Diversity of foundation staff, leadership lags, study finds

Diversity of foundation staff, leadership lags, study finds

U.S. foundation staff are less diverse than the broader population, especially at the leadership level, an annual survey by the Council on Foundations finds.

Based on salary and demographic data from more than eight hundred organizations, the 2020 Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Report found minimal change in the diversity of foundation staff in terms of race, age, and disability over the last five years. According to the survey, people of color comprised 27.3 percent of full-time foundation staff, up slightly from 25.8 percent in 2016, and 10.3 percent of those in CEO and leadership roles, unchanged from 2016. In addition, employees age 50 and older accounted for 40.2 percent of foundation staff and 77.1 percent of CEOs/CGOs, compared with 9.8 percent and 0 percent for those under age 30. Of the 703 foundations that provided disability data, only 7 percent reported employing full- and part-time staff members with a disability, while of the 705 respondents that provided information on sexual orientation, 22 percent indicated they employed at least one staff member who identified as LGBTQ.

The survey also found that women comprise three-quarters (76.5 percent ) of all full-time foundation staff but are significantly underrepresented (57.8 percent) at the CEO/leadership level, more or less unchanged from 76.1 percent and 57.6 percent in the 2016 survey. The share of women in CEO/CGO roles was higher at smaller grantmakers with less than $10 million in assets (83 percent) and those with one or two paid staff (64 percent) than at larger organizations with $1 billion or more in assets (44 percent) and those with twenty or more paid staff (43 percent). The report also notes the gender pay gap at the foundation CEO level, with the median salary for women CEOs ($180,588) significantly lagging the median salary for men in that role ($216,400).

In terms of staff compensation, the median full-time salary for the thirty-six positions included in the 2020 survey was $85,000, with the highest median salaries reported by independent ($106,696) and family ($105,918) foundations, and the lowest reported by community foundations ($68,616). An analysis of 2020 base salary information for 717 chief executives found that operating foundations reported the highest median salary ($342,963), followed by independent foundations ($245,000), public foundations ($217,922), corporate foundations ($216,500), "other" grantmakers ($190,235), and community foundations ($150,000). In terms of constant dollars, the median chief executive salary fell 0.3 percent in 2020, while the median program officer salary fell 0.7 percent. 

Susan Taylor Batten, president and CEO of ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities, told the report's authors that in addition to focusing on staffing and culture, foundations should take steps to ensure that their grantmaking truly mirrors their values when it comes to equity and inclusion, including shifting more funding to grassroots groups led by people of color. "We need to focus on our people, but we also need to focus on our work," said Batten. "When our staffs and our communities see real alignment between the values we espouse and the work we do, then I think it will be that much easier to build organizations where equity is front and center."

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

"2020 Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Report." Council on Foundations report 10/08/2020. "2020 Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Key Findings." Council on Foundations report 10/08/2020.