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What counts as racial equity funding?  

United States map showing funding for racial equity since 2011

Why and how Candid updated our racial equity funding site 

The nationwide racial reckoning triggered by the 2020 murder of George Floyd has resulted in a dramatic increase in funding for racial equity. Since then, Candid has been evaluating the way we identify this type of giving, both going forward and looking back over the last decade. Working with trusted community partners with deep history and expertise on grantmaking for racial equity, we responded this month by updating our special issue site on funding for racial equityThe result is a refreshed site that gives a more complete picture of past funding and allows for stronger comparisons over time. 

We focused on two main goals in making this expanded data and information on Candid’s racial equity page freely available. First, we aimed to support organizations and social movements combatting racism that need to know where and how they can find the resources to fund their strategies and maximize their impact. We also wanted to provide funders with the information they need to determine who else is funding racial equity work, what organizations they can support, and the many ways in which they can contribute to making real progress by supporting successful efforts and filling the funding gaps without re-inventing the wheel. 

Tracking racial equity funding 

In 2018, Candid created a website to track racial equity funding, news, and research reports. After the uprisings in response to George Floyd’s murder, Candid relaunched our special issue site on funding for racial equity and added features including a searchable mapping tool. We began tracking grants and pledges based on press releases and public announcements to tell a real-time story.  

Shortly after the 2020 relaunch of Candid’s racial equity funding site, the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE) contacted us with two primary concerns about the way the data was presented: the distinction between racial equity and racial justice funding, and the mixing of grants and pledges. Over the last year, we’ve worked with PRE to address both issues in the recent data set update. 

Updating our definition of racial equity to a changing world 

The increase in grantmaking sparked last summer was accompanied by an evolution in the conversation about racial equity. In previous years, the term racial equity was used somewhat narrowly among grantmakers; in 2020, the term became more widely used.  

Under PRE’s recommendation, we now define funding for racial equity as grantmaking explicitly awarded to benefit people of color broadly or explicitly awarded to organizations that serve these populations. This grantmaking specifies a focus on people of color but may focus on any number of issues (e.g., arts, education, health) or use any number of approaches (e.g., service delivery, research, advocacy). Applying this broader definition of racial equity to the full set of grants on Candid’s racial equity site yields a more complete picture of how this funding has grown over the past decade. 

What is not included in this data set are grants where the focus on racial equity (either in the description provided by the funder or the mission of the organization) is not explicit. A grant to a university, school, or hospital in a geographic area where people of color might happen to be among the beneficiaries would not be included in this data set. 

Within the broader concept of racial equity, there is also philanthropy that promotes racial justice: grantmaking to address the underlying systems and structures that generate and reinforce racial inequality. This funding is awarded to programs or organizations working to change systems, often through movement building, policy work, and rights-based approaches.  

More details about our racial equity data and the racial justice subset are available in the FAQs. 

What we learned 

There are two major trends in the 2020 data on racial equity thus far: a growth in the volume of grant dollars ($10 billion already, and this number will grow as more data comes in from tax returns) and close to $9 billion in pledges. This data includes giving by foundations, corporations, and high-net-worth individuals. We have never seen this volume of giving for racial equity, nor this level of corporate activism.  

Pledges are a major part of the recent racial equity funding story, so we made a big push to collect this information from press releases, news sources, and funder websites and add them to the racial equity funding map. They can be viewed separately from grants on our map by using the transaction-type filter in the “more filters” dropdown menu. Some funders use pledges to signal the importance they place on an issue and to give an early indication of their future support. For foundations with reporting requirements, payment on these pledges will eventually be tracked as grants over time. For other donors, such as corporate giving programs, pledges may be announced without follow-up information because there is no legal requirement to do so.

Researchers, media, and others using this site should note that data for more recent years is incomplete. There has been significant interest in “what’s changed in 2020,” but the numbers that we have so far are only a fraction of what will ultimately appear on the racial equity funding map after we are able to process forthcoming 990 tax filings. That is why it is so important for funders to share grants data directly with Candid, so all of us can benefit from a more comprehensive, real-time story.  

Why is this data important? 

Over time, the steady support of organizations working to promote racial equity means those organizations can be ready when a tragic event like the murder of George Floyd generates widespread mobilization for change. One-time grants or pledges can be transformative, but consistent funding allows groups to plan, manage, and focus on hard and complex work. This new data set from Candid is filled with thousands of examples of organizations across the U.S. that pursue multiple strategies to advance racial equity. Donors can discover those that align with their interests, and practitioners can find partners for their efforts.  

Given the systemic nature of racism in American society, the amounts of funding represented in this data set are likely insufficient. But this problem is larger than philanthropy, and the fact that we see growing foundation, corporate, and high-net-worth individual support is encouraging.  

We thank PRE and members of the CHANGE Philanthropy coalition for helping us make meaning out of our racial equity data. Over the years, Candid has been fortunate to draw on the expertise of so many partners such as the Center for Disaster PhilanthropyHuman Rights Funders Network, Peace and Security Funders Groupand others as we pursue our shared interests in more and better insights for the sector.  


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