In an Unprecedented Year, Tides Makes Strides Towards a World of Shared Prosperity and Justice

A Year Like No Other

In the face of the unprecedented shifts of 2020, we at Tides were able to confront new challenges head on thanks to the help of our partners and funders, the generosity of the wider community, and the hard work of our team. As the coronavirus pandemic wreaked disproportionate havoc in marginalized communitiesprotesters worldwide responded vehemently to the senseless police murder of George Floyd, demanding that long standing American injustices—and anti-Black systemic racism—be reckoned with once and for all. In this context, we centered our commitment to racial and social justice. 

The simultaneous occurrence of a mismanaged global health pandemic and a worldwide uprising against racism shone a revealing light on the disastrously undemocratic elements of contemporary American society. But it also created opportunities for Tides and our partners to carry out the values we champion and to hold ourselves accountable to our vision of a world of shared prosperity and social justice.

Image courtesy of Clay Banks.

Walking Our Talk

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Within Tides, the creation of our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion office in 2020 has begun guiding us on the path of our continued liberatory and anti-racist work. Recent social and cultural shifts compelled us to examine how our work adapts to the current environment. We took a more critical look at internal structures and cultural norms to help us adjust our approach and practices to be more culturally sensitive and responsive to the needs of a changing world. Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Erwin Acox and his team have started taking Tides Network’s knowledge of racial justice, systemic oppression, belonging, and many other topics to the next level. They are engaging an ongoing cultural assessment to identify ways to further dismantle internal practices that perpetuate oppressive conditions within the organization. This assessment will continue to enable Tides to refine and strengthen our work and be of service to—and with—our partners as they seek to prioritize justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in their work in the field. 

External Impact

We were able to respond to the crises that 2020 thrust upon us by stewarding timely, efficient, and far-reaching investments in our external work. 

Human Rights

This past summer, Tides Foundation and Black Lives Matters (BLM) proudly joined forces and launched The BLM Support Fund to advance strategic grantmaking activities targeting the movement for black lives. This unique partnership helps BLM develop a grantmaking infrastructure as well as position Tides with more first hand exposure to this historic movement to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people, communities, and causes the world over.

Healthy Communities

In response to COVID-19, Tides quickly launched our COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants Program and the Tides Stronger Together Fund. These efforts—combined with our ongoing expedited COVID-19 grantmaking—boast over $94 million in approved grants to help organizations navigate pandemic-related challenges. 

Project N95 was able to launch a full-scale organization thanks to Tides, which set up its philanthropic capacity within a week. It quickly assembled a team of 100-plus volunteers, who came together from all over the world to serve the frontlines by conducting sourcing due diligence on suppliers and products so medical providers and hospitals could quickly make informed procurement decisions.

The COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants Program quickly processed grant applications for partners working to reduce the spread and transmission of the virus and for those whose operations were significantly challenged by COVID‑19. The Stronger Together Fund, which began—with substantial seed funding from Tides—as a way to help our social venture partners sustain themselves through the pandemic, has evolved into a Tides’ permanent crisis relief fund that allows us to continue to support our social venture partners when crises arise. Ongoing donations from our philanthropic partners help sustain the fund’s ability to respond rapidly and generously. 


In anticipation of the importance of the 2020 election, Tides Foundation Healthy Democracy Fund (HDF) concentrated its efforts to close the turnout gap and defend the voting rights of communities of color and young voters. The Fund remained laser-focused on that goal while giving grantees the flexibility they needed to adjust their strategies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our grantees adeptly pivoted to remote organizing strategies, applied robust digital tools, executed tele-town halls, advocated for vote by mail, and fought misinformation and voter suppression via culturally competent outreach.

Healthy Democracy Fund is invested in the work of mobilizing young voters on issues such as racial justice and climate change. Engage Miami was able to get the young people pictured here excited about voting and facilitated registering them to vote for their first time in the 2020 election. Photo courtesy of Briyana Joseph.

The HDF team also worked with movement partners and donor networks to prioritize funding to often overlooked populations—including Asian American/Pacific Islander, Haitian, Muslim, Indigenous, Latinx, LGBTQ, youth, and women of color communities—across the U.S. This dedicated team provided strategic guidance on more than $40 million in civic engagement grants, which included $4.5 million in HDF-directed grants to more than 50 organizations.

Looking forward to 2021, HDF will resource many of the same community organizations we supported this year to help sustain 2020’s historic civic engagement gains, and to ensure that these communities have the resources they need to continue to engage their community members and create a democracy that is responsive to their needs. We will provide flexible support so our partners can retain their trained community organizers and build local leadership. We will also invest in efforts to advance pro-voter policies at the state and federal level, and support targeted redistricting fights. Importantly, we have an opportunity to make permanent many of the temporary pro-voter reforms implemented because of the pandemic. Lastly, we will investigate and support ongoing efforts to counter disinformation and cyber-attack campaigns aimed at underrepresented populations.

Sustainable Environment

In April 2020, as part of Tides’ commitment to climate, gender, and racial justice, we kicked off WE LEAD—the Women’s Environmental Leadership fund—a grantmaking initiative at Tides Foundation to elevate and support Black, Indigenous, women of color, and under-resourced leadership on the frontlines of climate disruption and harm in the U.S. Through its multi-issue approach, WE LEAD intends to grow organizational capacity, fortify bold leadership, build power in communities through local organizing, and catalyze philanthropy to prioritize funding marginalized and often overlooked frontline communities.

Thanks to a timely $2 million contribution from a generous Tides philanthropic partner, WE LEAD was able to support its first round of grantees in Texas. By year end, WE LEAD’s grantmaking will total $1 million. The WE LEAD team is currently building grantee partnerships with community-based organizations in the Southwest and the Ohio River Valley (OH, PA, WV) to fight oil and gas development and to support a just transition to a clean energy future that benefits local communities. 

Our Reach

If our endeavors sound vast and far reaching, it’s because they are! By the end of October 2020, Tides awarded nearly 7,000 grants comprising an excess of $500 million, surpassing last year’s roughly 5,000 grants. This significant increase in grantmaking reflected our partners’ amplified commitment to social justice work, COVID-19 response, and non-partisan election-related efforts. In 2021, our grants team will be reviewing and restructuring roles and responsibilities to further maximize its work, fueling the Tides engine that keeps us going.

As we head into 2021, we want to express our deep and sincere gratitude for the inspiring and visionary leadership of Tides Interim CEO Tuti B. Scott, who guided us through an indescribably demanding and catalytic chapter in our history. While our farewell to Tuti is bittersweet, we are excited to welcome our new CEO, Janiece Evans-Page, who will start on January 4th. We look forward to hearing her thoughts and perspectives on Tides’ direction and working with her on our 2021 initiatives.

In closing, we extend our sincerest appreciation to all of you who supported Tides, partnered with, or promoted our work, both in the past and during this unprecedented year. We are deeply indebted to your generous and meaningful support of our endeavors. Our successes are your successes. We wish you a safe holiday season and all the best for an inspiring and hopeful New Year.

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