The Open Society Foundations, the philanthropic group founded by the business magnate George Soros, announced on Monday that it was investing $220 million in efforts to achieve racial equality in America, a huge financial undertaking that will support several Black-led racial justice groups for years to come.
The initiative, which comes amid national protests for racial equality and calls for police reform ignited by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, will immediately reshape the landscape of Black political and civil rights organizations, and signals the extent to which race and identity have become the explicit focal point of American politics in recent years, with no sign of receding. Mr. Soros, who has at times faced smears and anti-Semitism over his role as a liberal megadonor, is also positioning his foundation near the forefront of the protest movement.
Of the $220 million, the foundation will invest $150 million in five-year grants for selected groups, including progressive and emerging organizations like the Black Voters Matter Fund and Repairers of the Breach, a group founded by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of the Poor People’s Campaign. The money will also support more established Black civil rights organizations like the Equal Justice Initiative, which was founded by the civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson and depicted in the 2019 movie “Just Mercy.”
The Open Society Foundations will invest an additional $70 million in local grants supporting changes to policing and criminal justice. This money will also be used to pay for opportunities for civic engagement and to organize internships and political training for young people.
Patrick Gaspard, the president of the Open Society Foundations, said in an interview that the group believed the investment was about harnessing the momentum toward racial justice, but also giving organizations room to think long-term. Now, he said, is “the moment we’ve been investing in for the last 25 years.”
“There is this call for justice in Black and brown communities, an explosion of not just sympathy but solidarity across the board,” Mr. Gaspard said. “So it’s time to double down. And we understood we can place a bet on these activists — Black and white — who see this as a moment of not just incrementalism, but whole-scale reform.”
“The demands being made now will not be met overnight, and we know the gaze of media and elected officials will turn in other directions,” he added. “But we need these moments to be sustained. If we’re going to say ‘Black lives matter,’ we need to say ‘Black organizations and structures matter.’”
Even before Monday’s announcement, progressive groups, Democratic candidates and racial justice organizations had been flooded with small-dollar donations, breaking giving records and allowing former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as well as House and Senate candidates to post eye-popping fund-raising numbers. It is the convergence of an election year in which Democrats are desperate to defeat President Trump with an extraordinary protest movement that has pushed many to action, changing public opinion among white Americans and ideological moderates in the process.
But in making the grants last for five years, Open Society’s leaders said, the organization is freeing groups to think beyond the current moment. Heather McGhee, who is on the foundation’s domestic board and has been on recent calls inf