A focus on racial equity can increase your effectiveness at every stage of the grantmaking process. Blending experience and candid advice from grantmakers, this guide explores how a racial equity lens can help you scan your field or community, cultivate new leaders, encourage creative approaches, get people talking, and nourish change inside your own foundation.
This guide was developed in partnership with the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity.
Respond (don’t react) to resistance.
Most people who try to advance the cause of racial equity grant making inside their foundations run into resistance at some point. Sometimes the pressures are overt. For example, a woman of color who was introducing a racial equity lens into her foundation’s arts programming recalled meeting with the board members of another foundation. At one point, “one of the trustees leaned over and said, ‘When is this whole multicultural thing going to blow over so we can get back to the business of making good art?’” The question was insulting, she felt, yet she answered with an explanation: “Multiculturalism is a reality. Demographics tell the story. It’s not going to blow over.”
A grantmaker found, for example, that the foundation generally funded groups organizing for policy change at state, regional, and national levels — a practice that had the unintended effect of disqualifying many people-of-color led groups, which tended to work at a more local level.Read More »
Because racial equity is such a charged issue, grantmakers often need to create opportunities to explore issues of racial equity with each other. Ideally, those should be structured so that they can eventually seed larger institutional investments in racial equity.Read More »
1. Modeling Diversity and Inclusiveness: “As you’re unpacking this issue and trying to figure out what to do,” a white grantmaker suggested, “it makes sense to start by asking, ‘How do we increase diversity in our own organization? Do we need a more diverse board? Do we need a more diverse staff? Do we need a more diverse vendor base? Do we need a more diverse fill-in-the-blank grantee base?’Read More »
For a grantmaker running a national initiative in juvenile justice reform, a racial equity lens helped identify a rigorous way to trace the impact of a program intended to improve “a broken system that relies much too much on incarceration and does not produce good results, either for kids or for public safety.”Read More »
1. Get People Talking
“What we’re finding,” said a grantmaker whose foundation has embarked on an explicit course of racial equity grantmaking in education, “is that we’re getting more people and different people to the table. By engaging in this conversation, we’re getting people who would have been afraid on their own to come forward” to talk about racial disparities in student performance.
A racial equity lens reveals how race is relevant to all groups. “Like everyone,” said one program officer, “grantmakers sometimes fall back into very narrow definitions
of racial equity.”
A racial equity lens sharpens the focus on outcomes: A racial equity lens can help grantmakers clarify their real objectives, then shape strategies and align resources to meet them.Read More »
One grantmaker of color explained, the problem of racial inequity can seem so complex and intractable that it’s hard to imagine how a foundation could address it. Race is a difficult topic to discuss; people avoid it in foundations just as they do in other sectors of society. A white foundation executive put it this way: “My concern,” he said, “is that foundations are not pushed, nor do we push ourselves, hard enough on the issue of racial equity. We stand above the fray when we should be deeply involved in it.”Read More »
More and more foundations are routinely collecting data on the diversity of current and prospective grantee organizations - an activity that invites exploration even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to explicit racial equity grantmaking.Read More »
We hope this guide will be a useful starting point for conversations that help grantmakers, foundation executives, trustees, grantees, and other colleagues understand how racial and ethnic disparities affect programmatic goals.
In particular, we hope that reading and discussing the guide together will lead to clearer policies and more systemic approaches to grantmaking with a racial equity lens. Recognizing that conversations about race and racial disparities can often be challenging, we offer a few suggestions for getting started with discussion, inquiry, and planning: