What We Do

The Fund’s north star is an economy and society where immigrants and refugees thrive and can achieve their aspirations. Different kinds of solutions can ensure immigrants and refugees have equitable access to opportunities and be part of more inclusive economies. As such, we take a broad view in how our funding supports the success of immigrant and refugee workers through our funding.

Who and How We Fund

We are particularly excited to partner with organizations that are led and staffed by individuals from the communities they represent. We also prioritize funding requests that demonstrate how workers are centered in the design and implementation of solutions.

Organizations who contribute to the Fund’s overarching goals and align with our current funding priorities may be eligible for funding. We work with charities, non-profits, mission-driven for-profits, and fiscally sponsored organizations. Currently, we only fund initiatives in the U.S. and Canada.

How we source funding ideas: 

Directly solicit funding ideas from organizations

Issue invite-only requests for proposals

Occasionally open online applications to seek ideas related to funding priorities and solutions.

Our Current Funding Prorities in the U.S. and Canada include:

Skills and Strong Career Pathways for Workers

Wrap-Around Supports for Workers and Families

Inclusive Employer Practices and Quality Jobs

Wealth and Ownership for Workers and Communities

Belonging and Inclusion in Local Communities

Data-Informed Policy Change

Our Approach to Philanthropy

As a young funder, we have adopted a “learning by doing” approach to our philanthropic practices and are continually adapting who, what, and how we fund to best reflect what we learn from our partners and the field.

The WES Mariam Assefa Fund seeks to build trust and equity in the way we approach philanthropy and work with grantee and investee partners. We consider ourselves students of trust-based philanthropy and are inspired by its key principle of addressing power imbalances in philanthropy, including being transparent, responsive, and flexible.

In all we do, we seek to prioritize these core values:

Human Centered

We put the dignity and individual agency of immigrants and refugees at the center of our work and amplify their voices and experiences to drive more effective change.

Risk Taking

We take risks alongside our partners and are committed to providing flexible funding that tests and demonstrates the impact of less proven but promising interventions.


We center principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in our work, as they are inextricably linked to our goal of creating more inclusive economies and communities for all.


We know our mission cannot be achieved alone and that we’re stronger together; we transparently share knowledge and resources with the field and connect the dots among partners and key stakeholders.

As a catalytic funder, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund provides:

  • Flexible Funding

    We provide organizations with the flexible, risk-tolerant grant support needed to test and demonstrate the impact of innovative, earlier stage, or less proven approaches. The Fund makes both general operating support grants and flexible strategic project grants. As of year-end 2022, 47 percent of the Fund’s grants were structured as general operating support.

    Flexible project grants offer partners significant autonomy to adjust scope, budget, and deliverables to ensure that they can be effective, all while working toward specific goals. We also do not place restrictions on using funding for overhead or administrative costs. We encourage all applicants to include the full costs required to execute the proposed initiative. For example, we believe it is essential that mission-driven organizations have the resources to invest in the well-being of their staff, including ongoing learning and professional development, living wages, and holistic supports.

  • Impact Investment Capital

    We invest in innovators and entrepreneurs who are reimagining learning, career pathways, hiring and recruiting, financial services, childcare, wealth-building, and the many other tools and resources immigrant and refugee workers need in order to thrive. Our impact investments typically range from $100,000 to $500,000 and can take many forms, such as recoverable grants, borrower-friendly loans, patient equity, and loan guarantees. Read more here about our impact investing approach and priorities.

  • Support Beyond the "Check"

    In addition to financial support, there are many other resources the Fund can provide to partners to ensure their success. For example, we use our platform to amplify the work and voices of partners and their communities and provide communications support to extend the reach and influence of their ideas, perspectives, and impact. We also offer capacity-building programs tailored to the learning and professional development needs that our grantee and investee partners identify.

  • Community of Partners

    The Fund strives to create a community of grantee and investee partners that can collaborate, share knowledge and resources, and work collectively to drive lasting change in the U.S. and Canada. We also connect our partners with the broader expertise and networks of WES and outside experts who can help organizations deepen their impact.

  • Co-funding Partnerships

    We believe in the power of leveraged impact. WES is proud of the philanthropic resources it can provide to support immigrants and refugees in the U.S. and Canada. However, we also recognize that our resources are a drop in the bucket relative to what is needed. We alone cannot solve the problems in place, and we partner with other funders and organizations to extend our impact. As a co-funder, our team can bring program expertise, resources, and capacity to initiatives.

Impact Investing

The WES Mariam Assefa Fund believes that impact investing can play a critical role in catalyzing and scaling efforts that build more inclusive economies on behalf of immigrants and refugees. The Fund’s investee partners are mission-driven leaders and organizations whose work is helping to ensure that immigrants and refugees in the United States and Canada can thrive. As a global social enterprise, WES brings firsthand knowledge of how to grow an impact-oriented, self-sustaining organization. As a funder, we connect our portfolio of investee and grantee partners with outside experts who can help our partners deepen their impact.

Learn More

Our Partners

Explore and learn more about our community of current and past grantee and investee partners below.