Study Finds Persistent Age Gap, Lack of Diversity in Foundation Staff

Racial and ethnic minorities continue to be underrepresented at all staffing levels at U.S. foundations, while significant gender and age gaps still exist within the philanthropic sector, an annual survey by the Council on Foundations finds.

Based on a survey of more than a thousand grantmakers, the 2016 Full Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Report (387 pages, PDF) found that ratios of female and minority staff at foundations remained relatively static in 2016, with a slight uptick in the percentage of racial and ethnic minorities employed by foundations. The survey found that racial and ethnic minorities — including African Americans (10 percent), Latinos/as (7 percent), and Asian Americans (6 percent) — accounted for a quarter (26 percent) of full-time foundation staff in 2016,  with higher percentages at operating foundations (40 percent) and foundations with assets of at least $2 billion (38 percent). Similarly, minorities accounted for 35 percent of foundation program officers overall but nearly 50 percent at foundations with assets of at least $2 billion, and 10 percent of CEOs overall but 20 percent at foundations with assets of at least $1 billion.

The report also found that women accounted for 76 percent of full-time staff, including 88 percent of administrative staff, 74 percent of program officers, and 58 percent of CEOs overall, but only 40 percent of CEOs at foundations with assets of between $250 million and $500 million and just over 25 percent at foundations with assets of at least $1 billion.

In addition, the survey found that 35 percent of full-time staff and 60 percent of CEOs at the surveyed foundations were between the ages of 50 and 64; 6 percent of full-time staff and 18 percent of CEOs were age 65 or older; and individuals under the age of 30 accounted for only 11 percent of full-time staff and only one CEO. Operating foundations and those with smaller asset sizes tended to have a larger share of younger staff.

"The philanthropic sector is teetering on the edge of a workforce sustainability cliff. Our long-term viability as a sector is now directly linked to the field's ability to attract, develop and retain a new generation of philanthropic professionals," said COF president and CEO Vikki Spruill. "If grantmakers are to reflect the communities they serve, they must be more intentional about their efforts. This means focusing on recruiting and retaining more racial and ethnic minorities and women in leadership positions as well as on attracting and developing a new pipeline of philanthropic leaders."