The Groundswell Fund is a “pass through” grantmaking organization that funds advocacy and direct-services groups working on reproductive issues—especially those that advocate for increased access to abortion for minority groups—and transgender interests.
History and Giving Focus
The Groundswell Fund focuses on increasing access to low-cost or government-funded abortions, contraception, midwifery, and sex education, especially for minority groups, as well as opposing gender-based violence, restrictions on immigration, and the use of certain chemicals. The fund seeks to build the capacity of community groups that share its goals and to build voter engagement in support of increased access to abortion, contraception, and transgender rights.  It pursues an “intersectional” funding model and primarily makes grants to groups that link abortion access to other issues such as environmentalism, civil rights, criminal justice reform, expanded immigration, and LGBT interests.  As a matter of policy, all Groundswell program staff are minority women or minority transgender women. 
Groundswell Fund receives contributions from foundations and private donors and makes grants, usually under $50,000, to build the capacity of organizations working in its program areas. Since its founding, Groundswell Fund has distributed more than $32 million, by its own description “mostly to groups led by women of color, low-income women, and transgender people.”  Groundswell claims more than 300 private donors and 30 foundation donors, but it does not identify its funders.  Among its known funders are the Tides Foundation, Open Society Foundations, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Compton Foundation, Overbrook Foundation, and Tara Health Foundation. 
Programs and Grantmaking Activities
Increasing access to abortion is the centerpiece of the Groundswell Fund’s giving. The group has been a regular supporter of Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, an Atlanta organization that refers women in several Southern states to abortion providers, pays for abortions for poor women, and advocates against state-level abortion restrictions.  Similarly, it supports Access Women’s Health Justice in Oakland, California, which provides financial aid and transportation, housing, and food aid to women seeking abortion, and distributes the “morning-after” pill. 
In 2019, the Groundswell Fund started the Liberation Project, stating that “in the era of Trump, the two groups that bear the greatest burden of white supremacy and misogyny in the U.S.—women of color and transgender people of color—have a vital leadership role to play in the larger resistance movement.” The goal of the Liberation Fund is to identify effective community organizers who are minority and transgender women and support their organizations.  In 2019, the Liberation Fund gave about $900,000 to 11 grantees, including the [email protected] Coalition; the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project; the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which aids “Black trans women and gender nonconforming femmes”; and Native Movement, an Alaska-based organization advocating for “regenerative” land use practices. 
Groundswell also created a Rapid Response Fund to make quick, relatively small grants “to grassroots organizations led by women of color, trans people of color, and low-income women and trans people in critical, unexpected, fights to protect and advance reproductive and social justice.” In 2018, the Rapid Response Fund awarded about $500,000 to 30 organizations, including $25,000 to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health to defend immigrant activists who are detained; $15,000 to the Black LBGTQIA Migrant Project, which “stand[s] at the intersection of criminal justice, immigration reform, and trans liberation”; and $10,000 to West Virginia Free to lobby against a proposed state constitutional amendment to prohibit Medicaid funding of abortions (the amendment passed). 
Groundswell is part of the Rights, Faith, and Democracy Collaborative, a grantmaking fund that opposes allowing conscientious objectors to same-sex marriages to refrain from participating in same-sex wedding ceremonies.  The group filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, arguing that the Court should rule in favor of a state anti-discrimination commission’s finding that refusal to decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding because of the baker’s religious convictions was illegal discrimination. 
Groundswell frequently makes small grants to support non-traditional birthing and midwifery practices. For example, it has supported Breath of My Heart Birthplace, a New Mexico midwifery practice that “serve[s] a diverse range of family configurations including lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender, heterosexual and single-parent families.”  It awarded $25,000 to Ancient Song Doula Services in New York to lobby the state government to modify Medicaid rules to eliminate “complicated licensure requirements that will favor white-led doula organizations over grassroots doulas of color.” 
In 2019, Groundswell funded survey and demographic research into the political attitudes and activism of minority women. The research found that minority women were a particularly energized demographic group after the 2016 Presidential election and that drafting minority women candidates would increase minority women turnout for all Democratic candidates. 
Groundswell’s founder and executive director, Vanessa Daniel, is a first-generation American and “queer activist.” Daniel has expressed extremist sentiments, decrying the United States’ supposed “rotten foundation of greed, slavery and genocide” and “the hubris of white supremacist conquest and imperialism and its insatiable thirst for total dominance over nature, over people of color, over anyone who is not white, Christian, cisgender, male, and rich. It has been a termite-like force that throughout history has eviscerated all in its path: the buffalo, the ozone, the opportunity and dreams of people of color, along with the humanity of those white people who have allowed it to grind on unimpeded.”  Daniel has criticized non-profit organizations that adopt the organizing techniques of minority-led groups as putting “raisins in the potato salad,” arguing that “Aside from being ineffective in moving the needle on social change generally, this funding approach only reinforces white supremacy.”  Prior to founding the Groundswell Fund, Daniel was a program officer in environmental justice at the Tides Foundation and an organizer with the Service Employees International Union. 
The chairman of Groundswell Fund is Rocio Cordoba, the executive director of Funders for Reproductive Equity, a group of philanthropies that work to increase access to abortion. Previously, Cordoba was a program officer with the Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Justice Program at the Ford Foundation, where she managed the Youth Sexuality, Reproductive Health and Rights and Sexuality Research Initiatives.