When it comes to racial equity, 2020 was a catalyst for change. The events of that year challenged us, and organizations across America, to do more to address the root causes of racial disparities and advocate for greater equity, diversity and inclusion.
But where to begin? Our approach is to first listen, then act. Listening to community and nonprofit leaders, we consistently heard that reducing health disparities and providing educational and workforce-related opportunities to underserved Black and historically marginalized communities were areas where the AbbVie Foundation could continue to stand up and support organizations driving for a more just and equitable world.
Taking what we learned from those conversations, in June 2020 we contributed $5 million in unrestricted support to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and the Equal Justice Initiative. And in December 2020, we launched a $50 million, five-year program to advance health and education equity in underserved Black and historically marginalized communities across the U.S.
“We’ve heard the call and took action – first to listen closely, then partner with nonprofits who are experts at driving change,” said Tracie Haas, president of the AbbVie Foundation and vice president of corporate responsibility, brand and communications, AbbVie. “We are proud of the dedication and progress so far and excited to see our partners expand and create important programs to address the long-term, systemic impact of racism.”
One year since we made this important philanthropic commitment, our nonprofit partners have set the foundation for their programs and are accelerating progress. Here are a few highlights of our partners’ early achievements:
Our $10 million contribution to Direct Relief seeded its Fund for Health Equity, an initiative centered on improving care and addressing health inequities in underserved Black and marginalized communities, especially those hardest hit by the pandemic. In August, the Fund awarded its first 10 grants to community health centers addressing health disparities across America. The Fund has since raised an additional $65 million to address circumstances exacerbating health disparities.
“It took us a long time to create the issues we now have around health equity, and it's going to take a long time to fix them. That’s why having long term commitments, like the one AbbVie’s made, matter,” said Dr. Byron Scott, M.D., MBA, co-chair of the Fund for Health Equity and board director of Direct Relief and chair of its Medical Advisory Council.
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) works to end racial and economic injustice, protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in America, and to advance an era of truth and justice. This year, with support from AbbVie and others, EJI reached millions of people with groundbreaking reports, films and other educational resources bringing awareness to critical issues regarding America’s history of racial injustice and its legacy. EJI also challenges wrongful convictions and excessive punishment, and in 2021 won release, parole or reduced sentences for several individuals.
Grant support has enabled the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) to continue to be a vanguard in the battle for civil rights and racial justice in the U.S. With support from AbbVie and other organizations, LDF successfully challenged restrictions to voting rights in the courts; made progress toward reducing economic injustices within employment, housing and lending; advanced measures to improve officer accountability and eradicate racial bias and discrimination in policing; and pushed for equitable access to high quality education. The organization also conducted new litigation, research and strategic communications to advocate for the rights of Black Americans disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and ensure they gained equal access to related resources and relief.
The National Urban League is expanding opportunities for historically marginalized youth in urban communities through its mentorship program Project Ready: Mentor. With our support, they’ve built capacity at 17 affiliate sites across the U.S. and implemented a new model for their program that’s enabling nearly 300 mentors – including 50 AbbVie employees – to access virtual training and certification to ultimately support youth.
“We live in a time where young people have taken the brunt of this pandemic. Too many have not had an opportunity to keep up with their work due to the challenges of remote learning. AbbVie has stepped up in this very important moment,” said Marc H. Morial, chief executive officer, National Urban League.
Our partner Providence St. Mel (PSM), a predominantly Black preschool – 12th grade school in Chicago’s West Side, aims to continue its impressive legacy of 100% student acceptance to four-year colleges and universities. With our support, PSM awarded scholarships to 17 high school students and widely deployed its Academic Intervention Model, which is designed to help close the achievement gap by identifying, assessing and giving individualized support to students who are struggling academically.
The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is driving greater equity in education and health care through scholarships, advocacy and partnership with colleges. With our support, the organization launched an entirely new scholarship program focused on preparing and motivating Black professionals to pursue a wide variety of careers in healthcare and ultimately help reduce health disparities. So far, the Healthcare Diversity Workforce Program has awarded 200 scholarships and wraparound support services to students. In addition, UNCF has established partnerships with 85 new institutions of higher learning, enabling the organization to reach more students, and ensure they make it both to and through college.
The Urban Health Initiative (UHI) is striving to promote health equity within Chicago’s South Side community through Liaisons in Care (LinC), a program that leverages the support of community health workers. With our contribution, UHI launched the LinC program, and a team of newly hired community health workers have engaged in over 775 patient visits, where they’ve provided education around disease management and helped patients navigate food, transportation and housing resources.
Year Up is empowering young adults to achieve economic mobility and justice by providing access to opportunity. Through Year Up's proven model, young adults gain technical and professional skills and real-world work experience. In 2021, with our support, Year Up's locations in Boston, the Bay Area, Chicago and New York/New Jersey served more than 3,000 young adults and provided increased support to program participants and graduates.
Our philanthropic partners have taken on a broad range of approaches to overcoming barriers perpetuated by systemic racism, and by 2026, anticipate measurable improvements in health, education and workforce disparities.
The foundation we’ve laid together has reiterated the value of collaboration as a vehicle for driving meaningful change. Our employees have also taught us this valuable lesson. For every dollar our employees invest in nonprofits that foster racial equity, our foundation is matching their donation with three dollars. With their contributions, we’ve been able to donate a total of $1.6 million in just the last year.
“I’m tremendously proud of the people of AbbVie who have stepped up to embrace inclusion and reject racism through their donations and their actions,” said Rick Gonzalez, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, AbbVie. “We know there is a lot of work to do but we believe we can help drive real action on the issues of racial equity and social justice and fundamentally, we believe it’s the right thing to do.”