Community Foundation Events Promote Racial Equity

Published: December 13, 2022 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation is committed to pursuing an equitable and inclusive Linn County where everyone can thrive. We continue our efforts to make our processes and practices more equitable. We recently held two events and introduced a new Learning Cohort to help Linn County nonprofits engage in this meaningful work.

Community Learning Series: Partnering with Emerging Black and Brown Leaders 

Photo of 2022 Thrive Cohort members.

On Thursday, November 10, the Community Foundation hosted the Community Learning Series: Partnering with Emerging Black and Brown Leaders. At the event, members of the Community Foundation’s Thrive Cohort shared their stories and discussed how the program has helped them and their organizations on their path to success.

Thrive launched in January 2021 as a way to advance racial equity and support newly established nonprofits. Five Black and Brown leaders of emerging organizations were selected to participate in the cohort: Keeyon Carter (Wellington Heights Community Church), Mugisha Gloire (United We March Forward), Leslie Neely (Advocates for Social Justice), Jorel Robinson (Big Bang Foundation), and Bridgette Williams-Robinson (Bridge Under the Bridge). Keeyon, Bridgette, and Mugisha spoke at the event, with Tamara Marcus filling in for Leslie.

Over the last two years, the group has met monthly for learning activities and discussions on a range of topics related to building nonprofit organizations. Local leaders served as guest facilitators.

“To be in a room with these guys, to have someone who looks like us show up and say, ‘I made it,’ is huge for people who come from a place where most people don’t,” Bridgette said at the event.

In addition to the meetings, each member’s organization received quarterly general operating support grants of $2,500. Organizations used these grants for overhead, programming, and even educational costs for their leadership. The grants—and the sentiment behind them—were often transformational.

“The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation believed in the leaders you see here today,” Mugisha said at the event. “They were willing to invest in that, and a lot of times Black people don’t have that support. I felt empowered.”

Also at the event, Community Foundation staff announced plans for the next iteration of Thrive. The 2023 cohort is open for nominations, and community members are encouraged to nominate themselves.

“Thrive is a way of investing in people who may not have had opportunities for support in the past,” explained Carrie Walker, Nonprofit Network Manager. “We’re opening Thrive to all Black and Brown nonprofit professionals because everyone in our community should have access to professional development and leadership training.”

View a recording of the Community Learning Series event here.

Learn about how to submit a nomination for the 2023 Thrive Cohort here. If you have questions about the nominations, contact Carrie Walker at


Learning Cohort: Engaging in the DEI Journey

Photo of group of people sitting around tables in a conference room smiling at the camera.On Tuesday, December 6, the Community Foundation’s first Learning Cohort kicked off with nonprofit executive directors and CEO’s. The three-part series is designed to offer nonprofit leaders tools and concepts to help guide implementation of equitable practices and policies in Linn County nonprofits, with a focus on racial equity.

The group will meet again in January and February, and sessions are being led by Gina Weekley of Top RANK, a Cedar Rapids-based diversity facilitation, consulting, and talent acquisition firm. Gina is a Certified Nonprofit Professional with over 15 years of experience increasing the capacity of organizations and developing content to deliver high-quality and transformational learning experiences. Gina also has extensive experience collaborating with organizational leadership and direct service staff around designing and evaluating mission-driven programming that incorporates community voice.

“The Community Foundation is committed to making Linn County more equitable,” said Carrie Walker, Nonprofit Network Manager. “The local nonprofit sector can have a major impact in this area, and the Learning Cohorts will serve as a way to connect organizations to some of the resources they will need to start or continue this important work.”

On January 1, Carrie will transition to the role of Director of Learning and continue organizing the Community Foundation’s many educational and networking opportunities, including Learning Cohorts.

Future Learning Cohorts will be offered as part of the Peer Group model. Peer groups are held monthly for nonprofit professionals who work in five areas: Executive Directors/CEOs, CFO/Finance, Managers, Development/Fundraising, and Marketing. A learning cohort might be held in addition to or in lieu of peer group for several months so attendees can explore a topic in depth.

Learn more about the Nonprofit Network, Peer Groups, and Learning Cohorts here.


Nonprofit Know-How: Creating an Organizational Equity Plan

Photo of a laptop logged into a Zoom meeting for the Nonprofit Know-How.On Friday, December 9, the Nonprofit Network hosted the virtual Nonprofit Know-How: Creating an Organizational Equity plan—a fast, free, and focused learning event on creating a plan to infuse equity practices into an organization’s work and how to reflect that work in grantmaking requests.

At the event, Community Foundation staff and local nonprofit leaders shared a few of the tools used to help organizations develop their own equity plans. Staff also walked through key updates to Community Foundation grant applications coming in 2023. New questions will focus on racial equity practices in accordance with the Grantmaking Equity Statement, which was announced earlier in 2022.

“The Grantmaking Equity Statement is our next step in encouraging organizations to be representative of our community,” said Rochelle Naylor, Senior Program Officer. “In 2023 we will begin prioritizing grant funding for organizations that are deeply engaged in or actively working to improve organizational equity practices.”

Because this work is complex and transformational, the Community Foundation is committed to providing resources to assist organizations, including this Nonprofit Know-How event.

View a recording of the event here.

Read the complete Grantmaking Equity Statement here.

Visit the Nonprofit Giving Center and the Nonprofit Calendar to search for a nonprofit fund, organization, cause, or event to support.