ICYMI: GCF Awards $1 Million to Six Nonprofits Through Racial Justice Fund

While aspiring entrepreneurs from historically marginalized communities often hear the word “no,” MORTAR tells them, “yes.”

Operating in six neighborhoods in Cincinnati and in four other cities, the organization aims to create diverse communities by enabling those entrepreneurs to access the resources needed to start and run successful businesses. MORTAR is one of the first grant recipients of Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s (GCF) Racial Justice Fund.

Joining MORTAR are Ohio Justice and Policy Center, Ohio Transformation Fund, National Development Council (Technical Assistance program), The Heights Movement and Queen’s Village of Cradle Cincinnati. GCF awarded $1 million across the six non-profits over multi-year investments.

Established June 2020 with a commitment of $5 million over five years, the goal of the Racial Justice Fund is to advance matters of fairness and justice with a critical focus on the systems that affect the Black community, specifically criminal, economic and social justice. More broadly, the fund seeks to address the root causes of systemic racism in our community through policy change.

Racial justice, in fact, is what MORTAR is all about, according to Executive Director Allen Woods. Seventy-nine percent of MORTAR’s participants are Black women, who face extra challenges as they are considered a double minority. “The work we do every day is about making sure we’re creating the opportunities for these entrepreneurs who are often overlooked, even though, statistically, this is the largest and fastest group of entrepreneurs in America,” he said.

MORTAR’s Racial Justice Fund grant will enable it to hire an alumni manager who is dedicated to supporting graduates with mentoring and business consulting during its 18-month alumni program. Funding also will help MORTAR build a team of liaisons who can provide consulting for specific areas such as food service and e-commerce. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the urgency for both of these services.

Importantly, the grant also gives MORTAR an opportunity to tell the stories of its participants and alumni and to educate others about the racial wealth gap. Woods shared: “There are people who believe that if you have enough desire, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but you need boots and straps to do that. Sometimes, you need a little help to get to that point.”

Saying “yes” to these aspiring entrepreneurs isn’t just about providing opportunity for today. It’s about making an impact for tomorrow. Woods continued: “The bigger picture is that we are helping people build businesses that will mean something generations from now. There are people I’ve never met who have read a curriculum that I wrote, and that could potentially affect the lives of their families – their kids and grandkids. I have been able to be a part of lighting the fire that will take them to the next part of their journey. To have organizations like GCF believe in that and understand that if they invest in an organization like us in Cincinnati, there’s a ripple effect. It’s not just Cincinnati. We have the potential to change the world.”

Learn more about GCF’s Racial Justice Fund and grant recipients here. Individuals interested in contributing to the Racial Justice Fund can go to gcfdn.org/racialjusticefund.