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Foundations moving to address racial equity, study finds

December 14, 2020

Chalk drawing of scales with a white figure on one side and person of color on the other under the heading Racial equality

Reprinted from PND.

A majority of foundations report making changes to better support racial equity and communities disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, a report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy finds.

Based on survey responses from 236 foundations—including a 170 signatories to a pledge hosted by the Council on Foundations to act with “fierce urgency to support our nonprofit partners, as well as the people and communities hit hardest by the impacts of COVID-19”—as well as interviews with 41 foundation leaders, the report, Foundations respond to crisis: Toward equity? (36 pages, PDF), found that nearly 90 percent of philanthropies had increased funding for organizations serving people who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, including Black (75 percent), Latinx (63 percent), and lower-income communities (71 percent), and that 39 percent of those foundations reported doing so across all program areas. In addition, 59 percent of respondents said they were giving a higher percentage of their grant dollars to organizations created and led by CEOs from communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Funded by the Ford Foundation, the report—the second in a three-part series issued by CEP—also found that nearly 90 percent of foundation leaders interviewed said they planned to focus more on racial equity in the future, with some specifying particular areas for improvement, including increasing staff and board diversity; doing more to integrate equity into their strategy and grantmaking approaches; reducing barriers to funding; and doing more and better outreach and relationship building in the community. According to the report, more than 80 percent of leaders said they were making changes that incorporate racial equity into their grantmaking or programmatic strategies, while a similar percentage said philanthropy had an important role to play in advancing systems change and policy reform.

The report’s authors note that “many of the elements that foundations said they are implementing are consistent with the racial equity lens described by the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE) but not the more comprehensive racial justice lens PRE describes.” And while there remain reasons for skepticism, they write, “Foundation leaders interviewed did raise issues of racism and racial equity before we asked about it. ... and this is a notable difference from past research we have conducted. The momentum behind foundation leaders’ desire to support progress in racial equity seems strong.”

Foundations respond to crisis: Toward equity? Center for Effective Philanthropy report, 12/09/2020.

Ellie Buteau, “Philanthropy and racial equity in 2020: Moving the needle?” Center for Effective Philanthropy blog post, 12/09/2020.

Tags: Novel coronavirus (COVID-19); Foundations and grantmaking