Three-Quarters of Small Foundations See Racial Equity as Relevant

Three-Quarters of Small Foundations See Racial Equity as Relevant

Nearly three-quarters of the leaders of leanly staffed foundations in the United States regard racial equity as somewhat (35 percent) or very (37 percent) relevant to their mission, a report from Exponent Philanthropy finds.  

Based on survey responses from four hundred and sixty-eight of the funder association's members, the 2019 Foundation Operations and Management Report (88 pages, PDF) found that 15 percent of respondents had a mission or vision statement that included an explicit commitment to racial equity, with 4 percent in the process of including such a commitment, while 6 percent reported that their boards had completed racial equity training and/or self-assessments (3 percent in process) and 15 percent reported that their staff had done so (6 percent in process). 

According to the report, 75 percent of the foundations' boards included no people of color, while 10 percent included one and 15 percent more than one. Larger boards and those of staffed foundations were most likely to include African-American members, as were independent foundations (35 percent), while family foundations were least likely to have people of color (15 percent) but most likely to have women on their boards. 

The report also found that 17 percent of respondents engage in impact investing — typically by making direct investments in private companies or funds (57 percent); using social screens on stocks, bonds, and/or mutual funds (42 percent); and using environmental screens (36 percent) — while another 8 percent plan to do so in the next few years. Foundations with paid staff were significantly more likely than foundations with no paid staff to have direct investments in private companies or funds (62 percent vs. 27 percent).

In addition, half the family foundations surveyed reported that they were actively engaging the next generation (age 18 to 35), most commonly through board service and site visits, and reported that the involvement of younger family members had led to increased use of technology (28 percent), greater focus on impact and evaluation (16 percent), and updated foundation policies and procedures (14 percent). 

"We are at the beginning of a journey and there is certainly much more work to do," said Exponent Philanthropy CEO Henry L. Berman. "What is exciting and promising is that a growing number of our members are focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion, acknowledging its importance to their overall philanthropic impact."