Identifying Unmet Needs in Black-Led Organizations and Black Communities - Exponent Philanthropy
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Identifying Unmet Needs in Black-Led Organizations and Black Communities

Traci Johnson

As program officer at the POISE Foundation, Traci Johnson helps Black-led, Black-serving organizations bring change to their communities.

During the pandemic, Traci recognized Black-led organizations and communities were far more impacted. She wanted to alleviate burdens on grantees, and speed up the time it took to get resources into the hands of organizations serving on the front lines.

Through internal discussions and community conversations that included surveys, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and talking with past funders and grantees, Traci and her small team at POISE reevaluated their grantmaking criteria.

They committed to leveling the playing field for grantseekers by removing barriers and focusing on impact. Changes included shortened grant applications, funding organizations not traditionally considered for grants, and significantly reducing decision waiting periods for grantees.

In three weeks, POISE created the Critical Community Needs Fund, and as of this spring, it raised over $1.3 million in funds, and distributed $1.1 million directly into the hands of 103 Black-led organizations serving over 322,000 Black community members in Allegheny and Beaver counties. Over 87% of these organizations had not received any funding from the CAREs ACT.

Through community relationships, Traci uncovered unmet needs and unique challenges faced by the Black immigrant community including needing transportation to food banks, language barriers, and faith-based dietary restrictions.

POISE is the first to fund many of these smaller organizations. And Traci and her team spotlighted their work in the local press to make sure they won’t be the last.

The speed and efficiency with which Traci and POISE repositioned themselves to meet the needs in their community show how lean funders can achieve outsized impact, regardless of size.

Traci Johnson is a finalist for Exponent Philanthropy’s 2021 Outsized Impact Award, honoring an individual whose style of philanthropy achieved greater-than-expected results.

Read about the other two finalists and vote for the winner of this year’s Outsized Impact Award


The winner will be announced at the 2021 Virtual Annual Conference
October 21, 2021   |   4:15 – 4:45 EST

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