Two-Thirds of Small Foundations See Racial Equity as Relevant

Two-Thirds of Small Foundations See Racial Equity as Relevant

The share of leanly staffed foundations in the United States that regard racial equity as somewhat or very relevant to their mission has dipped slightly over the past year, a report from Exponent Philanthropy finds.

Based on survey responses from four hundred and sixty-six members of the funder association, the 2020 Foundation Operations and Management Report (55 pages, PDF) found that 31 percent of respondents said racial equity was somewhat relevant to their mission, down from 35 percent in 2019, while 34 percent said it was very relevant, down from 37 percent. The report also found that 35 percent of respondents said racial equity was not relevant to their mission, up from 28 percent in the 2019 survey. The most common best practice or policy designed to promote racial equity implemented in the past two years was training or self-assessment for employees on racial equity-related topics (19 percent, with 6 percent in the process of implementing such training), followed by a vision or mission statement with an expressed commitment to racial equity (14 percent, 5 percent in the process of implementing); organizational policies, practices, or rules for board diversity (11 percent, 6 percent) and employee diversity (8 percent, 5 percent); and training or self-assessment for board members (6 percent, 5 percent).

According to the report, respondents who said racial equity was very relevant were more likely than the other two cohorts to report that their foundation's vision or mission statement included an expressed commitment to racial equity and that their board and/or employees had completed a training or self-assessment, while foundations where racial equity was only somewhat relevant were more likely to have organizational policies, practices, or rules for board and employee diversity.

The survey also found that foundations that considered racial equity very relevant were more likely than those that saw it as somewhat or not relevant to monitor whether grantees fulfilled their grant agreements, work to streamline grant requirements, collaborate with other funders, invest in professional development for board members and employees, engage constituents in the grantmaking process, and provide funding for evaluation. In terms of grant types, foundations that saw racial equity as not relevant allocated a greater share of their grantmaking budgets to capacity-building grants than did the other foundations.

"We know that the intentional inclusion of diverse perspectives leads to better decisions, more equitable outcomes, and greater philanthropic impact," said Exponent Philanthropy CEO Henry L. Berman. "While there's more work to do among foundations, it is promising to see many of our members taking the first steps in their journeys to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion."

(Photo credit: GettyImages)

"2020 Foundation Operations and Management Report." Exponent Philanthropy Report 02/27/2020. "More Than One Third of Foundations Say Racial Equity Plays Prominent Role in Mission." Exponent Philanthropy Press Release 02/27/2020.