit leadership nationwide. 

This capital gap is even more pronounced when it comes to unrestricted funding that nonprofits can use to support operating costs and innovation. The unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations are 76 percent smaller than their white-led counterparts, ultimately contributing to the systemic underinvestment in these communities. 

“One critical step we can take to help close this gap is to focus unrestricted funding on smaller, younger nonprofits led by people of color,” Smith told TriplePundit. “The Salesforce Catalyst Fund aims to redistribute the flow of capital to empower and catalyze these organizations.”

Catalyst Fund grantees can use the funds at their discretion, as opposed to traditional giving, which often requires nonprofits to demonstrate an intention to do work that aligns with the funders’ priorities. Too often, this creates a power dynamic “where the funders steer the solutions,” Smith said.

“By distributing unrestricted funding, Salesforce lowers administrative burdens on nonprofits leaders who spend a lot of time chasing funding and reporting their progress back to funders,” he continued. “This allows them to focus on what really matters — bringing innovative solutions to communities in need.”

The 10 organizations receiving grants are:

“We are honored to partner with these 10 incredible leaders who are driving change in their communities — from recruiting Black educators, to empowering Black youth to pursue careers in tech,” Smith told us.

While the Catalyst Fund provides unrestricted support to nonprofits, they must meet certain criteria to be eligible. First, they must align with the Salesforce Foundation's focus of addressing racial inequities in education, economic opportunity and community resources. They must also be led by people of color or those from underrepresented groups and specifically look to serve underrepresented populations. In the U.S., Salesforce is specifically targeting Black, Latinx and Indigenous leaders. And, as Smith noted, they must be relatively young and small, with less than 10 years in operation and an operating budget of $2 million or less.

“Our students have consistently said, we need Black teachers. And we need to invest in Black leaders who are paving the way so that all Black students can have a high-quality education and a prosperous future,” said Sharif El-Mekki, founder and CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development, in a public statement.

The Salesforce Catalyst Fund was launched in June 2022 to counter systemic racial inequities in philanthropic funding that impede nonprofits led by, and serving, people of color. The grants are intended to empower leaders and organizations closest to the issues by providing unrestricted funding to enhance the development of new solutions and boost their impact.

The grants to these 10 nonprofits are the second round of funding from the Catalyst Fund, which made grants totaling $2 million in 2022 to 20 nonprofits in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia.

Image credit: RODNAE Productions/Pexels

Gary E. Frank headshot

Gary E. Frank is a writer with more than 30 years of experience encompassing journalism, marketing, media relations, speech writing, university communications and corporate communications. 

Read more stories by Gary E. Frank