Evaluation of Special Grant Package Responding to President Trump's Executive Orders on Immigration
December 7, 2018 | Evaluation | Chicago Commitment
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Total Awarded: $1.2 million
Duration: 2017
Total Grants: 13
Geographic Focus: United States


In January 2017 President Trump announced dramatic shifts in federal immigration policies and made sweeping changes to immigration law enforcement. These new executive orders affected Chicagoans, immigrant communities, and organizations working in this field. By May 2017, recognizing the importance of this work to the city, its diverse communities, and all its residents, MacArthur awarded $1.2 million (eight expedited grants and five traditional grants) to 13 organizations supporting efforts to overturn laws and policies that undermine people's rights and to protect the rights and liberties of racial, ethnic, religious, and other social groups.

What We Evaluated

In October 2017, the Foundation hired The Silver Line to conduct an evaluation of the package of grants made in response to President Trump's executive orders on immigration. The purpose of the evaluation was to help the Foundation understand the value and perceived benefit of the grants for the recipients and the communities they serve and assess the potential for applying this mode of targeted and responsive grantmaking in the future. The primary questions guiding this evaluation included:

  • To what extent have these funds helped organizations respond to the needs of the immigrant and refugee communities they serve? What are perceived accomplishments? What additional benefits emerged for organizations? To what extent did the awards influence the grant recipients' ability to network and/or coordinate efforts around the executive orders?
  • How has this package of awards supported alliances across immigrant, ethnic, and religious communities?
  • What are the pros and cons of the Foundation's process to make these awards? What can be learned from what worked? Or from what did not work?

What We Learned

  • Overall, this package of awards provided a number of benefits for grantee organizations and for immigrant communities in Chicago. Grants supported organizations on the front lines of defense for immigrant communities, providing services, supports, and resources.
  • Foundation staff felt strongly that the Foundation's response was appropriate, timely, and important. Foundation staff felt that it was important for the community to understand that the Foundation cared about these issues, but they also wanted to be clear that, because the Migration program ended in 2016, there would not be ongoing grants in this area.
  • Many organizations noted that the grant they received allowed for more coordination and collaboration across immigrant communities. Smaller organizations reported that they were seen as leaders and invited to work with more established organizations. Organizations said the grants facilitated deeper or different relationships among organizations that had a pre-existing connection and established new alliances to unite around a single issue.
  • The expedited grants, a special type of award that can be made rapidly for certain purposes, were helpful for both the Foundation staff and grantees as a responsive and supportive grantmaking tool.
  • Organizations felt that receiving a grant from MacArthur provided validation, positioned them as a leader, and "opened other doors".
  • The Foundation staff and grantees both noted that the Director of the Foundation's Chicago Commitment program was the driving force behind vetting grantees and developing a thoughtful and diverse list of grantees. She served as an invaluable resource in the area of immigration and associated policies.
  • However, this package of awards also caused concern across different nonprofits that did not receive grants. Grant recipients raised questions about why groups other than their own organizations were selected for this grant opportunity.
  • Also, while the Foundation's funding came at a critical time immediately following the executive orders, the need and cost to immigrant-serving groups is ongoing and, in some cases, has grown. One grantee noted, "The context has not changed, and it is only getting worse."


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